Motivation and emotion/Book/2022/Fully functioning person

Fully functioning person:
What is a FFP and how can full functioning be developed?


Carl Rogers (1961, p. 183) suggested that “the concept of the fully functioning person, was an attempt to spell out the picture of the person who would emerge if therapy were maximally successful”; that is to say, a fully functioning person (FFP) is someone who is actively working towards self-actualisation. Throughout this chapter, self-reflect to see how self-actualised you are, and how you could be led towards full functioning. In addition, the following questions will be examined.

Focus questions:

  • What does it mean to be a fully functioning person?
  • How can this is achieved through clinical interventions?
  • How can this be achieved through self-help?
  • What are the flaws with this perspective?
  • As well as, some alternative related theories[vague].

What does it mean to be a fully functioning person?Edit

In Carl Rogers's 1961 book "On becoming a person: A therapist's view of psychotherapy" he described seven aspects of a fully functional person. Becoming a FFP is not an end-state, it is instead a process of continuous development where people are working on increasing these aspects:

  1. A growing openness to experience – Owning and accepting experiences as your own without a defensive barrier.
  2. An increasingly existential lifestyle – Living in the moment without falsely distorting your perceptions or actions to fit how they 'should' be.
  3. Increasing organismic trust – Trusting your gut and instinct without relying on social norms or external criteria of behaviour.
  4. Freedom of choice – The ability to have agency and choice over your actions with the knowledge that your choices will have an impact on your life.
  5. Creativity – Following this, having the freedom to create. Not only in the physical scene but also in adapting and creating solutions to problems instead of needing to conform.
  6. Reliability and constructiveness – Fully functioning people understand the importance of all their needs and engage in them constructively. This includes seemingly negative needs or emotions such as anger or sadness. In the eyes of a fully functioning person, these can be balanced and used properly.
  7. A rich full life – Lastly, a fully functioning person's life is fulfilling and experienced in its entirety. They celebrate their wins, mourn their losses and revel in every aspect to its fullest.

How can full functioning be developed?Edit

Rogers (1959) suggested that people have an actualising tendency toward development, growth and autonomy. This, means we all have the potential to be fully functioning given the right context and environment[grammar?].

This is the inherent tendency of the organism to develop all its capacities in ways which serve to maintain or enhance itself. It involves not only the tendency to meet what Maslow (1954) terms “deficiency needs” for air, food, water, and the like, but also more generalised activities. It involves development toward the differentiation of organs and of functions, expansion in terms of growth, expansion of effectiveness through the use of tools, expansion and enhancement through reproduction. It is development toward autonomy and away from heteronomy, or control by external forces. (p. 196)

Reflection questions

It is important to reflect on what you have and where you can improve.

Do you think your surrounding environments are supportive of self-enhancement?


Not yet

Out of the seven elements of a fully functioning person listed, which do you think you currently display? And why?
  1. A growing openness to experience
  2. An increasingly existential lifestyle
  3. Increasing organismic trust
  4. Freedom of choice
  5. Creativity
  6. Reliability and constructiveness
  7. A rich full life

History of FFPEdit

While the idea of FFP was led by Rogers, he did not originate the general idea that one's value can be described in terms of how well it functions. When exploring FFP, it is important that we understand how the current thinking has developed and where it is likely to go next. First, we will examine the theories that came before Carl Rogers, before expanding on his work in the area.


To better understand Roger's FFP it is important to examine the people and theories that came before. Socrates suggests that everything has a specific function, which he defines as what that thing does best or the only thing it can do (Korsgaard, 2008). The ancient Greeks' worldview suggested that a person could only be called 'good' if their soul was in peak condition. According to Aristotle (1996), we can only know if something is good if we understand its function. He extended this theory to human nature, concluding that by performing virtuous activities of the soul, one can achieve the height of human goodness. The concept of a soul has vanished in modern psychology, and the notion of virtue has evolved. However, the concept that goodness and functionality are linked was adopted by the first wave of humanistic psychology, most notably by Carl Rogers (Straume, 2020).

Carl RogersEdit

Figure 1. An artistic illustration of Carl Rogers

The person-centred approach, often known as client-centred therapy, is Carl R. Rogers' (see Figure 1) method for assisting people who are dealing with a variety of personal disturbances or issues in their daily lives (Rogers, 1959; 1961; 1969; 1970; 1972; 1980; 1986). In 1939, Rogers created his theory of psychotherapy for troubled kids (Witty, 2007). Later, he broadened his theoretical framework to cover work with groups, families, and couples. His most complete theoretical statement, which covers his theories of motivation and personality development as well as those of group interaction and interpersonal interactions, was published as a chapter in Sigmund Koch's Psychology: A Study of a Science (Vol. III) in 1959. (Koch, 1959, 184–256).

