Constructivist Couseling: A Primer

By Schreiner, George; Lyddon, William | TCA Journal, Fall 1998 | Go to article overview

Constructivist Couseling: A Primer

Schreiner, George, Lyddon, William, TCA Journal

Constructivism has become a major influence in counseling and psychology. Various trends of constructivist thought and the historical origins of these trends are discussed, including Kelly's theory of personal constructs, developmental constructivism, narrative reconstruction, social constructionism, and systems theory. Emphasis is placed on the integrative potential of constructivism for counseling theory and practice.

At one point or another, every discipline becomes infused with buzzwords. An example is the term constructivism, which has recently been used more and more in the psychology and counseling literature. Even though the term is difficult to define, this article attempts to situate the emergence of constructivism in its historical context, provides an overview of the major streams of contemporary constructivist thought, and discusses constructivism's implications for counseling. It is hoped that readers new to constructivist theory and practice will gain a better understanding of the issues surrounding this important perspective in counseling. Throughout this paper, a special emphasis is placed on constructivism's interrelatedness to other disciplines and its potential to provide counselors with an integrative theoretical framework for counseling practice.


As the middle ages gave way to the Renaissance, a new conception of the world emerged based on Galileo Galilei's (1564-1642) mechanistic view of the universe. He saw the world as a giant machine, the parts of which are constantly in motion. As these parts move, they collide with other parts causing them to move as well. Galileo argued that such movements were not random and that the object of science was to discover the laws that governed these movements. The French philosopher Rene Descartes (1595-1650) extended this mechanistic view to humans whose behavior he viewed as following generalizable laws (Benjamin, 1997). Applying the newly found approach to the physical world, the Age of Enlightenment (mid 18th century) brought with it a number of scientific discoveries, technological innovations, industrialization and a burning optimism or faith in the ability of human reason to grasp the reality of the world (Alioto, 1987). Science was seen as essentially different from art, religion, and philosophy in that it could lead to the discovery of objective truths, and the "gradual conquest of matter by the human mind" (Sarton, 1962, p.102). Physics, chemistry, mathematics, navigation and other scientific studies were conceptualized as providing accurate descriptions of the external world in the form of tangible laws, formulas, tables and charts. The guiding assumption was a correspondence theory of truth: a fundamental belief that humans could accurately represent or map the contours of the real world. This movement found its fullest expression in logical positivism, a school of thought prominent in Vienna at the turn of this century.

Logical positivism holds that the meaning of statements can be equated with the empirical operations designed to investigate them (Suppe, 1974). In other words, statements are true if they are logically consistent and if they can be verified through sense observations. Because all scientific endeavors were seen as being strictly free from cultural or historical influences, it was widely believed that humans would eventually discover the causes and origins of all phenomena. Furthermore, this emphasis on the objective or detached relationship between the knower and known (or observer and observed) has led some contemporary scholars to refer to this approach as objectivist (Mahoney, 1990). The origins of this modern notion about the objectivity of knowledge is most associated with two philosophical traditions: empiricism (e.g., Locke, Hume and Berkley) which relies on the notion that truth can be accessed through sense observation, and rationalism (e.g., Descartes, Spinoza and Leibniz) which relies on logical inferences to arrive at true statements. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Cite this article

Cited article

Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25,

Note: primary sources have slightly different requirements for citation. Please see these guidelines for more information.

Cited article

Constructivist Couseling: A Primer


Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25,

    New feature

    It is estimated that 1 in 10 people have dyslexia, and in an effort to make Questia easier to use for those people, we have added a new choice of font to the Reader. That font is called OpenDyslexic, and has been designed to help with some of the symptoms of dyslexia. For more information on this font, please visit

    To use OpenDyslexic, choose it from the Typeface list in Font settings.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Author Advanced search


    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.