Psychotherapy Constructivism in Psychology and Psychotherapy By Jenev Caddell, PsyD Jenev Caddell, PsyD Facebook LinkedIn Twitter Jenev Caddell, PsyD, is a licensed psychologist, relationship coach, and author. Learn about our editorial process Updated on June 13, 2022 Fact checked Verywell Mind content is rigorously reviewed by a team of qualified and experienced fact checkers. Fact checkers review articles for factual accuracy, relevance, and timeliness. We rely on the most current and reputable sources, which are cited in the text and listed at the bottom of each article. Content is fact checked after it has been edited and before publication. Learn more. by Karen Cilli Fact checked by Karen Cilli Karen Cilli is a fact-checker for Verywell Mind. She has an extensive background in research, with 33 years of experience as a reference librarian and educator. Learn about our editorial process Print Group therapy. Getty Images Credit: Tom Merton Table of Contents View All Table of Contents Constructivist Theories Constructive Therapies How Does One Make Meaning? Constructive Therapists Types of Constructivist Therapy Frequently Asked Questions Constructivism is a theory that posits that humans are meaning-makers in their lives and essentially construct their own realities. In various psychotherapeutic approaches under constructivism, the client is viewed as an active participant in creating and determining their life path. Constructive thinking differs from other forms of modern theory that view reality as fixed and to be discovered by clients. On the contrary, in constructivism, reality is something that is created. Constructivist Theories There are a number of theories that played a role in the development of constructivism or that have been influenced by the constructivist approach. Genetic Epistemology Genetic epistemology is a field that studies the origins of knowledge. It was introduced by the psychologist Jean Piaget, who suggested that children go through a series of progressive stages in developing cognitive abilities. Personal Construct Theory Personal construct theory suggests that people develop their constructs as they interpret information to understand how the world works. These constructs are based on each person's experiences and observations, which means that constructs are highly individualized and different from one person to the next. Post-Rationalist Cognitive Therapy Post-rationalist cognitive therapy is an approach inspired by constructivism and cognitive therapy. It was first introduced in the late 1990s and suggests that personal constructions of reality are both unique and unrepeatable. This treatment approach focuses on creating cohesive personal narratives and a sense of consistency to improve emotional well-being. Constructive Therapies Constructive therapies offer a shift from the traditional focus in psychology on what is wrong with a particular client to paying greater attention to someone's strengths. It is more optimistic and attends to a client's resources, goals, hopes, and dreams. There is more concern about where someone wishes to go in their lives than their history or childhood. The client is seen as a proactive reality creator. Some specific therapy tools that are often used in constructive therapy include: Journaling: Writing allows people to make sense of their experiences, look for patterns, and consciously process their emotions. Journaling has shown that journaling can have a positive impact on a number of mental health problems, including anxiety and depression. Meditation: The practice of meditation can be helpful for increasing self-awareness, empathy, and different aspects of attention. Guided imagery: Constructivist therapists may also utilize guided imagery to help guide people through different experiences and help them create a better understanding. Recap Constructivist therapies often focus on helping people make sense of the world and their relationships. Instead of exploring what is wrong, it works to help people identify their strengths and to use those abilities to create positive changes. How Does One Make Meaning? In constructivist theory, the meaning is not necessarily created by an individual but socially in relation to others. It "posits an evolving set of meanings that emerge unendingly from the interactions between people. These meanings are not skull-bound and may not exist inside what we may think of as individual 'mind.'" This means that reality is socially constructed. This theory is similar to that posited in the cutting-edge field called interpersonal neurobiology, which views human identity as more relational than the individual. In other words—we are who we are, as we are, in relation to another. Constructive Therapists The constructive therapist's role in psychotherapy is unlike the classic "doctor" role in which the therapist is supposed to "heal" or "treat" a patient. While the therapist has skills and significant expertise at facilitation and guiding sessions, the constructive therapist is not seen as