I Like You Just The Way You Are: The Therapy of Mr. Rogers

Mr. Rogers is the first therapist I, and most kids of my generation, had. He was a great role model. He was genuine and he was very, very persuasive.

Quality programming isn't free -- someone has to pay. So, when PBS needed defending, Mr. Rogers saved the day and the station was awarded $20 million dollars.

How did he do it?

He told a story. He read a poem. He gave emotional imact. He showed the value and he stayed classy all the while.

I look back on the past few articles I've written here and I can see how talking about about marketing and therapy can be a sore subject. It can feel dirty and inauthentic to have to market your skills.

Therapists do this work because they care DEEPLY -- otherwise why would they put up with all that secondary trauma?

I think we need to talk more about this -- in a real way.

As we grow this small online neighborhood, I would like to encourage you to take part in an open dialogue about marketing ethics and income.

Please share your thoughts.

As human beings, our job in life is to help people realize how rare and valuable each one of us really is, that each of us has something that no one else has—or ever will have—something inside that is unique to all time. It's our job to encourage each other to discover that uniqueness and to provide ways of developing its expression. - Fred Rogers



Mr. Rogers was my hero...

I never thought of Mr. Rogers as a therapist but upon further thought ~ you're right! I only watched the show because I had a toddler at the time, I was just happy for the peace and quiet.

leigh's picture

I know he's usually thought of as an educator but that speech before the Senate made both my husband and I tear up a bit. You can just feel how much he cares and knows what he's talking about. (And, actually a good therapist does a ton of client education.)

"An expression of care" ... simple yet so fundamental to children's development. And as adults we need it too.
And that song about self-control, that needs to be learned in Kindergarden classes throughout the land! Especially now when divorce is rampant and makes kids feel mad, vulnerable, guilty, jealous and all the rest.
The Lord was wonderful for allowing a Mr. Rogers to play such an important part in children's lives for many years.
He was a hero in many ways and someone to be admired and emulated. An example of humility, he followed the Gospel to a T, like he had heard the sermon on the mount personally. Those who are humble can have great impact on children and grownups alike. I think this characteristic is what helped him get the $20M funding for the station.

Wow. He was way ahead of his time, hey? I also didn't know much about Fred Rogers' background, but that was so inspiring, and thoughtful, and reasonable!

I agree with the article and the comments. What I want to know is: Who is the new Fred Rogers? Being a bit older, with older children, perhaps I've just missed him/her - but I don't see anyone on TV or (YouTube) like Mr. Rogers. So, where will the new generation get their "first therapy" like Leigh got hers from Mr. Rogers? It's such an important message - our responsibility to our fellow man, and at the same time to ourselves - to stay unique. Yet, I don't think it's getting out like it once did. How can we change this for the better?

Wouldn't ya know it? It's a Pittsburgh story!

Fred McFeely Rogers was born in Latrobe, Pennsylvania, 40 miles (65 km) southeast of Pittsburgh, to James and Nancy Rogers.

Rogers graduated from Latrobe High School (1946).[6] He studied at Dartmouth College (1946–48) in Hanover, New Hampshire,[7] and transferred to Rollins College in Winter Park, Florida, where he received a Bachelor of Arts in Music Composition (1951).

In 1963, Rogers graduated from Pittsburgh Theological Seminary and was ordained a minister in the Presbyterian Church.[11] During the course of his career, he garnered forty honorary degrees.[5] Rogers was red-green color blind,[12] swam every morning, was a vegetarian, and neither smoked nor drank.

In 1954, he began working at WQED, a Pittsburgh public television station, as a puppeteer on a local children's show The Children's Corner.

During these eight years, he would leave the WQED studios during his lunch breaks to study theology at the nearby Pittsburgh Theological Seminary. Rogers, however, was not interested in preaching; and, after his ordination, he was specifically charged to continue his work with Children's Television. He had also done work at the University of Pittsburgh's Graduate School of Child Development.

