- Frequently Asked Questions
Constructs was introduced in 1955 by the (North) American
psychologist and psychotherapist George
A. Kelly as a new approach to psychology which focusses on the meanings that people
attach to persons, situations and events they encounter.
These meanings, the "personal constructs" of a person, serve also as
for the actions one takes to cope with the demands and challenges of
PCP is therefore not just another "cognitive theory of personality" as
some have written but refers to a much wider view of the "human
While much of
contemporary psychology is devoted to finding general laws
of human behaviour (with
a "nomothetic" research interest: nomos means "law") and tries to locate its roots in
biology, PCP is more interested in the individual person's
way of looking at life, albeit embedded in the social environment,
therefore pursuing an "idiographic" (idios
means "own" or specific) research interest.
At the same
time, Kelly designed an instrument to use for research on and
assessment of personal constructs, the Repertory
which now catches the interest even of researchers and practitioners
based in Personal Construct Psychology. The idiographic, or individual
centred, nature of the theory invites a qualitative approach, yet the
Grid Technique lends itself also to a quantitative analysis of
and construct systems, thus reconciliating these approaches that are
viewed as antagonistic.
|Is PCP the
same as "constructivism"?
Both share the
idea that the concept of a fixed "reality" outside human perception is
at least questionable. The term "constructivism" comprises a multitude
of approaches, including the "radical constructivism" connected to the
names of Humberto Maturana, Francisco Varela, Heinz
Foerster and others, and "social constructionism" advanced e. g.
and Mary Gergen.
The Psychology of Personal Constructs is based
in a cogently elaborated theory that focusses more on the individual's
construing of the world, although acknowledging that these are partly
and certainly mediated through social conditions and forces.
Some of the differences between approaches refer to the, perhaps somewhat "academic" question:
probably why PCP is attractive to practitioners in various fields, from
the clinical to education and the business world.
- is there "really" a "real" world "out
there" - or does it exist only in our imagination? PCP people think
that, in any case, we act
"as if" it exists out there.
- Or: are we really "only ourselves"
(philosophically spoken, "solipsistic") - or are we what the social
environment makes us? PCP people think that the environment is important but that it is us as persons who have to make
sense of it and have to deal with it - using our constructs.
can I read to get an idea of PCP?
easy way is to check some of the Introductory
Papers on this site (see Essential Readings).
Online information can also be found in the Internet
Encyclopaedia of PCP where
scholars from around the world are continuously working on providing
easily accessible information on the theory and practice of PCP.
A comprehensive list of
books can be found here. You might also try
the American mail order book "shop" Amazon
to find out about available books on PCP.
very good book to start with is "Invitation
to Personal Construct
Psychology" by Vivien
Burr and Trevor Butt of Huddersfield in England (2nd
edition published as Butt & Burr).
- The most comprehensive book is the
Handbook of Personal
Construct Psychology", published in 2003, edited by Fay Fransella.,
- and its light-weight
offspring, the "Essential
Practitioner's Handbook on PCP".
- A successor to Fransella's Handbook is the "Wiley Handbook of Personal Construct Psychology", edited by David Winter and Nick Reed in 2016.
the classic "Manual of Repertory
Grid Technique" (2nd edition as Fransella, Bell,
followed by an
Guide to Repertory Grids" by Devi Jankowicz.
The (North American) Constructivist Psychology Network (CPN) has opened an online bookshop at: http://www.constructivistpsych.org/bookstore.html
about the "real stuff"
- Kelly's own?
"opus magnum" of 1955 has been reprinted in 1991, and is still
available, e. g. through Amazon. The three introductory chapters have
been published separately and may serve as an introduction to the
Then there is an out-of-print collection of later articles where Kelly
further development some of his ideas, published
in 1969 as "Clinical Psychology and Personality", edited by Brendan
Maher (see books).
A number of Kelly's papers is available online on various websites,
can I find information on PCP on the Internet?
about 70 Web Sites in
10 countries on the Internet that are devoted to PCP. They
include homepages of academic institutions, of organisations devoted to
PCP, commercial training centres, and others, such as homepages of
individuals involved in PCP. See Resources.
information on PCP-related events is in the PCP News Blog.
