|Psychoanalysis and PCP
|Sigmund Freud’s theory of personality
organization and functioning, and the therapy he devised to treat
difficulties, is the material to which the term 'psychoanalysis'
applies (Brown, 1961). However,
developments in relation to that material make a discussion of
and its relationship to personal construct psychology (PCP) somewhat
difficult. This is because the term is
commonly used more widely. It can now
refer to the original ideas, their development shortly after Freud’s
the so called neo-Freudians and by more recent developments which
perspective that was to become known as 'the French Freud'.
relation to the original ideas, Kelly (1955) writes of Freud and his
in quite positive terms, though he does not provide a systematic
psychoanalysis or of the ‘early schismatics’. He
indicates that Freud had taken on a most
significant task in "wading
into the headwaters of the stream of individual man’s life in search of
underground springs that feed it" (p. 4), and he commends him for this. He values, too, Freud’s development of the
idea of a system in the
mechanisms underpinning human functioning. Moreover,
this was a system that portrayed
human beings in dynamic terms and as warm, living creatures rather than
receivers of information (p. 776). However, he
appears to have fallen in with the
general criticism of his
time that psychoanalysis was not truly a science; its hypotheses were
hypotheses" and did not lend themselves to scientific evaluation
p. 885). Further, the 'biological' and 'energy'
concepts did not find favor with Kelly and he echoed concerns at the
inflation of psychoanalysis to the status of a religion in some
More generally, the original statement
personal construct psychology provided by Kelly accepted a number of
psychoanalytic concepts and translated them into PCP terms. Transference is
one example, where Kelly
noted significant similarities between Freud’s notion and a different
understanding in PCP. Again, the
psychoanalytic idea of ego-strength
is rendered in PCP not in terms of one’s
ability to 'adjust to reality', but in terms of how, and whether, one
communicate about the world in realistic terms. Finally,
Kelly saw value in many psychoanalytic techniques – which is
perhaps unremarkable given the therapeutic eclecticism of PCP – but
them with a different focus.
relation to subsequent developments, it has been suggested (Warren,
1990) that PCP
would be equally at home with understandings of Freudian concepts in
the reading of Freud that emerges as 'the French Freud'.
Those developments and that reading of Freud
are themselves complex, but one key idea therein is that Freudian
to be understood as illuminating the language of the unconscious. The focus is on meaning, on hermeneutics, and
this generates a most comfortable fit with PCP which is well conceived
hermeneutic constructivism (Chiari and Nuzzo, 2000).
general, and while Kelly (1955) did express significant reservations
criticisms of psychoanalysis as he then understood it, it is not
to say that there is a highly sympathetic reaction to Freud’s project in PCP. There
is a translation of various
psychoanalytic concepts into
PCP terms. There is an acceptance of some
working with dreams and helping a client bring material to
though those techniques are differently utilized in PCP.
Finally, both theories share a focus on the
‘grand vision’ and a philosophical alignment with the phenomenological
tradition, to be considered major contributions to understanding human
psychology and to psychotherapy.
- Brown, J.A.C. (1961). Freud and the
- Chiari, G. and
Nuzzo, M.L. (2000). Hermeneutics
and constructivist psychotherapy: The psychotherapeutic
process in a hermeneutic constructivist framework.
In J. W. Scheer (ed). The Person in society: Challenges to a
constructivist theory. Giessen:
- Kelly, G. A. (1955). The psychology of personal constructs. New
York: W.W. Norton.
- Warren, B. (1990). Psychoanalysis and
personal construct theory: An exploration. The Journal of Psychology, 124(4),
- Warren, B. (1998). Philosophical dimensions
of personal construct psychology. London: