Carl Rogers and Buddhist Psychology
by Daniel E.,

"Far from eliminating the ego,
as I naively believed I should
when I first began to practice meditation,
the Buddha encouraged a strengthening of the ego
so that it could learn to hold
primitive agonies without collapse.”

― Mark Epstein, The Trauma of Everyday Life


"It is in the recognition and acceptance,
indeed the embracing, of that something more,
even if we can’t conceive it in our conscious mind,
that we find and live a good life." ―
Mark Kelland

At first glance, it may seem unlikely to compare the founder of client-centered therapy, Carl Rogers, and Buddhist psychology. However, upon closer inspection, one can find several similarities and differences between the two approaches. In this article, we will explore the fundamental principles of both Rogers and Buddhist psychology, highlight their similarities and differences, and synthesize their ideas to provide a comprehensive perspective on the human condition.

Client-Centered Therapy

Carl Rogers developed client-centered therapy in the 1940s. This approach emphasizes the importance of the client's subjective experience and aims to create an empathetic and non-judgmental therapeutic environment. Rogers believed that individuals possess an innate drive towards growth and self-actualization, and that this drive can be facilitated by a supportive therapeutic relationship.

The central tenets of client-centered therapy are empathy, unconditional positive regard, and congruence. Empathy involves the therapist's ability to understand the client's subjective experience, while unconditional positive regard refers to the therapist's acceptance and support of the client regardless of their thoughts, feelings, or behaviors. Congruence, or authenticity, involves the therapist's ability to be genuine and transparent with the client.

Buddhist Psychology

Buddhist psychology is a set of teachings developed over thousands of years in Buddhist traditions. At its core, Buddhist psychology aims to alleviate suffering by understanding the nature of the mind and its relationship with the world. Buddhist psychology emphasizes mindfulness, compassion, and the interdependence of all phenomena.

In Buddhist psychology, mindfulness involves paying attention to one's present moment experience without judgment or reactivity. Compassion, or karuna in Sanskrit, is the cultivation of a deep and genuine concern for the well-being of all sentient beings. Finally, the concept of dependent origination highlights the interdependence of all phenomena, emphasizing that everything arises in dependence upon other factors.

Comparing and Contrasting Rogers and Buddhist Psychology

Despite the apparent differences between client-centered therapy and Buddhist psychology, there are several similarities between the two approaches. Both Rogers and Buddhist psychology place a significant emphasis on the importance of the therapeutic relationship. Rogers emphasized the importance of empathy, unconditional positive regard, and congruence, while Buddhist psychology emphasizes compassion and mindfulness as essential components of the therapeutic relationship.

Additionally, both Rogers and Buddhist psychology emphasize the importance of present-moment awareness. Rogers believed that the client's subjective experience in the present moment was crucial to the therapeutic process, while Buddhist psychology emphasizes mindfulness as a way to cultivate awareness of one's present moment experience.

However, there are also some significant differences between the two approaches. While Rogers focused on the individual's subjective experience, Buddhist psychology emphasizes the interdependence of all phenomena. Rogers' approach emphasizes the importance of the self, while Buddhist psychology emphasizes the non-self or emptiness of all phenomena.

In "The Compatibility of Person-Centred Therapy and Buddhist Teachings" (2018), Cheng explores the similarities and differences between person-centered therapy (PCT) and Buddhist teachings. The author argues that there is significant overlap between the two approaches, particularly in their emphasis on mindfulness, empathy, and non-judgmental acceptance:


Cheng notes that both PCT and Buddhist teachings view the individual as inherently good and possessing an innate potential for growth and self-actualization. PCT emphasizes the importance of creating a supportive and empathic therapeutic relationship, while Buddhist teachings emphasize the cultivation of compassion and wisdom to alleviate suffering:


The author highlights the concept of mindfulness as a key area of overlap between PCT and Buddhist teachings. Both approaches emphasize the importance of being present in the moment and cultivating awareness of one's thoughts, feelings, and experiences. The author argues that PCT's emphasis on empathic understanding and non-judgmental acceptance can also be seen as a form of mindfulness.


1. Rogers, C. R. (1959). A theory of therapy, personality, and interpersonal relationships as developed in the client-centered framework. In S. Koch (Ed.), Psychology: A study of a science (Vol. 3, pp. 184-256). McGraw-Hill.

2. Epstein, M. (1995). Thoughts without a thinker: Psychotherapy from a Buddhist perspective. Basic Books.

3. Wallace, B. A. (2006). Contemplative science: Where Buddhism and neuroscience converge. Columbia University Press.

4. Germer, C. K., Siegel, R. D., & Fulton, P. R. (Eds.). (2016). Mindfulness and psychotherapy. Guilford Press.

5. The Deep Structure of the Core Conditions

6. Near enemies in psychotherapy - ADPCA

7. Rogers' Late Conceptualization of the Fully Functioning Individual: Correspondences and Contrasts with Buddhist Psychology - ADPCA

8. Personality Theory | Carl Rogers, Abraham Maslow, & Henry Murray | OER Commons