Mister Rogers' Neighborhood began airing in 1968 and ran for 895 episodes; the last set of new episodes was taped in December 2000 and began airing in August 2001. At its peak, in 1985, 8% of U.S households tuned in to the show.

Rogers composed all the music. He wanted to teach children to love themselves and others, and he addressed common childhood fears with comforting songs and skits.

The only time Rogers appeared on television as someone other than himself was in 1996, when he played a preacher on one episode of Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman.

Rogers did no commercial endorsements of any kind throughout his career, though he acted as a pitchman for several non-profit organizations dedicated to learning over the years

Mister Rogers' Neighborhood won four Emmy awards, and Rogers received one for lifetime achievement.

The television industry honored Rogers with a George Foster Peabody Award "in recognition of 25 years of beautiful days in the neighborhood" in 1987,[27] the same year he was initiated as an honorary member of Phi Mu Alpha Sinfonia Fraternity, the national fraternity for men of music.

He was furthermore awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2002, for his contributions to children's education, justified by President George W. Bush, who said, "Fred Rogers has proven that television can soothe the soul and nurture the spirit and teach the very young".

Rogers died on February 27, 2003 at his home with his wife by his side, less than a month before he would have turned 75.[4] His death was such a significant event in Pittsburgh that the front page of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette published the next day devoted its coverage to him.

This is just a small portion of what is written about Fred Rogers at: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fred_Rogers
The Fred Rogers Memorial Statue on the North Shore near Heinz Field in Pittsburgh[38] was created by Robert Berks and dedicated in 2009.

He was both soft-spoken and tenacious and elevated children in everything he did. It must have been so cool to be one of his 3 children!

And in that better place where he is today, I bet his favorite people to be with are children, and always will be.
Their innocence is reflected in his life.

Thanks for providing that biographical information on Mr. Rogers (for those who didn't have the privilege of learning it earlier in life). It's always good to hear "nice" news. However, my question still remains: Who Is Today's Mr. Rogers?

leigh's picture

Good question -- it seems most programs today are interactive learning shows like Brainy Baby, Blues Clues, Dora the Explorer, Go, Diego Go etc.

I think sometime in the 90's the idea that you could somehow make your child smart through "brain building" T.V. program became very popular.

(speaking of which we have a Dora the Explorer book where they ask, "What would you use to clean up the bridge? ( it's covered in large debris fishing nets & rocks & garbage cans) -- anyway, the answer was a vacuum cleaner... I mean really... but I digress.

More importantly you can still watch Mr. Rogers here: http://pbskids.org/rogers/
My daughter likes that he visits factories and museums and shows how things (crayons, musical instruments, balls, Etc.) are made -- real people, real interviews, doing real work. He asks many questions and never interrupts the speaker. Heck, it's worth it just to teach kids how to have a proper conversation.

So no -- I don't see anyone out there taking his place. But it would be nice to see someone going in the same direction.

Miss Leigh...
Yes, it's so important to watch REAL people at work, or play, and not always animated figures, even though they may look realistic enough, and appropriate verbal intercourse between people who respect each other's personhood, space, achievements, and knowledge.

I always bought VCR movies of real children's dramas, like Heidi for instance, because my kids would watch these over and over and over, much more than the animated ones. It think they enjoyed the children's expressions, voices, artful intrigues, and innate curiosity. Not to mention the fact that there was always some moral in the story or some type of family values, not just slapstick humor and unrealistic stunts.

Once they got to elementary school, we bought them the Wizard of Oz, even though that one has some magical aspects, but they realized it was fantasy. Movies about kids with horses, dogs, pets, topped the list, because it showed the right way to treat animals, since they have feelings too.

There should be a channel that just shows good quality, family values type of children's movies all day long. I bet they could fill a whole month up, and then just repeat it changing the showing times of al the movies. Even Shirley Temple could be in it... colorized maybe!

You're right Denise...
You'd think that his understudy or his aides in the show would continue his tradition, although FRED was an irreplaceable, one-of-a-kind, icon for a quarter century. But I don't know if that was allowed, for his his co-workers to continue the show, in the same format and theme, but with their own personalities. Why aren't Christians stepping up to the plate to continue the tradition? I sure don't now. Luckily, they made so many shows, almost 900, that they are probably on DVD or on HULU media entertainment website. Maybe they're just running them over and over, which would take about 4 years, and wouldn't look like repeats.

