Academic journal article Journal of Cognitive Psychotherapy

Constructivism and the Cognitive Psychotherapies: Some Conceptual and Strategic Contrasts

Academic journal article Journal of Cognitive Psychotherapy

Constructivism and the Cognitive Psychotherapies: Some Conceptual and Strategic Contrasts

Article excerpt

Cognitive therapies have continued to develop along both quantitative and qualitative lines. One important qualitative development has been the emergence of a constructivist trend, which has suggested both conceptual realignments and new strategic emphases for theorists and practitioners of cognitive therapy has been an important and qualitative development. This paper reviews several informative contrasts between traditional cognitive therapies and their constructivist alternatives, both at the level of epistemology and at the level of clinical practice.

Since the "cognitive revolution" of the mid-1970s, psychotherapies influenced by this perspective have continued to develop along both quantitative and qualitative lines. At a quantitative level, the sheer volume of research and scholarship in the cognitive-behavioral tradition has grown, to a point that nearly defies systematic review and evaluation. The burgeoning number of cognitive models of specific disorders (Beck & Greenberg, 1988; Beck, Rush, Shaw, & Emery, 1979; Kendall, 1993; Wilson & Fairbairn, 1993), assessment techniques targeting various cognitive structures and processes (Clark, 1988; R. Neimeyer & Feixas, 1992), and distinguishable schools of therapy within the cognitive behavioral fold (cf. Dryden & Golden, 1987; Kuehlwein & Rosen, 1993) provide further testimonies to the vitality of the field.

Cognitive therapies have also undergone an "evolution within the revolution" (Mahoney, 1991) as they have matured, as some schools, models, and practitioners have experienced significant qualitative change as well as quantitative growth. Among the more profound shifts at this qualitative level is the emergence of a clear "constructive-developmental trend" (Goncalves, 1989), involving both fundamental philosophical realignments and the elaboration of new therapeutic procedures. My goal in the present article is to survey these developments by highlighting some of the informative contrasts between traditional cognitive-behavioral approaches and those influenced by the constructivist trend. These remarks will then set the stage for a more detailed consideration of particular conceptual and practical contributions to the cognitive therapies in the remaining articles in this series.

SOME INFORMATIVE CONTRASTS

As Anderson (1990; p. 137) has noted,

Constructivist therapy is not so much a technique as a philosophical context within which therapy is done, and more a product of the Zeitgeist than the brainchild of any single theorist... These approaches work with a part of the human psyche that is surprisingly neglected in many schools of therapy-the form-giving, meaningmaking part, the narrator who at every waking moment of our lives spins out its account of who we are and what we are doing and why we are doing it.

As this argument implies, constructivist approaches to clinical practice comprise a "fuzzy set" whose indistinct boundaries include at least four distinct traditions of psychotherapy: personal construct theory (e.g., Kelly, 1955; R. Neimeyer & G. Neimeyer, 1987), structural-developmental approaches (e.g., Guidano & Liotti, 1983; Mahoney, 1991), narrative psychology (e.g., Russell, 1991; White & Epston, 1990), and constructivist family therapy (e.g., Boscolo, Cecchin, Hoffman & Prata, 1987; Efran, Lukens, & Lukens, 1990; see R. Neimeyer, 1993a, for review of each tradition). The boundaries between constructivist and traditional" rationalist" (cf. Mahoney, 1988b) or "objectivist" (cf. R. Neimeyer & Feixas, 1990) approaches to cognitive therapy are similarly fuzzy. Thus, while constructivist approaches can be philosophically distinguished from conventional psychotherapies, especially at the level of epistemology (Feixas, 1990), these distinctions are approximate rather than absolute. This is particularly the case in the domain of the cognitive therapies, where both traditional cognitivebehavioral approaches and their constructivist alternatives share a number of features (e. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.