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Natalie Rogers

Birth:
1928

Death:
2015

Training Location(s):

MA, Brandeis University, (1973)



Primary Affiliation(s):

Founder, The Person-Centered Expressive Therapy Institute, CA

Distinguished Consulting Faculty, Saybrook Graduate School, CA

Adjunct Professor, The Institute of Transpersonal Psychology, Menlo Park, CA

Adjunct Professor, The California Institute of Integral Studies, San Francisco, CA



Media Links:
Commemorative web page:

Person-Centered Expressive Arts Institute

Interviews:

Wise Counsel Interview

Video:

Expressive Arts Therapy Video


Biography:

 

Career Focus: Person-centered expressive arts therapy; transpersonal psychology; group therapy; client-centered therapy; women’s outreach. 


 

Natalie Rogers was born October 9, 1928 to Carl Rogers, the yet-to-be-preeminent psychologist, and Helen Elliott Rogers, an artist and a homemaker. Her upbringing was congenial, loving, and set within family dynamics that were gender-role normative. Time with Rogers’ mother was spent baking and doing chores, while play with her older brother David taught her to fill the role of the assistant. She attended progressive schools that supported creativity and did not grade work, but despite a progressive attitude in some domains the term “career woman” was still “pejorative” (Rogers, 1989, p. 15) in her home. As she matured, a silent duality emerged in her concept of womanhood. At once, she sought to find a husband whose ambitions she could buttress, yet she also strove to be accepted as an intellectual equal to men, whose place in society she found much more exciting.

 

Her considerations for college were indicative of this duality. The year was 1944. Since many men were enlisted in WWII and serving abroad, she felt that there would be too much romantic competition for the few men left on co-educational campuses. Rogers selected a women’s college, which allowed her to pursue her academic endeavours in an environment free of the role restrictions she had experienced at home.  Here she realized that other women were indeed as interesting as she thought herself to be. This was the beginning of an idea she would only later recognize as political: that the dichotomy of sexes unfairly placed intrigue in the possession of men. Nonetheless, she later transferred to a co-ed college, joined a sorority, and let her political thoughts lay dormant.

 

In hindsight, Rogers acknowledged that her experiences of sorority life at a co-educational college actually encouraged the opposite of a sisterhood mentality. Rivalry with other women extended from the inter-sorority level down to the development of shallow relationships that became dispensable when a sorority sister partnered with a man. At the time, however, Rogers was swept up in this mentality, and graduation from college was the start of her deliberate search for a husband. Despite delivering guest lectures on world governments at high schools around the United States, Rogers did not hold on to her intellectual identity. Upon her marriage in 1950 she readily assumed the role of devoted wife. As she has acknowledged, her husband, a post-graduate psychology student at Harvard, became the center of her identity: Rogers would scribe for him in classes, assist him with his research, and talk about him rather than herself when socializing. Her own academic interests lingered – she applied for graduate school at Harvard early in her marriage but rejected their offer of full-time enrolment as it would have interfered with taking care of home and husband. Graduate school ambitions became even more deeply buried with the mounting responsibilities of caring for three daughters. 

 

In the late 1960s, as her daughters grew into adolescence, Rogers’ frustration with identifying through her husband increased. With his tentative support, she trepidatiously enrolled in Brandeis University’s graduate psychology program under the mentorship of Abraham Maslow. In 1970, due in part to the tensions created by her increasing independence, Rogers and her husband divorced. Rogers now faced the task of developing her identity anew.

 

Rogers has referred to the years preceding the divorce as traumatic, and the months following were not immediately restorative. Near the end of her marriage Rogers took a job at the Lesley College School for Children as a psychotherapist for disturbed children, where she invested great personal effort supporting teachers and parents as well as students. A month after parting with her husband, she was fired when she refused to accept a reduction of her responsibilities. She also moved out of her family home but remained in Cambridge, Massachusetts and dealt with  feelings of alienation from her daughters and former social life. Rebuilding her social identity required daunting effort. Although Rogers did not directly engage with it at the time, the women’s movement was unfolding, providing a politicized backdrop to her personal journey. 

 

In 1973, Rogers completed her MA and obtained her first paid job as a licensed psychologist at the University Counseling Center in Honolulu, Hawaii. She returned to Massachusetts within the year, and in 1974 she moved her life to the San Francisco Bay Area in northern California to begin a private practice. At the time, many psychologists and psychiatrists claimed that mental health for women required identifying with traditional feminine roles. Feminist therapists however were beginning to encourage women to experience a variety of roles; Rogers wanted to use her voice as a psychologist to endorse the latter. She founded a group called “Training of Women Counselors of Women” in order to offer up her knowledge as a psychologist and self-redefining woman as well as to learn about the experiences of other women. She also wrote Emerging Woman: A Decade of Midlife Transitions, a book about how her experience of womanhood had grown more fulfilling as she became more decisively involved in her marriage, sexuality, and social identity.  After being rejected by multiple publishers, in 1980 Rogers published the book herself and it has since been translated into seven languages.

 

By the mid-1970s, Carl Rogers and his humanistic, client-centered approach to psychotherapy had become famous. He and Helen had been living in southern California. During a visit to see her parents, Rogers proposed to her father that they collaborate on a series of large-scale therapy workshops. The resulting workshops took place over an entire day or more, were largely comprised of training in Carl Rogers’ verbal form of therapy, and gave Natalie Rogers the opportunity to engage participants in therapeutic exercises that involved movement and visual creativity. Although not yet named, these workshops became the incubation chambers in which Rogers developed person-centered expressive arts therapy, the therapeutic orientation that would be the major focus of her work.

 

Rogers conducted her own workshops and women’s groups in person-centered expressive arts throughout the United States, Latin America and Europe. In 1984, she founded the Person-Centered Expressive Therapy Institute (PCETI), where she trained professionals in disciplines from psychology to education in her method of therapy. She also joined the faculty of several Bay Area colleges, including the Institute of Transpersonal Psychology at Sofia University and Saybrook Graduate School. In 1993, Rogers shared her expertise in expressive arts therapy more widely with the publication of her first textbook, The Creative Connection: Expressive Arts as Healing.

 

Rogers’ work was commemorated in 1998 with a Lifetime Achievement Award presented by the International Expressive Arts Therapy Association. International graduates of her training programs have set up similar programs in Europe, Asia and Latin America.  Rogers’ second textbook, The Creative Connection for Groups, was published in 2011. She passed away on October 17th, 2015 at her home near the San Francisco Bay Area. Training in Rogers' form of therapy continues at the Person-Centered Expressive Arts Institute in California. 

 

by Tal Davidson (2014) Updated (2015)
To cite this article, see Credits


Selected Works:

 

Rogers, N. & Hiller, T. (2011). The creative connection for groups. Palo Alto, CA: Science & Behavior Books, Inc.

 

Rogers, R. (2006). Seeing the soul of the “Other”: Bringing Israeli and Palestinian women together for a peaceful future. Retrieved from http://www.nrogers.com/PDF/israelarticle.pdf. 

 

Rogers, N. (1993). Sacred space: using expressive arts to build community. Earth Circles, 4(3), 1-6.

 

Rogers, N. (1993). The creative connection: Expressive arts as healing. Palo Alto, Calif: Science and Behavior Books.

 

Rogers, N. (1989). Emerging woman: A decade of midlife transitions (2nd ed.). CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform.

 

Rogers, N. (1983). LSD experiences as an opening to the feminine: A personal account. Women & Therapy, 2(4), 3-16.

 

Rogers, N. (1981). Women, power and the future. Journal of Humanistic Education, 5, 1-7.