May he serve as inspiration for the rest of us, as we serve in our own fields and careers. We can all be a mini version of him, serving others, having a compassionate and humble heart, being an encourager to others, following the Golden Rule.

I am aware that Mr. Rogers (through the wonders of technology) is still available to us; and I'm thankful for that. As for why Christians aren't stepping up to the plate; I don't know - BUT; it's not just the responsibility of Christians (although Mr. Rogers was an ordained minister - that was not part of his show, and I personally think that's a big reason he was so hugely popular with EVERYONE - and still is. Emulate Christ by your actions, not by your words. He truly embodied that - in a time that was strife with it's own cultural struggles. Surely, there is someone out there.....

I was just thinking about your post, Leigh, and about Fred Rogers' pitch. I agree with you that what was great about it was that he managed to communicate the value of what he was doing, and the importance of it in peoples' lives, in tandem with the message that such things of value have a cost attached to them. He came across as truth-telling, I think, as opposed to selling something; that feels like the line that I worry about teetering on with the whole marketing thing. I feel like part of the problem is that the kinds of services that we offer are often framed up as 'extravagances' or 'extras' (as opposed to a visit to a medical doctor, for example), instead of how I view them, which is as body/mind/spirit maintenance, which is just as important. Thoughts?

leigh's picture

Yes, I think you're right... and that idea extends into the standard medical world as well. Even doctors are concerned by the increasing number of patients who are putting off preventative care and then coming in to them with more dire health issues.

The majority of people do not seek care until they are in extreme pain -- mental or physical.

This behavior is very distressing but also entirely understandable -- if you don't have the money what's a body to do? In that light I can totally see how people who are already overloaded with medical costs and who have never experienced the benefits of massage or reiki would see it as a luxury.

I think the most important transformation would be experiencing the benefits first hand. Free consultations, support groups and low cost community sessions are wonderful, affordable ways to introduce the benefits of wellness care.

(As an aside, we have an article coming up that I think will interest you... It's all about the marketing divide between independent therapists and institutional structures.)

Heather and Leigh: I believe I can speak to this issue. Personally and professionally. I am one of those people who does not have extra money for luxuries (we won't discuss why the cost of my health insurance, which covers squat, puts me in this position) but who has many medical and emotional needs which still need to be met. My personal way of dealing? Cut back everywhere else I conceivably can to make my mental/alternative physical health visits possible - AND - communicate my dilemma (I need your services, but can't afford to come every week - can we work something out? - to my practitioners). Hence, I end up with mini-sessions, or referrals to appropriate self-help or support groups, and discussing my medical priorities upfront with my my standard allopathic PCP and my holistic MD as well. I contact my bodyworker (who is also a PT, but does this on the side) when I am in "dire" need - as Leigh so aptly put it - because she only takes cash - and that can be tricky; but even with her - we can trade services, negotiate discounts, and work out payment plans. All of these options work for me; and if one didn't, I wouldn't take it. If I think of a new one, I offer it. The key is: EDUCATION. The patient/client needs to know, without a doubt, that the service you are providing is every bit as necessary as that MD visit, or antibiotic for infection - and sometimes, even more so. The only way the patient/client is going to know that is to experience it - sometimes it will take several sessions and visits to different practitioners of varied modalities before they see the irrefutable evidence - but that is how it happens. Just my opinion, based on experience - personal and professional. The services/products I offer, and especially to my targeted audience (lower-income/working class AND self-eduacated, open-minded at the same time) are often seen at first as a "want" and not a "need". Until I get their kid placed in the right educational setting. Or until the room spray I make for the bodyworker who requested it results in (coincidence?) more repeat visits and a few new referrals from clients who had such a pleasant AND healing experience while in that room. Then the outlook changes a little bit. Slowly, at first. That's where I am interested in hearing more in the marketing vs. truth-telling debate.