- The Internet Encyclopaedia of
PCP provides comprehensive information on the theory
- The online journal Personal Construct Theory &
Practice publishes PCP-related articles regularly
- A web site with resources for studying PCP, especially the
applications, is currently in preparation. Watch out for the PCP Toolkit!
way of obtaining
Internet information is through search engines such as Google and Google Scholar using the keywords "Personal
Construct Psychology", "Repertory Grid", or
- Recently, several free access
repositories have benn established, with many PCP-related articles
available: ResearchGate and Academia.edu.
you are interested in
Web Sites covering related subjects such as constructivism in general
the "radical" variant of the Maturana school in particular,
Constructivism Web Site in Vienna.
there academic journals
devoted to PCP?
International Journal of PCP was introduced in 1988 and has since
extended its focus to constructivism in general, under the name of Journal of Constructivist
It is available at a considerable discount for members of the (North
American) Constructivist Psychology Network (CPN), the European
Personal Construct Association (EPCA), and the Australasian Personal
Construct Group (APCG).
In 2004, the free online jornal Personal Construct Theory &
Practice was established.
PCP based approach
accepted in academic research?
PhD theses, and theses
written for a Master's, Diploma etc degree have been successfully
problem is often to find a supervisor with knowledge of PCP in the
faculty. A hardcore "rats and stats" department may be reluctant to
accept PCP work but normally PCP research provides "numbers" and
"stats" to a sufficient degree to convince "evidence based"
In many cases, the PCP mailing lists are
advice, and list members are generally very supportive of newcomers.
discovered PCP and would like to use repertory grids in my research -
but my supervisor is not knowledgeable about PCP.
|This is a
problem encountered by many. You may send questions to one of the PCP mailing lists - the members are usually very
supportive - but: PLEASE do your maths first by studying the basic
literature (see essentials) and try to
be as specific as possible with your questions.
a Repertory Grid?
is a device invented by George Kelly to elicit personal constructs.
He made use of the very general principle that our concepts, ideas,
notions, attitudes are based on
"comparing", i. e. looking for similarities and differences. The method
uses comparisons of (normally)
triads of relevant items (e. g.persons who are
important for the respondent, technically called "elements") to elicit bipolar (two-ended)
descriptions that are interpreted as indications of the "constructs"
he/she uses in dealing with the world. This is repeated
several times with other triads, resulting in a
two-dimensional matrix (the "grid") of numbers where every number
stands for the assessment of an element with respect to a construct. This
is than open to various interpretations, either directly or with the
help of statistical procedures.
In a way, a repertory grid is like a questionnaire that the respondent
has devised him/herself - guided by the interviewer, where the
self-defined constructs function as test items.
More information here.
I learn administering a
repertory grid from books or do I need personal training?
recommended to receive personal training because the administration is
a kind of
interview, i. e. an interpersonal situation where things can "go
wrong", e.g. influenced by unnoticed biases etc. So the best way is
to learn from an expert who has done
a number of grids him/herself.
But of course, good books are extremely useful to acquire the basics.
In English, we would recommend Jankowicz's
"Easy Guide to RG" or the
more comprehensive classic "Fransella-Bell-Bannister" (see books).
PCP only for psychologists?
was developed by
a psychologist and its prime area has been clinical psychology and
However, during the last sixry years, the range of application of the
the boundaries of clinical psychology, and even of psychology as a
Cognitive science, education, architecture, nursing, social work,
development, sociology, even theology are among the disciplines in
the personal construct approach has proved fruitful.
just a theory or are there practical applications?
| PCP was
conceived as a theory that informs practice. Originally developed in clinical psychology
(i. e. as a tool in helping people with psychological "disorders"), it
did not take long until people working as consultants in organisations discovered the power
of the approach, and also in education
where it is obvious that valuing the diversity
of the individual children is crucial.
there some kind
of training available where I can learn about the theory as well as the
systematic training in PCP is offered in the UK, in Italy, in Spain and
Serbia. In the UK there are two
institutions: the PCP Centre
at the University of Hertfordshire, founded by Fay Fransella, and PCPA,
the Personal Construct Association, They offer curricula with PCP training in
the clinical field and in the application of PCP in organisations,
development and consulting. In Italy, there are training centres in
Rome, Florence and Padova, in Spain in Barcelona and Salamanca, in Serbia in Belgrade. Find
out about details here.
