A History of the Association for the Development of the Person-Centred Approach (ADPCA)

by Jerold D. Bozarth & Nat Raskin

In the summer of 1981, David Cain was inspired to promote the theory and practice of Carl R. Rogers by proposing a network that would explore, exchange, and research the theory and practice of Rogers’ revolutionary assertion in psychotherapy that the client knows best. He sought and gained support from facilitators of groups in California and from academicians and therapists in the Midwest. He encouraged Carl Rogers to endorse the idea and Carl readily agreed. For the first three years, a small group of mental health professionals and students in the San Obisco area of California helped launch the network to nearby communities. The Network became a national organization publishing a quarterly newsletter, the Renaissance, in 1984. There was an evolution from the interest in “person-centered therapy” to include those interested in the philosophy in relation to other disciplines including education. More about the philosophy and general nature of meetings are adeptly presented in the Philosophy section of the ADPCA webpage.

The Network grew steadily after the publication of the Renaissance newsletter in 1984. The increased interest of individuals from multiple disciplines was one element that encouraged the desire to meet in a more organized fashion. In addition, David established an international journal, the Person-Centered Review, which was published by Sage. The journal rapidly gained national and international academic credibility. After discussions with numerous individuals including Carl Rogers, the name of the Association for The Development of the Person-Centered Approach was offered by David and accepted. David (Renaissance, V 2, N 4, Fall, 1985) wrote:
As the name implies, the focus of the organization would be on the continued development and application of the person-centered approach. It would continue to serve as a network whose name is to interconnect and draw from the range of disciplines provided by its members. (p. 1)

The first ADPCA meeting was held in 1986 on the campus of the University of Chicago at the International House. There were about 100 participants, mostly from the United States. Approximately 45 were members of ADPCA. About half of those attending were students or colleagues with Carl Rogers during the 1940’s and 1950’s. Perhaps, thirty participants were Chicago residents who had not been associated with any particular activity of the client-centered approach. Activities included a demonstration of therapy by Carl Rogers, an experience of Expressive Person-Centered Therapy with Natalie Rogers, a conversation with Carl, a presentation by Carl and a panel discussion on Peace and Conflict Mediation. A Focusing session was demonstrated and someone else discussed Filial Therapy. There were also discussions on such questions as: What is client-centered therapy? What is it not? Can we move toward a more human science? Is a PCA organization antithetical to PC philosophy?

While waiting for the departure bus from the first ADPCA meeting, Barbara Brodley posed the possibility of having a person-centered workshop once a year to several others who were waiting for the bus. Those who happened to be present were Jerold Bozarth, Barbara Brodley, Nat Raskin, Dave Spahn, and Fred Zimring. The first “Warm Springs” Person- Centered Workshop was initiated in February, 1987 at Warm Springs, Georgia. The 25th “Warm Springs” workshop took place in 2011.

Several weeks after the first Association meeting, participants from Chicago started a local community group scheduled to meet on a regular basis. This group still meets. Nat Raskin proposed in one of the meetings that an email network be developed to promote international discussions about the person-centered approach. Over the next five years, Barbara Temaner Brodley and John Shlien along with others worked consistently to implement the idea. Marco Temaner, Barbara Temaner Brodley’s son, set up the network on a pilot basis in the early 1990’s with the first archived material in 1994. Marco managed the network without reimbursement for nearly a decade. The network is still in existence.

We mention several of the spinoffs of this first meeting to illustrate the effects of serendipitous encounters created by an atmosphere of empathic receptivity. Many of the network and personal developments inspired from the ADPCA meetings might never be realized as activities stimulated and generated from ADPCA. Connections and networks beside and beyond the Association seem to be naturally stimulated.

There have been contributions in the Association by unseen individuals working on essential tasks. For example, volunteers contribute significantly with little or no recognition. Notably, positions of Secretary and Treasurer, Editor of Renaissance, Editors and Reviewers of the Person-Centered Journal, Conference Organizers, and those taking on numerous other arduous tasks seem internally motivated. More recent meetings have also involved individuals spending inordinate amounts of time working on by-laws, exploring index procedures for the Journal, and identifying relevant information from the past. These contributions seems reflective of the value and accomplishment of a network that is different from the goals of most organizations. Little things make a difference to individuals and informal groups are inspired to undertake new projects in a psychological atmosphere that facilitates freedom.

