Construing Psychotherapy Outcomes

Wed, 10 Apr 1996 11:11:25 -0500 (CDT)

I continue to think about the psychotherapy outcome
questions that I posed here a few weeks ago. Being the curious
soul that I am, I'd like to ask some follow up:
First, you Jon and Ana seem to believe that outcomes should
be measured by goals -- specifically, the client's goals. This
is especially important for personal construct therapy.
Question: Suppose a client believes he has been abducted by
extraterestials and hypnotized to "repress" the experience. The
client's goal for coming to therapy is to confront these ETs more
forcefully on his next abduction. Arguably, the personal
construct therapist would work "within" the construct system as a
way to eventually "dispel" this delusion. Yet, can a personal
construct therapist see this as "delusional" at all? In fact,
there may be ETs out there for all we know. As Robyn Dawes notes
in his recent book, there actually ARE licensed therapists who
provide ET abductee therapy (Edith Fiore: A Psychologist Reveals
Case Studies of Abduction by Extraterrestrials)!
The primary question, though, is as follows: How does a
personal construct therapist evaluate the effectiveness of her
therapy? As Jon and Ana point out, this depends on the goals,
which in PCT are spelled out as the goals of the client. Does
this mean that the personal construct therapist is satisfied
whenever the client is euphoric about the outcome?
Also related to goals: Suppose evaluations are based on PCT
tenets (e.g., Leitner & Pfenninger). How would we evaluate PCT
using those (or similar) dispositional assessments? Can this be
done objectively? Do we claim to make such evaluations on the
basis of our "clinical experience" or some other criteria?
Perhaps a little hyperbole will illustrate what some critics
(especially in managed care) might say of us now: Can personal
construct therapy be validated or are we all playing word games?
What *REALLY* sets us apart from ET abduction therapists? Is any
one else out there even thinking about psychotherapy?

Tim Anderson
Department of Psychology
Vanderbilt University
Nashville, TN 37240