Re: Return response/ Recovering Psych. Patients

Chris Stevens (
Tue, 01 Jul 1997 23:11:17 +1100

Lindsay Oades wrote:

> Chris is a colleague of mine who will be at the Seattle conference. His work
> is not about schizophrenia but rather the idea of "insight" in general. I find
> his work interesting in mental health because of the term mentioned above- the
> client "without insight". He is on line somewhere so I will let him describe
> his own work.
> I don't know how much I have to offer to this conversation on schiziphrenia (as I
know little about it), but maybe what Kelly had to say about insight is relevant.
Kelly held seemingly paradoxical views on the place of insight in therapy. He
defined 'new insight' as a comprehensive construction of one's behaviour.

Lyndsay has identified one very important position of Kelly's: his strident
opposition to therapists who labelled clients as 'lacking insight'... usually he
felt this meant the client was not running with the therapist's latest 'insight'.
Conversely, he warned therapists against the dangers of getting too carried away
when their client has a big 'insight' (Kelly used scare quotes frequently for
the term). He felt that often the client may not be ready for the comprehensive
implications of the reconstruction and this could lead either to suicide or to a
psychotic break. The latter may relate to a sudden loosening of the relevant
constructs to avoid the implications?(Bannister and Fransella's early work on
loose construing is, I think, theoretically relevant).

Other notable criticisms of 'insight' by Kelly were in reference to the client
with an overly dilated perceptual field, for whom everything was related to
everything else; he also felt that insight was not a goal of personal construct

However, he does talk about 'genuine new insights' and it is clear that helping
the client manage successive creativity cycles (where insights may occur in the
tightening phases) was a goal of therapy. In my work (with Beverly Walker) I've
argued that it is the Experience Cycle and Kelly's pragmatist orientation that is
most relevant here. Assisting the client to systematically experiment and test
new constructions, to continually revise was most important. I guess a
distinction can be drawn between 'insightfullness' - as a learnable skill - and
having the 'right insight' - as an end or goal in itself. It was clearly the
former which Kelly endorsed. The term 'genuine' is pretty vague, but at least I
think that Kelly was implying that insights are only any good when they assist the
client to cope, or even prosper, in their living in the world.