interpersonal construing

Mon, 19 Feb 1996 11:04:36 -0600 (CST)

Grettings to Tim Anderson. Glad to see you finally on the mailbase. I
found your comments on interpersonal construing quite interesting. You

...subtle transactions -- even in the early phases of therapy -- can
be shared and convey such powerful meaning. The fine ability to detect
fear or hostility (or whatever it may be) in another's voice (however
subtle it may be) is certainly more of an *interpersonal* construing
and less of a *personal* construing. While such experiences may register
within persons, they exist *between* persons.

I think you are onto something important! Psychotherapy, like all human
interactions, involves more than one construer! Thus, our constructions
are greatly influenced by the interaction, our construction of the other
person we are interacting with, and the other person's construction of us.
Kelly incorporated the interpersonal aspects of construing in PCT's
sociality corollary, which perhaps deserves more attention than it has

Of course, numerous pcp-ers have drawn connections between PCP's notion of
sociality and object relations/interpersonal approaches to counseling. I
find the arguments of those who see such connections compelling. My only
reservation is that the subjectively constructivist aspects of sociality
be preserved. What I mean is this: sometimes I have found those who rely
on an interpersonal/object relations approach forget that they CONSTRUCT,
based on their part experiences, the feelings and experiences that they have in
response to a client.

This, for me, is a critical distinction, because if it is not made then a
certain smugness can result, wherein the therapist assumes to be accurately
identifying client issues that are projected onto the therapist by the client.
(The most common and egregious example of this these days is the conceptual-
-ization of clients as "borderlines" by their if the way in
which the therapist engages and conceptualizes the "borderline" client has
nothing to do with the interpersonal interaction between them!).

When this kind of "I have accurately pegged my client based on my therapeutic
interaction with him/her" thinking occurs, I would contend that a very
superficial interpersonal relationship has been created--one that dismisses
the INTERPERSONAL aspects of relating that Kelly seems to emphasize in his
Sociality Corollary. Further, it dismisses the PROCESS of interpersonal
relating that Kelly talks about in his conceptualization of TRANSITIVE

The power that PCP brings to the interpersonal/object relations approaches is
its consistent focus on the idea that all our ideas about events, persons, and
human interactions are CONSTRUCTIONS, not accurate representations of reality.
Hopefully, this keeps therapists a bit more humble--and certainly gives them
reason to pause before claiming that their interpersonal skills training leads
them to realize that a difficult client is, IN ALL REALITY, a borderline (or
other trendy DSM category).

Anybody out there have thoughts or comments in response?

Jonathan D. Raskin, Ph.D.
Department of Psychology
Tennessee State University
3500 John A. Merritt Blvd.
Nashville, TN 37209-1561
tel (615) 963-5158
fax (615) 963-5140
e-mail: raskinj@HARPO.TNSTATE.EDU