The Development and Evolution of Person-Centered Expressive Art Therapy: A Conversation with Natalie Rogers

Article excerpt

As most counselors know very well, person-centered theory and therapy began with and evolved from the thinking, research, and practice of Carl Ransom Rogers (C. R. Rogers, 1942, 1951; Wickman & Campbell, 2003). What is perhaps less well-known is that Natalie Rogers, daughter of Carl Rogers, has embraced her father's work and integrated his therapeutic approach with her own creative approach to healing and change (Carlson & Kjos, 2000; N. Rogers, 1993).

Carl Rogers is renowned for embodying his theory in everyday life (Zimring & Raskin, 1992). As Bankart (1997) stated, "Watching [Carl Rogers] was almost a sacred experience for me. His interactions with clients were like small miracles of compassionate understanding and communication" (p. 299). Carl Rogers's writing also was consistent with his theoretical approach, disarmingly open, and unpretentious. For example, rarely does one find a staunch academic titling a chapter in one of his books, "This is Me" (C. R. Rogers, 1961).

Similar to her father, Natalie Rogers, now age 78, also has woven person-centered principles into the fabric of her personal and professional life. In particular, she has used, and continues to use, the person-centered approach to facilitate therapeutic growth through art, movement, writing, and music modalities (Carlson & Kjos, 2000; N. Rogers, 1993). Natalie Rogers refers to this therapeutic integration as person-centered expressive art therapy and, in 1984, founded the Person-Centered Expressive Therapy Institute (N. Rogers, personal communication, April 21, 2003).

Natalie Rogers is a registered expressive art therapist and the author of many articles and two books, The Creative Connection: Expressive Arts as Healing (N. Rogers, 1993) and Emerging Woman: A Decade of Midlife Transitions (N. Rogers, 1980). She leads an active life, conducting expressive arts therapy trainings in Europe, Russia, Latin America, Japan, and the United States. Natalie trained with her father and was his colleague for seven summers. After working in a psychiatric clinic, in a college counseling center, and as a therapist in a school for emotionally disturbed children, Natalie was in private practice for 25 years. She taught at the California Institute of Integral Studies, and she is presently teaching at Saybrook Graduate School. She was awarded the first Lifetime Achievement Award by the International Expressive Arts Therapy Association in 1998. Natalie is an artist, a mother of three professional daughters, and a proud grandmother. The best resource for more information on Natalie Rogers and how to obtain training in person-centered expressive art therapy is through her Web site, www.nrogers.com.

The conversations that follow provide the reader with a picture of the origin, development, and application of Natalie Rogers's person-centered expressive art therapy. To understand her therapeutic methods, I begin with background information about Carl Rogers because of his powerful impact on her personal and professional development. In particular, his openness to new learning and experience (a key theoretical concept in person-centered therapy) seems directly related to Natalie's ability to freely explore the integration of person-centered theory and the expressive arts.

Two recent telephone interviews with Natalie Rogers provide the substance of this article (N. Rogers, personal communication, April 21 and 25, 2003). The interviews include childhood experiences; her decision, prompted by a conversation with Abraham Maslow, to work with person-centered theory and therapy; and the progression of her thinking to the present.

* Father's Legacy

Carl Rogers once referred to himself as a "gadfly" (C. R. Rogers, 1980, p. 53) within the field of psychology. This reference captures his tendency to experiment; to push institutional and professional boundaries; and to be, in Natalie Rogers's words, "a revolutionary" (N. …