the objective expert. A therapist might help people externalize their experiences by asking questions to guide the conversation forward. They might also paraphrase and repeat back what a person has explained to help the person gain greater clarity. In constructivism, there is a deep awareness of the subjectivity that everyone has, therapists included. Therapists and clients are therefore seen as collaborative participants as they make meaning together and assist the client in creating their best reality as they move forward. The constructive therapist subscribes to the belief in a socially constructed reality and sees their work with a client as co-constructing meaning together through conversation. The therapist focuses on a client's strengths, and does not look for illness or deficiencies, but rather emphasizes resources. They are focused on the future and is both hopeful and optimistic about the client's ability to make positive changes. Types of Constructivist Therapy There are a number of different types of constructivist therapies that may be utilized to address different issues. Solution-Focused Brief Therapy Solution-focused brief therapy (SFBT) is a form of brief therapy that has been used with all kinds of people, families, and problems. The emphasis, as with many constructivist therapies, is on the client's strengths and solutions that may already be available to them. The focus on what is already working, as opposed to a focus on what is wrong, yields more solutions as a result. Emotionally Focused Therapy Emotionally focused therapy (EFT) is used primarily with couples to deepen, enrich and save relationships. While EFT falls under the constructive umbrella, it also is an approach that is largely based on attachment theory, which emphasizes the importance of a safe and secure emotional bond with another. Narrative Therapy Narrative therapy has been used with children, families, and adults. Narrative therapy offers clients the opportunity to master their lives through the stories they tell themselves. The narrative therapist helps bring forth preferred realities of clients and enables them to essentially re-author their lives. Recap Constructivist approaches to therapy include solution-focused brief therapy, emotionally focused therapy, and narrative therapy. The best approach may depend on an individual's needs and the problems they are dealing with. A Word From Verywell Constructivism in mental health offers a great deal of hope and optimism. With a trusted constructivist therapist who can skillfully facilitate life-changing conversations, new possibilities and opportunities emerge in clients' lives. The Best Online Therapy Programs We've tried, tested and written unbiased reviews of the best online therapy programs including Talkspace, Betterhelp, and Regain. Frequently Asked Questions What are the main themes of constructivism? Some of the major themes within constructivism focus on the need for order, a sense of self, and a sense of active personal agency. Other important themes focus on social relatedness and development through the lifespan. Who is the father of constructivism? Jean Piaget is often identified as the founder of constructivism. His work focused on children's cognitive development and suggested that kids play an active role in constructing their knowledge of the world. His work also influenced other cognitivist thinkers, including Lev Vygotsky. What personal issues can constructivist methods address? Constructivist theories and techniques can be useful when applied to personal problems. For example, people coping with grief and bereavement can benefit from making meaning, forging new connections, and adjusting their sense of self as they process their loss. 5 Sources Verywell Mind uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy. De Pascale A, Quiñones Á, Cimbolli P. Post-rationalist psychotherapy academy today: Research and clinical practice. Riv Psichiatr. 2016;51(1):2-10. doi:10.1708/2168.23444 Sohal M, Singh P, Dhillon BS, Gill HS. Efficacy of journaling in the management of mental illness: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Fam Med Community Health. 2022;10(1):e001154. doi:10.1136/fmch-2021-001154 Hoffman L. Constructing realities: an art of lenses. Family Process. 1990;29(1):1-12. doi:10.1111/j.1545-5300.1990.00001.x Benson LA, Sevier M, Christensen A. The impact of behavioral couple therapy on attachment in distressed couples. J Marital Fam Ther. 2013;39(4):407-420. doi:10.1111/jmft.12020 Mahoney MJ. Constructive Psychotherapy: A Practical Guide. 1st ed. New York, NY: The Guilford Press; 2003. By Jenev Caddell, PsyD Jenev Caddell, PsyD, is a licensed psychologist, relationship coach, and author. See Our Editorial Process Meet Our Review Board Share Feedback Was this page helpful? Thanks for your feedback! What is your feedback? Other Helpful Report an Error Submit Speak to a Therapist Online Advertiser Disclosure × The offers that appear in this table are from partnerships from which Verywell Mind receives compensation.