Finding Truth in Constructivist Psychotherapy
Science is a construction of the human mind. The theories, approaches, and methods that are used in any scientific field have gradually developed over time to become an objective standard of evaluation. As science continues to evolve, new approaches to obtaining knowledge about the world around us must be considered, and at the same time these new approaches must be evaluated within the present context of what is considered to be science. In doing so, conflict and confusion will arise as new concepts meet the critical evaluation of the old. The appraisal of and criticism of a new approach to psychological therapy is one example of such a situation. By looking at the evaluation of constructivist psychotherapy, one can bring this conflict and confusion into the light of understanding.
Since its dawning at the turn of the century, psychotherapy has faced a myriad of objections in regard to its validity as a scientific practice. With the introduction of psychoanalysis in the late 1800’s, Freud opened the doors to a field that would mature as the next one hundred years progressed. Throughout its evolution, psychotherapy has been evaluated for its capacity to deal with clients on an individual basis and at the same time maintain the objective viewpoint which science requires. In what Robert Neimeyer considers a "postmodern context" of scientific, social and political themes, a new philosophical approach to psychotherapy has developed. This approach, called constructivism, is based on a subjective interpretation of reality and how that interpretation affects human thought processes. In "An Appraisal of Constructivist Psychotherapies", Neimeyer looks at how constructivism has developed in psychotherapy, how it has diverged into various sub-fields, what valuable contributions it brings to the ever-advancing field, and finally what problems lie in this subjective approach.
In the article titled "Constructivism in Psychotherapy: Truth and Consequences," Professor Barbara Held criticizes the constructivist approach for its antirealist claims. She reasons that the subjective nature of constructivist therapy disallows the knower from coming to any conclusions that are founded on an independent, objective reality. Rather, "knowers make, invent, constitute, create, construct, or narrate, in language, their own subjective realities…".1 In her analysis of this alternative method of psychotherapy, Held takes a straightforward, logical approach that leads her to conclude that constructivism is not an acceptable, standardized means of therapy. She walks the reader through the distinctions between realism and antirealism, the consequences of yielding to subjective therapy, and evidence that such therapy does appeal to antirealist doctrine. However, she oversimplifies the true essence of contructivist psychotherapy. By reducing it to the absurd she does not give a full view of the complexity that is involved...