Academic journal article Journal of Counseling and Development : JCD

Inner Subjective Experiences and Social Constructionism a Response to Rudes and Guterman (2007)

Academic journal article Journal of Counseling and Development : JCD

Inner Subjective Experiences and Social Constructionism a Response to Rudes and Guterman (2007)

Article excerpt

I would like to thank Rudes and Guterman (2007) for providing an instructive and intellectually engaging reply to my article (Hansen, 2005). Let me review the history of this dialogue. I took the position that the counseling profession had, over the last several decades, gradually devalued its traditional focus on the inner subjective experiences (ISE) of counseling clientele (Hansen, 2005). I argued that three trends had contributed to this devaluation, namely the medicalization of the profession, an emphasis on techniques training in counselor education programs, and the social constructionist movement. I further maintained that the counseling profession should revalue ISE to optimize the relational factors in counseling, humanize the impact of medicalization, add the vital element of subjectivity to social constructionist theorizing, and provide a unique identity status for counselors among mental health professionals.

In their reply to my article, Rudes and Guterman (2007) advocated for a social constructionist orientation for counseling practice. Although they agreed that the tradition of ISE is valuable and should be retained, the authors noted theoretical problems that result from a focus on ISE, which, they claimed, are largely resolved by adopting a social constructionist orientation. The authors concluded by arguing that the counseling profession should not be defined by a single ideology, but should embrace multiple orientations to helping, including ISE and social constructionism.

Although I agree with many of the points made by Rudes and Guterman (2007), I am not in agreement with their critique of the ISE tradition. Therefore, the purpose of this article is to critically appraise the merit of the arguments Rudes and Guterman used to critique the ISE tradition. This intellectual exchange is highly relevant to counseling theory and practice because the counseling profession has traditionally placed a high value on ISE (Hansen, 2005).

For the purposes of my response, I have reduced Rudes and Guterman's (2007) critique of the ISE tradition to the two central premises that form the basis of their article. The first premise is that social constructionism is a valuable perspective for counseling practice. The second premise is that social constructionism should be adopted because it resolves the philosophical problems of the ISE tradition. My response to these authors is organized around an examination of each of these premises within the following structure: (a) two premises, (b) disagreements with the second premise, and (c) conclusions.

* Two Premises

Premise One

Premise one is that "social constructionism is a useful framework for counseling" (Rudes & Guterman, 2007, p. 387). I fully agree with and also endorse this premise. In fact, I never took the position that social constructionism is not a useful framework, only that it is part of a larger ideological trend that has devalued the ISE tradition. Indeed, far from devaluing social constructionism, I fully supported it by noting that "the counseling profession's intellectual investment in social constructionism has yielded an extraordinarily high return in both theory and practice" (Hansen, 2005, p. 409). The implication of the Rudes and Guterman reply, then, is that the argument that social constructionism has contributed to a devaluation of ISE automatically entails a corollary position that social constructionism is not a "useful framework for counseling" (p. 387). However, the first position does not logically necessitate the second. Therefore, I am surprised that Rudes and Guterman felt the need to defend the value of social constructionism in their reply article.

Premise Two

Premise two is that social constructionism should be endorsed because it resolves theoretical problems inherent in the ISE tradition. Rudes and Guterman (2007) highlighted this point by noting that "social constructionism represents a progressive development" (p. …

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