David Cain summarized the purposes of the organization in 1988 (Person-Centered Review, v.3, # 4, pp. 404-405):

  1. Encourage critical study of the concepts and applications of the person-centered approach.
  2. Stimulate the development of person-centered theory.
  3. Foster innovation in person-centered therapy, education, supervision, and training.
  4. Expand the range of effective applications.
  5. Encourage and support scholarly studies and their publication.
  6. Create a system of networks to increase awareness of and access to persons who are interested in learning and practicing the person-centered approach.


The benefits of the Association during the first year were identified as: 1) subscription to the quarterly journal: The Person-Centered Review; 2) subscription to the quarterly newsletter: Renaissance; 3) A copy of the Association Resource Directory; 4) free listing in the Directory; 5) Discounts on the Association’s annual meeting; and 6) discounts on the Association’s Tape Library. The cost of membership was $45 (USD) in 1986. At the current time, the special rate is only $30 (USD) per year.

The ADPCA meetings are listed in the Conference section of this website. It can be noted that the 27th meeting is scheduled to be in Caldwell, NJ, USA in 2013 and the 28th meeting will take place in the UK in 2014.

The site of each meeting is decided in community meetings and then undertaken and independently developed by local planning groups. Varied degrees of input was sought from general members, and a loose general structure was established that was consistent with the format of person-centered meetings established during the 1960’s and 1970’s. The format generally involved community meetings once or twice each day, the opportunity for small groups, the scheduling of presentations and other activities (such as expressive activities, hypnosis, special topics), local trips or free time, and a social event. Several meetings had “Keynote” speakers (1st Carl Rogers; 6th Ruth Sanford; 8th C.H, Pattereson; 21st Art Bohart, Jerold Bozarth, Barbara Brodley and Nat Raskin; and 23rd Ed Kahn). Some members object to the designation of keynote speakers as interrupting the ‘democratic’ nature of the Association, but the policy of local determination continues to be salient.

Nat Raskin, convener of the first ADPCA meeting, captured the psychological tenor of future meetings in his observations of the first Chicago meeting (Renaissance, v.3, #3, 1986). He noted how the process of change, adaptation, and growth was established with the planning group and continued throughout the meeting. For example, new groups and presentations emerged throughout the conference. There was considerable heterogeneity and freedom for expression of negative feelings. One notable fact at the first meeting that was different from future meetings was the presence of Carl Rogers. Carl died prior to the meeting of the International Forum at LaJolla, California in 1987.

Although the designated 2nd ADPCA did not meet until 1988, members of ADPCA met during the Third International Forum of the Person-Centered Approach held in LaJolla, California. Thirty-five people from 12 countries met to discuss concerns and needs related to further development of the organization. A common concern was that members of the Association share in the responsibilities and decision making of the organization. Four immediate needs were identified and an Enabling Committee developed to provide a working position to be considered at the 2nd ADPCA meeting held in 1988. The issues were: 1) defining purposes and functions; 2) defining organizational structure and operating procedures; 3) increasing membership; and 4) reviewing Renaissance, the newsletter.

There were 12 members on the Enabling Committee with five from countries outside of the USA. Of those members on the committee, one or two of these individuals might still be considered active members. This seems reflective of the shifts of influence and responsibility taken by individuals over the tenure of the organization. Some members are extremely active and volunteer for responsible roles, later disappearing from the scene. Perhaps, they return at some point, but there is an ebb and flow of the Association where many still have a connection after they are no longer official members.

The second annual meeting in New York City brought forth more diversity in both the participants and presentations. Participants came from all parts of the world and from a variety of disciplines. Presentations included topics on theory and research, Vipassana Meditation and the Person-Centered Approach, compatibility of Rogers and Milton Erikson and with psychoanalysis, AIDS education and the Person-Centered Approach, a demonstration interview with a family, and presentations on focusing, person-centered partnering, and large groups.

In concordance with inclinations and theoretical premises of Rogers, there was increased activity by participants as “…members to explore their own inclinations and directions and to make distinctive contributions based on their discoveries and personal evidence” (Cain, Person-Centered Review, v.3, #4, p. 409).

A subtle shift was also taking place in New York with the advent of more ostensible disagreements with the development of the theory. There were a couple of presentations and papers that argued that there was a major change between Rogers’ theory and practice after the early 1960’s.

It was, perhaps, significant that Carl Rogers died a year and three months prior to the second meeting of ADPCA. Proposals for alterations of theory and practice by individuals in the person-centered community were more ostensible in the 2nd meeting. This direction also continued in future meetings.

