Constructivist Psychotherapies

There are many forms of constructivist psychotherapies out there. Below, you will find a brief description of some of the most popular and most sophisticated once, particularly ones that have a solid base of evidence suggesting their effectiveness. Keep in mind that these are broad descriptions that don’t do justice to the complexity and richness of some of these therapies. These are meant to help you get acquainted with different forms of constructivism and perhaps inspire you to do more thorough research.

Personal construct therapy

Personal construct therapy (PCT) was developed by George Kelly and fully elaborated in his 1955 two-volume work The Psychology of Personal Constructs. It is a theory heavily influenced by American pragmatism. It is widely considered to be the first fully realized form of constructivist psychotherapy and remains the most popular one to this day. Kelly’s PCT highlights the unique ways individuals interpret and understand their experiences and how this shapes the choices they face. PCT explores the individual’s personal constructs and their impact on perceptions and behavior, different ways in which meaning shapes the world.

Narrative therapy

First developed by David Epston and Michael White, narrative therapy focuses on the stories we tell ourselves about our lives and experiences and aims to re-tell some of the many narratives that shape a person’s sense of self. Narrativ therapy views problems as external entities that can be separated from a person’s identity. The therapist helps the individual re-author their narrative, emphasizing strengths, values, and alternative perspectives.

Solution-focused brief therapy

Solution-focused brief therapy (SFBT) is a goal-oriented approach that falls under the constructivist umbrella. SFBT focuses on solutions rather than problems. It encourages individuals to identify their strengths, resources, and exceptions to their difficulties. The therapist collaboratively helps clients construct a vision of their desired future and develop small, manageable steps to achieve it.

Coherence Therapy

Coherence Therapy, also known as Depth-Oriented Brief Therapy was developed by Bruce Ecker and Laurel Hulley in the 1990s, is a form of constructivist therapy that focuses on the transformation of core beliefs and the construction of new meanings in a time-limited scope. (Contrast this with the PCT approach, that involves long-term processes that lead to the creation of completely new worldviews.)

Coherence therapy helps individuals identify and modify underlying cognitive and emotional structures that contribute to their difficulties. By making implicit meanings explicit, individuals can reassess and update their core beliefs, leading to lasting change and greater coherence in their subjective reality.

Post-Rationalist Cognitive Therapy

Post-rationalist cognitive therapy was created by the Italian psychiatrist Vittorio Guidano. According to this therapeutic approach, the role of emotions, bodily sensations, and relational factors in psychological difficulties creates a unique, unrepeatable construction of the world, acknowledging that human experience is not solely driven by rationality and cognition but is also influenced by subjective experiences, implicit knowledge, and social interactions. This approach recognizes the interplay between cognition, emotion, and the broader context of a person’s life. Post-rationalist perspectives focus on discerning between different layers of experience and emphasize the difference between experience and interpretation. This form of therapy represents a kind of a bridge between constructivism as taught by George Kelly and cognitive-behavioral approaches to psychotherapy.

Emotionally Focused Therapy

Emotionally focused therapy (EFT) is a constructivist approach to couples therapy that focuses on strengthening emotional bonds and creating secure attachment between partners. It was developed by Dr. Sue Johnson in the 1980s and has since gained widespread recognition and popularity. EFT is rooted in attachment theory, which suggests that humans have an innate need for emotional connection and security in relationships. The therapy aims to help couples understand and restructure the negative patterns of interaction that can lead to relationship distress. EFT provides a roadmap for partners to develop new patterns of emotional responsiveness and engagement, fostering a deeper sense of trust and intimacy.