Changing Constructs

John Mayes (
Mon, 04 Jan 1999 16:10:34 +1300

Dear PCP List Members,

Padraig O'Morain asked about `How do list members use PCT to bring about
change in counselling?'

I referred the question to Valerie Stewart and she replies as follows:-

`Here are a few suggestions:

1. Don't assume that all constructs will have a positive pole and a
negative pole. Core constructs usually do, but constructs produced during
routine elicitation may well take the form which yours does.

2. As a matter of interview protocol, it's really important for the
interviewer not to give the impression that you're judging the constructs,
looking for a particular type of construct, etc. 'Don't construe other
people's construing' is how I learned it. So you need to find some ways of
exploring the utility and meaning of this construct without suggesting that
you're evaluating it.

3. Technically, I think that what you've got here is a construct with a
limited range of convenience - at least, this should be your first
presumption. Therefore the simplest way to test the meaning of this
construct is to get the client to rate the elements on it. (Don't make it
the first construct you use in rating - get the client used to the rating
process first). Then you will find one of two things:

(i) most likely, that not all the elements can be rated on this
construct. In that case, you ask 'would it be better to re-write this
construct, or have we got two constructs here ... and then allow the client
to break the construct into two. (Be careful to get a new construct pole of
equal 'weight' and don't suggest it yourself.

(ii) if the client can rate all the elements on this construct
without difficulty (and you have a reasonable-sized element set - at least
eight or nine) then you might ask whether the client can suggest a new
element which couldn't be rated on that construct. If this tactic fails,
then your presumption as a counsellor is that fear plays a strong defining
part in how the client sees the world. However, before suggesting this
yourself it would be better to wait until you have got a lot of constructs
(at least 12) and/or have asked the client to prioritise the constructs. At
this point you might then like to ask the client to look at the totality of
the constructs and see if any patterns occur, and what conclusions s/he
might draw from them.

You could also use your sense of the counselling contract to introduce some
'ideal' elements: for example, MYSELF AS I WOULD LIKE TO BE, or MYSELF AS
on what you have learned about the sources of the client's unhappiness.

Overall, the philosophy behind these hints is that the strength of Grid is
that the therapist offers a structured but non-judgemental conversation in
which your skills as a Grid user allow you to adapt the structure of the
conversation without suggesting the content, and helping the client towards
realising the issues for themselves. Then you can talk, in counselling
mode, about the implications for how the client might re-construe, or
change, or whatever, but it's important to keep the responsibility for
content with the client.

By the way, Enquire Within offers a booklet on counselling techniques, with
some suggested sessions and examples, which you might like to make use of.

Hope this helps.

Valerie Stewart. '

John Mayes