I truly miss Mr. Rogers. I am wont to find a suitable replacement who can bring the same level of earnestness, compassion and understanding. Looking back, people may say he's hokey and boring, but I feel people today are so overburdened with excess stimuli that magic, transformative experiences, such as his show, go ignored. It's a shame PBS always walks a fine line trying to keep its government funding. Bombs are easy to build and throw away but cutting funding, only a fraction of a fraction of the government's budget, somehow crops up whenever an administration is strapped for cash.

Administrations, not only USA but globally, as we've seen on the news since last Fall, starting in Greece and moving to Spain and Portugal, and finally Egypt and threatening to move to other countries in the Middle East, always are wont to cut their outlandish budgets on the backs of the middle class, the children and the elderly.
It's part of the Eugenics movement, to cull the human population down, for the sake of preserving 'mother gaia' and her critters. Their 'bomb budget' only gets augmented, because they don't get thrown away, they get dropped on populations and kill some more off. Not to mention the military draft in other countries which use up their best young people as cannon fodder, and the our young men and women who get sent to prolong 10 year old wars, that are unwarranted and only make for more enemies. It's a vicious circle it seems, to spend money on wartime games, but very little on the populations of most countries, just get them deeper and deeper in deb.
So, taxes have to go up, and less can be spent on adequate medical care and organic food for the family. So people get sicker and weaker, and then the scourge of vaccines, which sicken more people than prevent illness, per the WHO white papers. So you have a poor, weak, sick population as a result. A perfect group to bully around and further enslave as back in the days of serfdom. When you think about it, if you're self employed like my family is, our total tax burden is over 50%, which means that from January through June, we're slaves in reality, working for free. But that money isn't going towards our community, helping real people, it's going to enrich offshore bankers who are making all the rules, and scheduling wars, interest rates, and backing giant agra GMO foods, which further debilitate their willing serfs. I guess that 'culling of the population by one half' that Kissinger suggested in a speech to the United Nations, is just around the corner! Well, in our case, we're going out in a Bang, not a fizzle, let me just warn our overseers! sorry for venting, but I don't like what is being done to populations of wonderful people around the world, who deserve a chance of a healthy and happy lifestyle.

Hi Leigh,
I'm reading some of your blog entries and am loving the way you write! I enjoy the photos you have that accompany your posts :)

Mr. Rogers was one of my favorites as a kid. I still sing "It's a beautiful day in the neighborhood" because it makes me happy :-p

I work with Scott by the way, and met you at our office Christmas festivities :-D

I, too, find the articles to be very informative and though-provoking. Along with the photos (which I agree are great; but then again - the publishers are artists as well as therapists, and I would expect no less from them!) I also am impressed with the many links to outside sources of all mediums - speaks volumes to the credibility as well as the quality of the work on this site. And, Kristin - you aren't the only one who occasionally sings "It's a beautiful day in the neighborhood" - whether it really is or not; sometimes I attempt to manifest what I would most like to see (warm, sunny, happy, "beautiful" days in my neighborhood) in the silliest of ways. I think Mr. Rogers would approve.

Is there anyone who doesn't love Mr. Rogers? So simple, so sweet.

Heather - the only people out there who don't really, honestly appreciate Mr. Rogers - even if they did make fun of him as a teen-ager; are those who are too young to have been fortunate enough to view his shows; or those who are too cynical to be touched by genuine human kindness - and too blind to recognize it when they see it. By the way, I'm still waiting for the next "Mr. Rogers" - and the Blues Clues guy doesn't do it for me; is there anyone out there left to who can and will speak to all of us? Denise

Things do seem to have gotten pretty cynical, haven't they? But I'm with you, Denise! I'm holding out for the next Mr. Rogers, in whatever form that takes. I think the world could definitely use less cynicism; our line of work unfortunately seems to fall prey to it a lot, which I suppose is somewhat of an occupational hazard. Still- it's such a treat to feel inspired by someone. I should rewatch some of his episodes online.