“A backdrop for psychotherapy”: Carl R. Rogers, psychological testing, and the psycho-educational clinic at Columbia University’s Teachers College (1924–1935)

A new online first article in History of Psychology will interest AHP readers: ““A backdrop for psychotherapy”: Carl R. Rogers, psychological testing, and the psycho-educational clinic at Columbia University’s Teachers College (1924–1935),” Fierro, Catriel. Abstract:

Carl Rogers’ work in clinical psychology and psychotherapy has been as influential as it is vast and varied. However, as a topic of historical inquiry Rogers’ approach to clinical psychology is beset by historiographical lacunae. Especially vague have been Rogers’ own reflections about his student years (1925–1928) at Columbia University’s Teachers College. Rogers claimed that he received the “backdrop” for the development of his approach to psychotherapy at the College. However, most historical literature has overlooked Rogers’ early years by focusing on his later work. This article aims to shed light on Rogers’ initial academic education by delving into his backdrop idea. I explore Rogers’ early years at Columbia by using his retroactive appraisals as a conduit for reconstructing his first formal institutional context—Columbia’s highly active but short-lived psycho-educational clinic. By drawing on several archival sources and unpublished materials, I will argue that the College’s intellectual and institutional climate fostered Rogers’ appreciation of experiential and cognitive learning while stimulating his intellectual independence as a clinical psychologist. The clinic put him in contact with real children, trained him in psychological tests, offered concrete professional role models, and pointed him toward his lifelong concern with human individuality. This contextual reading of Rogers’ education allows for a deeper, more informed understanding of both his academic origins and his immediate intellectual context amid American clinical psychology during the interwar years.

About Jacy Young

Jacy Young is a professor at Quest University Canada. A critical feminist psychologist and historian of psychology, she is committed to critical pedagogy and public engagement with feminist psychology and the history of the discipline.

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