Counselor Constructs
Thu, 10 Aug 1995 02:11:07 -0400

Bronwyn writes:
"I have a perception (never proven or formally researched) that many of the
younger students I see have less sophisticated construct systems, regardless
of their chosen discipline, than their older counterparts. In general, I have
a suspicion that complexity
of construct systems is often factored by age i.e. there are developmental
issues. So I worry that if a research project seeks to compare experienced
vs.inexperienced, age may well be a confounding variable. (I don't know if
and Peggy took that into account with their project)."
Well, this would certainly seem to fit with PCP theory that we test
hypotheses through our experience and then use the outcomes of our
experiments to revise and improve our system of construction. Age is
definitely a variable for which I will have to control . I was planning to
recruit subjects from doctoral programs at three local universities. I was
thinking of three groups. Non-counseling doctoral students from departments
of education, because like counselors, they are in a people oriented career
though their focus is a little different. Doctoral students in math and
science areas because they would tend to interact less with people or at
least on a less intimate basis than either counselors or teachers. The third
group being, of course, doctoral students from the counseling or counseling
psychology programs. Using these three sources would also control for
level of education and intelligence. I think the age range would be about
the same for the educators and the counselors, but the math and science
people might be younger.
"I worry, also, that asking people for "descriptions" of others may not
actually draw out their constructs about them. There seems to be a case for
suggesting that we are quite capable of holding "formal" constructs as well
as personal constructs at the same time. In a similar vein, I know that, as a
counsellor, I would never respond to a video the way I would to a real

That is certainly a major problem. That was why I was going to have
subjects provide individuals for ten role categories when I first started
working on this. The problem with that is that every subject is responding
to a different stimulus. How can I compare constructs if they are all
thinking about different people? The other problem is that with a real
client one has the opportunity for interaction and an on-going relationship.
As with any analogue type of research, one sacrifices the natural setting in
order to control for variables. The question is: Would the contrived setting
be so different from the natural setting that nothing could be learned by
doing the research? Would the video tape elicit constructs that counselors
normally use in thinking about their clients and other people?