Constructivist Psychotherapy concepts
The constructivist approach to psychotherapy emphasises that we are not simply passive to society’s ideas about who we should be, but can also be actors in creating our personal and social identity. This point of view rejects the notion that our lives and our identities are entirely determined by our biography or by our place in society. Constructivism as a theory goes beyond therapy and influences different disciplines including education. A constructivist attitude encourages students to question and examine what they already know or take for granted about the world, rather than assuming it is possible to teach them ‘how the world really is’. Constructivist therapy is associated with different theorists but the best known is probably the influential American psychologist and psychotherapist George Kelly (USA 1905-1967) whose Personal Construct Theory is strongly associated with constructivist therapy.
Constructivist therapy emphasises the persons role in therapy as in the construction of their own world. In other words, from this point of view the psychotherapist cannot tell the person how they should conceive of the world or their identity but must work with the person to elicit a detailed account of how that particular individual sees the world. Then the work of therapy is in making distinctions and relative points in relation to the content of the constructs of the individual. Psychologist and psychotherapist George Kelly saw constructs as being: bipolar - that they constructed idea in relation to extremes of how that idea or the opposite of that idea might be, and relational in the sense that it was possible to compare the concepts of that individual with other concepts from the same individual in order ton examine the qualities of the person's view of reality.
Constructivist psychotherapy promotes the idea that the individual is the agent who is in charge and control of creating his or her own roles and way of seeing and living in the world. In terms of identity politics this is interesting and the implications go far beyond therapy and psychology across the social and political sciences. Perhaps it is worth noting that such a view point, whilst empowering and truthful in some ways, has a tendency to overlook structural and cultural forces. Nevertheless, it is a useful position in therapy as it reminds the psychotherapist and the client that they do have an important role to play in the creation of their own reality and that they are not purely victims of circumstance, psychology, biology, structure etc.