The most recent initative is the International Lab
hostet by the Institute of Constructivist Psychology (ICP) in Padua
which will offer foundation courses in PCP, beginning in 2017, see InfoFlyer.
officially recognised, e. g. in psychotherapy?
|In the UK,
is a charter of psychotherapists, and PCP therapy is officially
some countries, a more general understanding of "constructivist
psychotherapy" has led to the establishment of training institutions. A
of people involved in constructivist psychotherapies (the ECTN)
has been set up by Massimo Giliberto in Padova, Dusan
Stojnov in Belgrade, and Mary Frances in the UK.
|Where in the world is PCP represented?
originated in the USA.
Hence it spread first to English speaking countries: The UK, Canada,
During the last 20 years however, in Italy, Spain, Serbia and to a
extent in some other European countries, an ever growing number of
became involved in PCP. The body of existing literature as well as the
messages exchanged within the International PCP email networks show
is now literally a world-wide movement, from Chili to Norway to Hong
and New Zealand. And apart from Antarctica, all continents are
represented in the readership of the online journal PCT&P.
can I meet
people working in PCP?
depends on where
you live and whether you have the opportunity to travel. Apart from
conferences, there are local groups that have regular meetings. In the
UK, there are several regional "interest groups". You will find more
information on the web sites of regional,
and local organisations.
A good way to meet people is to attend a national or international conference.
|Are there "chat
discussion lists for people interested in PCP?
know of any chat rooms but there are several discussion lists that
people interested in PCP can join. The general Mailing list
maintained by the British 'jiscmail' service, and a specific
research-oriented list called PCPtools
(also at jiscmail), PCP-related groups are also on Facebook and LinkedIn.
devoted to PCP?
are not very
"organisation minded" and have reservations about too formal
organisations. Hence the "George Kelly Society" which maintains these websites waa established only in 2016. However, three
"regional" associations exist: The Constructivist Psychology
(CPN) in North America, the European
Personal Construct Association
(EPCA) and the Australasian
Personal Construct Group (APCG). And there are
national organisations, as documented here.
The latest development is the establishment of networks that focus on
certain issues, such as the Constructivist
Psychotherapy Network (see above). Within the Geroge Kelly Society there
will be interest Groups devoted to the further development of PCP
methodology, PCP and the arts, PCP and poliics, and more.
and when are
conferences on PCP being held?
outstanding event is the International
PCP held every two years, generally
alternating between North America, Europe (including the UK!) and
Austral(as)ia. The latest one was held in 2015 in Hatfield, Hertfordshire, UK, the 2017 congress will be in Canada.
For a list of past and future conferences click here.
Regional conferences are held in North America, Europe (incl. UK) and
Australasia biennually in the year between the International
Congresses. In 2016, the European conference was in Padua (Italy).
Then there are national and local meetings. Information is available
from websites of the respective groups.
It can be said that newcomers have found the conferences usually
extremely helpful because the PCP people attending are generally
experienced as being very supportive and hardly ever "competitive".
|Where can I find regular information on
what's going on in PCP?
subscribe to the PCP mailing list at jiscmail
but you should also check the GKS
News Blog regularly where you'll find information about
conferences, new books, organisations and various other developments,
including, sadly, obituaries. Members of the George Kelly Society receive a newsletter with the latest topics of interest.
could it be that PCP is
just another little sect in the untidy field of the "psycho-boom"?
suspected members of a "sect" are probably not the most authentic
people to ask. But it can be said that people involved in PCP are
simply scholars and practitioners who
have found the ideas and tools provided by PCP useful in their professional practice.
But it's true that the PCP "movement" ist not really booming, and
small groups with a specialised professional language and a body of
by a supersized inaugurator - like George Kelly without doubt was - are
easily suspected to be followers of a sect or cult.
It is still a
relatively small group of persons who have come across PCP. This is in
part due to the quantitatively limited access to publications on PCP.
It can be hoped for - and there are indications for it happening - that
the arrival of the Internet will foster the spreading of the ideas that
constitute PCP - - - because "we" think that the PCP approach is
equipped than many other "schools" in the psychological and social
sciences to understand (and potentially improve) the "Human Condition".
But we may be wrong - because, if we follow Kelly, there are always
alternative constructions possible - - -