Academic journal article Journal of Cognitive Psychotherapy

Postmodern Cognitive Psychotherapy: Moving beyond Modernist Dualisms

Academic journal article Journal of Cognitive Psychotherapy

Postmodern Cognitive Psychotherapy: Moving beyond Modernist Dualisms

Article excerpt

Despite their range of reactions, the rejoinders to Lyddon and Weill's article (in this issue) converge on two fundamental issues facing cognitive psychotherapists in the postmodern era: (1) the relation between human knowing and reality and (2) contrasting constructions of the self. In this article I critically evaluate the various rejoinders with respect to these issues. I also suggest that recent developments in the cognitive sciences parallel the postmodern shift away from modernist dualisms and dichotomies toward a more complex and integrative view of psychological phenomena.

The foregoing rejoinders to Lyddon and Weill's (in this issue) article represent a spectrum of views on the construct!vist/postmodern turn in the human sciences and its implication for cognitive psychotherapy. In this article I offer my reactions to some of the thought-provoking issues raised by Clark, McNamee, Goncalves, and Russell and Reppmann. Due to space limitations and a desire to bring some structure to this challenging task, my personal reactions and reflections are organized around two themes that appear to represent points of contrast and/or contention among the four rejoinders: (1) the relation between human knowing and reality and (2) contrasting constructions of self in contemporary psychological and psychotherapeutic discourse.

KNOWING AND REALITY

Perhaps the pivotal idea in postmodern accounts of human knowing concerns the relation between human knowledge and reality. Specifically, constructivist thinkers reject the objectivist notion that human knowledge can somehow be validated in terms of its accuracy or correspondence to a reality external to the human knowing system. Instead, constructivists contend that humans have no direct access to a world beyond their personal and communal constructions (Mahoney, 1991; Neimeyer, 1995a). Both Goncalves (in this issue) and McNamee (in this issue) point out that the epistemological humility associated with postmodern notions about knowledge and reality present difficulties for cognitive therapists who hold themselves to be primarily concerned with the correction of clients' "irrational" or "distorted" beliefs. As they imply, the main difficulty with the reality alignment position is that it presumes that cognitive therapists (as a subset of all human knowers) have access to an extraperspective, rational and/or objective reality which permits them to evaluate the degree to which clients' beliefs correspond to such a reality. Clark (in this issue), by way of contrast, suggests that these epistemological and ontological concerns are unfounded, arguing instead that they reflect a misunderstanding of cognitive therapy-or more specifically, what he refers to as standard cognitive therapy (CT). Clark (a) notes that CT does not focus on the evaluation of the rationality or irrationality of clients' beliefs and (b) suggests that references to cognitive errors, cognitive distortions, and reality alignment in the writings on CT simply reflect a "loose" and "imprecise" use of language.

Regarding the issue of CT and rationality, I agree with Clark that the focus on irrational/rational thought is not a salient feature of CT and instead seems to be more associated with Ellis's Rational-Emotive Therapy (RET)-particularly the "elegant" version of RET (Ellis, 1977; 1980). As I have suggested elsewhere (Lyddon, 1992; 1995a), RET and CT may be respectively distinguished by their relative emphases on rationalist (deductive) and empiricist (inductive) epistemologies. As a result, Lyddon and Weill emphasized this distinction by suggesting that cognitive theorists such as Ellis and Beck tend to view the well-adjusted person as either a model of rationality who (deductively) interprets life situations in a manner consistent with warranted axioms of rational thinking (i.e., Ellis) or an objective scientist who (inductively) makes accurate inferences about him/herself and the world (i.e. …

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