In this, he suggests that individuals have certain tendencies driving them towards being fully functional. These are the ability to recognise incongruence and a drive to correct it. In addition, he indicates that to enable these tendencies to operate effectively, certain needs must be met. These include the need for positive regard from yourself and those around you. Then, when the right environment is created, the individual's potential can be released.

Figure 2. The road to a fully functioning person

This concept is represented in Figure 2 where the journey has been represented by a vehicle driving down a road. Firstly, the vehicle itself represents everyone's tendencies towards becoming a FFP. Then, our fundamental need for positive regard acts as a roadblock unless it is addressed. In addition to this, you must also have a proper environment to become a FFP. The potholes represent the inhibiting factors present in an unsupportive environment. Finally, with help providing congruence, unconditional positive regard, and empathy, your needs can be fulfilled and your environment improved helping to smooth the road for your journey to becoming a FFP.

Case studyEdit

Throughout the rest of this chapter, we will be examining FFP through the use of a case study developed in Tasha Kolesnikova's article on Person-Centred Therapy. This case study describes the journey of Jane as she transitions towards being more fully functional

Case Study of Jane

Jane's worldview causes her to be incongruent with her true self and what she believed is expected of her. Expectations imposed on her are unrealistically high, and fear of not meeting those standards has caused her incongruent distress. Subsequently, this has created a condition for her self-worth.

These expectations are a direct result of traumatic stress stemming from culture, religion, and loved ones. In her world, she will never be good enough as a daughter, mother, wife, Catholic, or accountant. She feels she constantly lets everyone down and can never gain approval from those whose opinions she cares about.

Trying harder to please and meet everyone's expectations takes her further away from wholeness and true self-worth. She has lost confidence in her ability to make good decisions and constantly seeks outside direction on how she should act. This low self-esteem will hinder any feelings of success and satisfaction.

She is aware that how she handles situations as it stands is not working but fails to see the situation from another perspective or figure out new solutions.

With in clinical settingsEdit

Figure 3. Stick figures engaging in therapy

One common way to become a FFP is to engage in person-centred therapy, also known as Rogerian therapy (see Figure 3). Rogers suggests that psychotherapy is focused on releasing an already existing capacity in a potentially fully functioning individual rather than the expert manipulation or control of the individual. The goal of this therapy, therefore, is not to directly solve any problems that you might be facing. Instead, the goal is to assist you to achieve greater independence. As well as, providing you with the skills to identify and cope with your problems[grammar?]. In therapy, you would work on breaking through the masks you developed as defence mechanisms and the facades you use to disconnect yourself from your problems. This is done through the clinician forming a safe and authentic environment. This person-centred therapy is led by you, not the therapist. That is to say, the relationship between you and your therapist is vital, where they merely facilitate and guide you to your goals (Bohart & Watson, 2011).

Rogers (1959) stated that the organismic valuing process may become disturbed in a setting where the positive regard from others is conditional.

"A condition of worth arises when the positive regard of a significant other is conditional, when the individual feels that in some respects he is prized and in others not. Gradually, this same attitude is assimilated into his own self-regard complex, and he values an experience positively or negatively solely because of these conditions of worth which he has taken over from others, not because the experience enhances or fails to enhance his organism." (p. 209)

Focus on changeEdit

Rogers (1959) suggests that the therapy sessions are designed to enable a series of changes to be implemented to assist the client in progressing towards a FFP. These include:

  1. Being more congruent, open to experience, and less defensive
  2. Having improved psychological adjustment
  3. Having an increased degree of positive self-regard
  4. Perceiving the locus of evaluation and the locus of choice as residing within oneself
  5. Experiencing more acceptance of others

Take some time to think about what you can do to enable these changes in your life.

What have you already achieved?

What could use some work?\

Treatment planEdit

Applying this to Jane's case study, these changes can be established through a treatment plan that she organises with her therapist. Through person-centred therapy, the therapist will provide the ideal therapeutic setting for the patient's actualising inclinations to thrive. Here is one possible treatment plan for the case of Jane:

  1. The therapist and Jane will establish a trustworthy therapeutic relationship via active listening and empathy, which will help Jane to further articulate her ideas and feelings. Jane will no longer see challenges as insurmountable as she did in the past since she can solve them and break them down.
  2. Jane will gain confidence in her abilities to make decisions and solve problems on her own by receiving unconditional positive regard. She will become more confident in herself and less susceptible to outside influences as a result of strengthening her self-confidence.
  3. Genuine rapport and consistency between Jane and the counsellor will help her to believe that the thoughts and behaviours produced during sessions are legitimate, trustworthy, and can be performed outside in the real world.
  4. Jane will experiment with novel solutions to issues as a result of her newly acquired worldview. She will reflect on how she is implementing these new strategies. She will soon realise that she is capable of independently overcoming adversity and reaching success.

