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Why I chose Personal Construct Psychology - PCP

My journey to becoming a psychotherapist started back in my mid-twenties when I had occasion to seek psychological help for difficulties I was then having. I had a diagnosis, clinical depression, which is a label I have never found particularly helpful for myself, locating me in a box, with a story I had no wish to belong in of illness, treatment and recovery.

As a story, for me it reflected and continues to reflect the interests of those that subscribe to it and, if it is useful and helpful to them and their clients, I am all for it; it is just not the type of story I have ever found useful either for me or the people I work with. The way I work reflects how I approached therapy, which is that I looked around and saw my contemporaries happier and getting on with life better than I was doing and realised that I had something to learn. I think I was lucky in this and I can thank my maternal grandmother for helping instil in me something of an attitude towards learning that I took into therapy. I was also lucky that my first therapist was happy to let me get on with it and acted as a kind of supervisor, while I devoured all manner of books on therapy and self-help, to develop a life plan that was meaningful for me. In this I gave myself two or three years to experiment with what might provide a meaningful life with regard to work. I settled on becoming both an Alexander Technique teacher and then a psychotherapist in order to combine what I had found most helpful in dealing with the particular combination of psychological and back problems that were bothering me at that time. I have no regrets about that experimentation as both have proved to be as rewarding and interesting as I could have hoped for.

I trained first as an Alexander Technique teacher and then found it difficult to find a therapy training within which I could recognise my experience as a client, ten years before, specifically with regard to being supervised or being experimental. The psycho-dynamic therapies put too much emphasis on the client being a victim of unconscious forces; the cognitive behaviourists lacked any real understanding of our embodiment, which I knew from my Alexander Technique teaching to be vital; while the client-centred approach lacked the strength of a good theory and the importance of the therapist being a good supervisor to their clients’ adventures. And in all of them there was a lack of reflexivity in terms of the therapist applying their psychological theory to their activities as psychotherapists; along with a failure to acknowledge that there are many different alternatives that can work for people; that there are many different philosophical lodestars by which people can guide their lives.

Eventually, I came across George Kelly’s Personal Construct Psychology – PCP, and recognised within it a powerful mirror of my own experience of therapy and life. With that came the choice to commit to training and practicing as a PCP Psychotherapist, as for me PCP is the most elegant psychological theory out there. It is a way of making sense of people acting as agents by treating people as personal scientists who are asking questions through their actions no matter how irrational or destructive their behaviour may seem. It recognises that each individual is an expert on their own experience and my job is to get to know them through understanding how they have constructed  a version of the world within which they can play a role that is meaningful to them. To understand them, I have to accept that how it is for them, is how it is for them; and that what is important is what bothers them, not what bothers somebody else. Once I understand that, I can help them experiment with what might work for them, so that they can come up with a way of living, which is meaningful for them, which allows them to feel as if they have come alive, which remains the best description of successful therapy that I know.’  Witnessing and helping people come alive is one of the real privileges of being a therapist, as you walk alongside them while they find their lodestar for living.

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