Re: Language, constructs, reality, const and the Grand Scheme
Tue, 11 Jun 1996 01:33:06 -0400

>Greg Stanton
>Jersey City, NJ

In a message dated 96-06-10 03:34:56 EDT, you write:

>I am a family counselor by training, interested and immersed in postmodern/
>social constructionist ideas (a la Gergen, Hoffman, Anderson & Goolishian,
>T. Andersen, Tomm, White & Epston)...primarily Narrative therapy and
>Collaborative Language Systems. But my recently growing interest in Kelly's
>work has led me to believe there is room for constructive alternativism in
>this rather sizable theoretical tent I've come to inhabit. While some other
>folks (cf. Dickerson & Zimmerman) have taken a stance that tends to draw
>out real distinctions between constructivism and social construction, I'm
>tending toward an integrative model that attempts to draw on all of the
>above sources( and a bit of Harry Stack Sullivan for good measure! ).
>But there is a distinction that I do draw, that being around the idea of
>grand organizing frames...Lyotard, wrote that postmodernism involves
>"incredulity toward metanarratives", and I find my work situated within
>that definition; that is, I don't define my work in terms of some grand
>theory, and I'm skeptical of essentialist ideologies. I'm quite curious
>about your idea of using Kelly's work as a "organizing framework"; could
>you say more about that? How does that usage show itself clinically? How
>would a consumer experience that clinical application?
>I'm sure there are more questions, but it is quite late, so I'll allow
>others to expand on this if there's an any event, thanks for
>piquing mine!
I reply in a rambling fashion as best as I can....

I first want to welcome you out of hiding.

Secondly, I think you might find work by Victor Loos very interesting who has
written some very good integrative family work stuff using Kellian
techniques. He worked at the Galveston Family Institute in Texas and perhaps
someone has a current address for him as I believe he is no longer there.
Even though I can not find a reference here at home, he certainly is a
refreshing writer whom someone will give a current address...

Thirdly, I wish I had been reading more carefully all those postings I was
skimming on modernism and post-modernism as they helped stimulate you for
this request, but I will respond only to the content of your request and
perhaps set myself up for a disection of my meta-theory...

Anyway, here grand conceptualization as best I can articulate....

First, a short prelude, to let you know that I work with mentally ill
adolescents in a residence as a counselor and a supervisor of staff rather
than as the traditional "fifty minute counselor" for which most techniques
were designed. As such I am an active variable and participant in the
laboratory along with the "client" and recognize that I am learning and
interacting along side others.

In talking with other staff and other clients (besides the "target client" if
we are talking about a single relationship), I refer to "my interaction" or
perhaps "my intervention" and the "client's reaction." I may talk about
respective behaviors and inceasing them and decreasing them....

In preparing a plan of change in a prescriptive world, I may talk of
cognitions and self-statements, and patterns in which I may be required to
"do" to a "client" with or without their knowledge.

I may think carefully about my verbal and non-verbal interaction with each of
my targets and move to cause and impact change.

But..... over-reaching all of this is my meta-theory or superordinate belief
in the value of the "client to choose to see (feel, touch, hear, taste,
experience) any part of what I or the world has presented and to react to any
or all (or none) of those stimulus. For the most part, (80% of the time) I
am able to act as most other counselors around me as our techniques do not
differ as Kelly would predict through his sociality corrollary. When all of
these techniques do not work though, it means that I have found a situation
in which I am unable to interact with the "target client" at all because of
the inability to understand that client at all. (It generally means everyone
has failed as I usually give up last after a host of regular interventions)
All of my training has not lead me to have adequate experience to interact
meaningfully with this client and I must step back further to subsume and
understand their system ... Simpler "pre-packaged and researched canned"
construction systems and theories are not working and so I will need to look
at this new and more unique personal theory for which earlier experiences do
not allow me to understand.

At this point Kelly and constructive alternativism becomes my "super-ordinate
organizing framework" (in the foreground) as I watch the "target client"
experience the world through their eyes (ears, nose, touch) and try to see
how the world impacts them and what stimulus they are attending to. This is
the search for how they, as scientists, are going about studying the world
and the parts of it for which are causing them problems. I see the questions
they are asking and the relevant data (constructs) for which they have built
their understanding of the world (their construction system). I accept
their actions and beliefs as a plausible survival strategy based upon earlier
experiences and choices and try to understand it now. I do not accept it as
crazy although obviously something is not working at present or they would
probably not be seeing me in the present setting. I will accept their right
to continue although I give them the alternative to try out some new
experiments and to resolve repetitive experiments with more definative and
elaborative choices to derive and finalize answers.

I can ask questions and observe through language and actions and make
inferences as to the nature of their construction system through laddering
and pyramiding (described earlier) and make a pictorial representation of how
a client may draw a problem or their description of how they might describe
their current failing or successful system

I may and experiment and recognize that the "target client" may also choose
to step back to try to understand me also...(a Kellian Principle to be
encouraged, expected, and to be anticpated for by the healthy "client")

I also recognize a need to help communication with others by learning and
subsuming several systems simultaneously and helping each person to
incorporate and interact with another by developing common constructions.

In practice, the "client" and "others" are often surprised by my quick and
unique ability to overlay their ideas with another and to reframe quickly
based on their own systems and commonalities that they have presented. I
also am able to anticipate for them their next questions and to help them in
framing active questions based on their themes borne out of an understanding
of their personal construct systems. I work to speed and make more
productive their experiences in a theraputic and protected setting.

While Ellis, Meichenbaum, Satir, Ericson (seven stages not Milton H), Bans &
Grindler, Haley, and others often provide me with sufficient "shorthand" for
diagnosis, direction, and treatment, I find Kelly and his reading necessary
for the uniquely organized client for which few can communicate coherently
and with whom I have had the greatest success. One may be surprised at the
trouble that can be created by one misplaced and misunderstood (by others)

My favorite was a child (about 16 yrs old and 150 really strong pounds!), I
worked with who was quite violent and attacked staff regualrly despite their
attempts to control it. They began by helping him to understand his feelings
as most therapist and counselors will. They told him that it was all right
to "feel angry." What they did not know was that this child had a construct
of contrast between "being angry" and "being mad". By asking what questions
("Laddering down" I believe) one discovers that "being mad" is controlling
one's anger whereas "being angry" or "feeling angry" meant striking walls.
Imagine his confusion when staff told him that it was all right to feel
angry and then yelled and tried to grab him when he hit the walls "losing
control" in their mind.

... Well, there it is. Perhaps making no sense and a bit loose..
pre-verbal.. and attempting to put on screen a thought process that is
considerably more complicated and attempting to generalize it to a process
without a specific case... Perhaps you or someone else will comment if this
was not adequate or what you wanted.

It should also be noted that in my setting it is generally required that I
retranslate my interventions back into one of several different paradigms
people are familiar with in addition to the explanations necessary to
professionals in other fields and other clients whom may be learning how to
coach or teach others. The translation process for me is greatly aided by
the understanding and awareness of people's individual construction systems
and how I am best able to enter and add to that system using their constructs
and thematic concerns.

Hopefully this will make some senset to you.

John Fallon
Thresholds Rehabilitation Center
Chicago, Il USA