Jane will need to continue to practice these skills until they become natural and she becomes a more fully functional person.

Outcome of changesEdit

Once the changes have been implemented, and you become more fully functioning, Rogers (1959) suggests that you should see some positive results. These benefits include:

  1. Greater problem-solving skills. As well as, being more extensional, objective and realistic in perceptions
  2. More resistant to threats
  3. More self-directing and confident
  4. An organismic valuing process guide values (You trust your gut)
  5. Others are seen as more accurately and realistically and less idealised
  6. Taking ownership of your actions and not taking on the jobs and struggles that are not yours to deal with
  7. In addition, "Behavior is perceived as being more within control, socialised, mature, creative, uniquely adaptive to new situations and problems, and fully expressive of own purpose and values" (Proctor, 2016, p. 5)

Within everyday lifeEdit

It is important to recognise that therapy isn't for everyone. Whether this is due to time, money or personal preference some people prefer the self-help approach. When choosing this pathway, it is important to recognise that the goals, outcomes and environmental requirements remain the same. This means you will need to find the right people to foster the required congruent and empathic environment where you are treated with unconditional positive regard. To this end, there are some additional elements you may wish to consider - including:

  1. Learn who you are: it is important to make sure you are doing the things you love and reaching for the goals you want – instead of what you think you ought to be doing. This self discrepancy between who you are and who others want you to be can be highly damaging. One way this could be achieved is through meditation and self-reflection.
  2. Increase your emotional literacy: it is vital to understand your needs and wants. A good first step to that is by learning what your emotions feel like. When you are angry where do you feel it? What makes you stressed? What does sadness feel like to you? In addition, learning to instinctively trust what your body is telling you and follow that drive towards positive self-change.
  3. Intrinsic Goal setting: now that you know who you are and what you want, it is important to start setting some goals. However, it is important to ensure that these goals are intrinsically focused (as in a goal that aligns with your personal opinions and interests) instead of an extrinsically focused (as in a goal that is based on the beliefs or wishes of others, or that is motivated by an outside force like a reward or punishment)
  4. Be open to new opportunities and experiences: as long as they don't go against your new goals and stay within your self-identity, it is good to try new things. Go to a party, meet new people, join a new club or start a hobby. While maintaining your normal life might feel safe and comfortable, it can also be trapping you from your potential.
  5. Foster a safe culture for your ongoing development: while you are meeting new people and expanding your life it is important that the culture you build is supportive and promotes the changes that you want.
  6. Take agency in your choices: When it comes to choosing what experiences you want and what culture you are building, you should be taking agency in this decision instead be being a passive spectator in your own life.

In the case of Jane, here is an example of how her self-help plan could look:

  1. Jane will start with self-reflection where she works on finding who she wants to be instead of what others want her to be.
  2. Next, Jane will start taking notes on her emotions and gut instincts. In doing so, she will start to learn how to trust herself and her natural drive. This can be in the form of a reflective journal or emotional tally.
  3. Once Jane learns to trust herself, she will then set a list of goals that she wants. Instead of focusing on the goals of her family or other outside individuals. One important aspect here is to find where the common ground lies as these will be easier 'wins' which will also help develop Jane's confidence to stand her ground for the other goals that may not align with those external parties.
  4. While she works on achieving her goals, Jane should keep an eye out for any opportunities for new experiences that present themselves. As long as they align with her goals and sense of self.
  5. Through the experiences that Jane involves herself in, she needs to choose which relationships to encourage and which to distance herself from to ensure that she remains in a supportive environment
  6. Lastly, Jane will need to take agency and celebrate her choices. The goals she set, the friends she found and the life she made for herself.


By far the main criticism of the FFP theory and the similar theory of self-actualisation is the lack of direct research on the topic. Abraham Maslow (1987) did perform a case study on a number of pre-selected individuals who he saw as potentially portraying self-actualising tendencies. These included historical persons and Maslow's personal friends (Wurtz, 1960). Data on these individuals were collected and clinical analysis was performed. While the findings did show that these people had characteristics of a self-actualised person; the need for a randomised study was evident as the participants were cherry-picked as the best examples. A second study was conducted at Michigan State University where he screened several thousand students. Out of these, only two individuals, who best fit the categories of a self-actualised person were further examined. One of them dropped out of the university and the other was best described as a psychopath (Wurtz, 1960).

