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Constructive alternativism
"We assume that all of our present interpretations of the universe are subject to revision or replacement" (Kelly, 1955/1991). Kelly was aware that philosophical speculation is inescapable for any scientific investigation. In fact, he chose to state the underlying assumptions of his theory at the very beginning. He did that by coining two expressions that are shaped like the contrasting poles of a discrimination, a construct: accumulative fragmentalism versus constructive alternativism.

Kelly’s philosophical point of view of constructive alternativism breaks with the past attempts to found a positivist psychology. Instead, it invites one to substitute an analytic search for truth with a creative exploration of alternative constructions, as well as to replace a psychology of control and manipulation with a psychology of understanding and participation. In regard to the above and other metatheoretical aspects, personal construct psychology and its philosophy is a forerunner and, at the same time, plays a leading role within the more recent movements labelled as post-modernist, in particular psychological constructivism and social constructionism.

Following on from George Kelly’s thinking, psychotherapy, in the post-modernist approach, is seen as a reconstruing process, as a search for a new narrative by the client and the therapist. In the assumption according to which "there is nothing in the world which is not subject to some form of reconstruction" resides "the hope that constructive alternativism holds out to every man [… and] the hope that a psychotherapist holds out to his client" (Kelly, 1955/1991, p. 937/Vol. 2, p. 265).


  • Chiari, G. & Nuzzo, M. L. (1996). Personal construct theory within psychological constructivism: Precursor or avant-garde? In B. M. Walker, J. Costigan, L. L. Viney & B. Warren (Eds), Personal construct theory: A psychology for the future (pp. 25-54). Sydney: The Australian Psychological Society. (excerpt at the URL
  • Chiari, G. & Nuzzo, M. L. (2003). Kelly’s philosophy of constructive alternativism. In F. Fransella (Ed.), International handbook of personal construct psychology (pp. 41-49). Chichester: Wiley.

Gabriele Chiari & M. Laura Nuzzo

Establ. 2003
Last update: 15 February 2004