Re: Assessment inventories
Wed, 20 Sep 1995 22:50:30 +0000

In contributing to the discussion on this topic, Jon Raskin develops
Bronwyn's concerns about the ways in which formal assessments might impact
on the therapist- client relationship as follows:

>From my constructivist
>perspective, we need to help clients examine current constructions,
>experiment with alternatives, and ultimately choose which constructions
>they feel work best for them. The controversial question I would pose
>is "Do we need to do assessments with clients at all?" If we do want
>to emphasize the importance of the therapeutic relationship, then won't
>we learn all we could learn from an assessment simply by talking to the

Well, I'm not so sure. I sympathise with the emphasis which Jon and Bronwyn
place on the importance of the development of the relationship in the
service of the client's alternatives, but as someone who engages in
counselling on occasion, I'd hate to preclude the use of a particular
assessment technique if we both, the client and I, felt that it would move
the process onwards by doing so.

Now, I must confess I'm not a clinician, and that I have utterly _no_
expertise with the particular techniques (Rorschach or MMPI) which Jon uses
to exemplify his argument. I could certainly imagine insensitivity in their
introduction to, and use in, the therapeutic relationship. I'm even
prepared to be convinced by people who _have_ the experience I lack, who
might want to argue that the professional stance and unstated assumptions
about "health" and "pathology" which underly the use of these techniques by
their typical user might makes for a problematic therapist-client
relationship when such a relationship is regarded from a constructivist
perspective and set of values.

Equally, though, I should have thought that a lot depends on exactly _how_
the technique , whatever it might be, is introduced into the relationship
and the purpose and conditions of its use negotiated between the two
parties concerned.

Exactly the same issues, after all, are at stake if I wish to use a
repertory grid, resistance-to-change grid, or self-characterisation
technique as a particular way of "simply talking to the client" in a
counselling situation: how best to introduce what is, in one sense, simply
a different form by which our ongoing dialogue is structured, into the
pre-existing dialogue?

Sure, I can introduce it crassly as a prop to my expertise which I will use
to arrive at "expert" answers unknown to the client hitherto, using
assumptions to which s/he hasn't previously been exposed. Or I can
introduce it as an aid to our collaboration; an aid to our mutual
understanding; a game that we might both usefully play; "I'll show you my
rules if you'll show me yours"; and so forth.

I imagine, perhaps over-fondly, that a similar senstivity on the part of
the therapist might preclude the damage to the relationship which
techniques such as MMPI or Rorschach might, in Jon and Bronwyn's opinion,

But, as I say, this isn't my realm of expertise and I await correction if
I'm wrong: maybe the assumptions built in to the these techniques make them
dangerous even when used by a clinician of a constructivist persuasion.

I dunno: it just seems a shame to limit the range of one's armamentarium of
social discourse, as it were.

Mind you, a lot depends on the assumptions which one builds into one's use
of the word "assessment" in the first place....

Kind regards,

Devi Jankowicz