The Third ADPCA meeting was held at Lake Lanier, Georgia, USA outside of Atlanta. The local planning group of the 3rd meeting in Georgia was comprised entirely of graduate students. The students did most of the preparation. The topics included the importance of valuing the self, facilitating the learning of psychotherapy, creativity and personal power, autobiography as theory, behavioral explanation of the client-centered approach, Eastern and Western views of actualization, non-directivity of client-centered therapy, PCA and the four elements of nature, and the Person-Centered Approach as a paradigm of power.

The meeting in Georgia can be cast as being at the “unstructured” end of the continuum of community structuring in that most of the activities, including designated presentations, were scheduled during community meetings. The students and other volunteers cooked all meals. There were fewer international participants although local groups were noticeably present. For example, over two dozen school counselors from Georgia and a dozen or more individuals from surrounding states who were not previously part of the organization attended.

Future meetings brought forth their own unique structures within the developing foundation established during these first three meetings. Most planning occurred through local committees, sometimes with a member or two from surrounding states. A few were planned with primarily student participants (e.g., 3rd in Georgia, 5th in Kansas and 10th and 23rd in Kutztown, Pennsylvania, and 25th planned in Chicago), and other meetings facilitated by a couple of individuals seeking input from a variety of other participants (e.g., 11th and 22nd in Las Vegas, and 18th in Alaska).

There has been a constant struggle since the development of the Association to maintain an association that is functionally viable without adapting the authoritative structure of most organizations. Two decisions reflect this struggle.

First, the journal, Person-Centered Review, also established by David Cain became an item of contention. Some of the members complained that the journal as an organ of the Association was not meeting the needs of the membership. Rather, it was considered to be operating as a more typical academic journal. As such, it was believed by some members that the journal should be less academic and more inclined toward articles about practice and sharing of other types of information. It turned out that the format of the Review became a moot decision since the journal had to be discontinued by Sage publishers. Sage required a minimum of 1000 subscribers. The top circulation of the Review was 760- 800. David could not find another publisher.

A replacement journal was started on a pilot basis in 1992, co-edited by Fred Zimring and Jerold Bozarth along with an Administrative Editor, Jeanne Stubbs. (Her role was funded by the Person-Centered Studies Project at the University of Georgia till 1997.) The journal was designed to include some articles that would meet the academic rigor of professional journals and also include sections directed toward practice and information sharing of ideas beyond those that might be included in the newsletter, Renaissance. The journal was accepted by the Association membership in 1994 and identified as The Person-Centered Journal (PCJ). Fred begun as Associate Editor of the Review and continued helping some contributors to PCJ with manuscript preparation. Zimring and Bozarth continued as co-editors for a year. Bozarth became editor in 1995 and Stubbs continued as an Associate Editor along with two other Associate Editors. A structural change occurred in 1996 with Stubbs becoming Editor Elect while Bozarth continued as Editor. Jeanne became Editor in 1997 and 1998 with a structural return to the format of three Associate Editors. One of the Associate Editors, Jo Cohen, took over the Editorship for the last issue of 1998 through most of 2000. Jon Rose, Barry Grant, Jef Cornelius- White, and Bruce Allan served as Editors during the past decade with a variety of editorial helpers. There is an index that lists most of the authors and articles from 1994 to 2008 (v.15, #1-2, 2008) comprised by J.H.D. Cornelius-White and H. Greene.

David Cain withdrew from ADPCA shortly after the fourth meeting in Hebron, Connecticut in 1990 primarily because he was frustrated with the disinclination of most members to create a more structured organization, which he felt was necessary for ADPCA to thrive (Personal communication, 2009). It was not until the 15th ADPCA meeting in 2000 at LaJolla, California that David Cain was publically recognized for establishing ADPCA as well as the initial journal, Person-Centered Review, and newsletter, Renaissance. The issue of the extent of structure for the Association continued and continues to be a consistent struggle.

Second, a significant decision took place in the last community session at the 13th ADPCA in Rustin, Louisiana. The presence of more international members led to the group deciding to have meetings in other countries. This resulted in the 15th and 19th meetings taking place in England and the 17th in France. The meetings appeared quite successful for those who attended. However, there were few members who attended from the United States including the absence of the strongest advocates for expanding sites to other countries. This decision is symbolic of the struggle between spontaneous conclusions and more systematic decision procedures. It highlights the intrigue of the struggles of the Association with “organismic” versus conventional decisions. Perhaps, there is spontaneous adjustment to experiments attempted by the process nature of the Association.

As is its nature, the ADPCA is in constant examination of how to proceed with developing the theory, research and practice of the Person-Centered Approach, maintaining, however, the powerful and revolutionary qualities of its unique way of being.