More recently, (Enter Reference)[factual?] conducted 2 studies to examine the characteristics of Rogers' fully functioning person from the perspective of positive psychology. They concluded that, consistent with Rogers’s theory, the fully functioning person retained high life satisfaction, and expressed more positive feelings and thoughts as well as lower levels of anxiety.

Another common criticism arises when the impulses of an individual are incompatible with the rules of a society (Wurtz, 1960). Wurtz suggests that if the individuals' interests are prioritised then that can result in anti-social personalities or psychopathic behaviours. However, if the rules of the society are prioritised then a conformist culture may become normalised.

In addition, there are some criticisms that specifically relate to the humanistic person-centred therapy that is used to develop FFP. These include:

  • Non-directiveness - Person-centred therapy is meant to be client driven and without direction from the psychologist. One perspective on this issue is that therapy by nature will always have some form of direction from the clinician. Additionally, we can never completely eliminate bias so whether it is intentional or not, bias can influence direction.
  • Inefficient – person-centred therapy and the progression to FFP can take an extremely long time. This is due to the lack of formal structure. By avoiding direction, solutions or advice may be withheld until the client is able to reach the same conclusion themselves.
  • Frustration – for some clients seeking assistance to reach FFP, there will be a need for advice, opinions and options to be provided. Without these, clients may feel frustrated with the process.


To be a fully functional person is to trust your organismic valuing process - to trust your gut. This is achieved through your innate tendency to identify when something is incongruent with your self-concept and your personal drive for self-improvement. These tendencies can be inhibited if your needs for internal and external positive regard are not met. In addition, proper environmental elements of empathy, congruence and unconditional positive regard are vital to enable you to flourish. To be able to tend to these needs and foster this environment some changes to your may be needed. As well as an action plan to guide you on your self improvement[grammar?]. If your changes have been successful, then some positive outcomes should be observable, which indicate you are now a more fully functional person. However, this is a continual prosses and not an end state like Maslow's self-actualisation.

See alsoEdit

Self-actualisation (Book chapter)

Growth psychology

Person centred care


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Korsgaard, C. M. (2008). The Constitution of Agency: Essays on Practical Reason and Moral Psychology. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

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Proctor, C., Tweed, R., & Morris, D. (2016). The Rogerian Fully Functioning Person. Journal of Humanistic Psychology, 56(5), 503–529.

Rogers, C. R. (1959). A Theory of Therapy, Personality, and Interpersonal Relationships as Developed in the Client-Centred Framework. In S. Koch (Series Ed.) & S. Koch (Vol. Ed.), Psychology: A Study of a Science (Vol. 3, pp. 184–256). New York: McGraw Hill.

Rogers, C. R. (1961). On Becoming a Person. Boston: Houghton Mifflin.

Rogers, C. R. (1969). Freedom to Learn. Columbus, Ohio: Charles E. Merrill.

Rogers, C. R. (1970). Carl Rogers on Encounter Groups. New York: Harper and Row.

Rogers, C. R. (1972). Becoming Partners: Marriage and Its Alternatives. New York: Dell.

Rogers, C. R. (1980). Empathic: An Unappreciated Way of Being. In a way of being (pp. 137–163). Boston: Houghton Mifflin.

Rogers, C. R. (1986). Client-Centred Approach to Therapy. In I. L. Kutash & A. Wolf (Eds.), Psychotherapist’s casebook: Theory and technique in practice (pp. 197–208). San Francisco: Jossey Bass.

Straume, L.V., Vittersø, J. (2020). Fully Functioning Person. In: Zeigler-Hill, V., Shackelford, T.K. (eds) Encyclopedia of Personality and Individual Differences. Springer, Cham.

Witty, M.C. (2007). Client-Centered Therapy. In: Kazantzis, N., LĽAbate, L. (eds) Handbook of Homework Assignments in Psychotherapy. Springer, Boston, MA .

Wurtz, K. R. (1960). THE CONFUSION OF SCIENCE AND VALUE: Criticism of" The Fully Functioning Personality". ETC: A Review of General Semantics, 486-498.

External linksEdit

Carl Rogers (wikipedia).

Humanistic Psycholofy (wikipedia).

Self-actualisation (wikipedia).

Fully Functioning Person (very well mind).

Episode 239 Carl Rogers’ Fully Functioning Person - Directory Listings - Breathwork for Counsellors (Counselling Tutor Podcast)