Linda Viney is one of the individuals
responsible for the introduction of Personal Construct Theory (PCT) to
Australia and central to its promotion and application, especially in clinical
and counseling settings. She was an initiator, always developing new projects
for herself, her students and colleagues.
Linda was born in Launceston, Tasmania. She
received scholarships and bursaries throughout her education and graduated in
1963 with a B.A. Hons. (Psychology) at the University of Tasmania in Hobart. In
1966 she completed an M.A. at the Australian National University in Canberra
before receiving a scholarship to undertake her Ph.D. (Clinical Psychology) at
the University of Cincinnati in the USA. Linda remembered her mother, with a
broken arm in a sling, mournfully farewelling her only child at the airport as
she left for the states. (Linda’s father had died in 1960 from the same disease
as Linda eventually did.)
Her period at Cincinnatti influenced her
future direction. Linda had absorbed quite a bit of Freudian psychology during
her undergraduate studies, especially from the theoretician Professor Cardno. Thesis
supervision at Cincinnati was undertaken partly by Goldine Gleser who, together
with Gottschalk, had developed a number of scales to score text elicited from
interviews. The scales, including types of anxiety and guilt, were based on
Freudian themes and definitions. Linda began to publish, including, arguably
even today, one of the best overviews of the notion of self in the literature
On her graduation in 1969 Linda returned to
Australia and obtained a lectureship at Macquarie University in Sydney. It was
there in 1973 that I met Linda. I had
been assigned to tutor in her Personality course. Her first conversation with
me began with an intimidating question about ‘what theory of personality did I
prefer?’ She was disappointed with my answer of ‘psychoanalysis’, indicating
she had hoped I would say ‘humanistic’ as she found Rogers’ views on ‘freedom
to learn’ influenced her approach to teaching. It was participating in this
subject that I recognized the need to appreciate a wider range of personality theories
than my narrow training had prepared me for. However I left to take up a
lectureship a month later, selected by the newly appointed Professor of
Psychology at the evolving university in Wollongong. The Professor was Alex
Clarke, soon to become Linda’s husband.
At this period the Macquarie department had
a strong social and community orientation. Linda was involved in the establishment
and teaching of Masters programs in counseling, including school counseling.
She was developing her research orientation in broad areas of counseling,
health and community psychology. In tandem she was building on the
Gottschalk-Gleser scales to develop further scales as well as ways of using
them, applying multivariate techniques suggested by Murray Aitken and others.
This was also when she first started to explore PCT. Casting around for something to include in a
graduate seminar she had been given to teach she opened the 1970 edition of the
British Journal of Medical Psychology, edited by Miller Mair, finding that it
‘contained some mind-boggling, challenging, creative and, ultimately extremely
useful, ideas from George Kelly’ (Viney, 2006). Given the big impact this
publication had on Linda’s and her students’ lives, she came to value the
influence of publishing. It became an activity she embraced wholeheartedly for
Linda involved her students in her
enthusiasm both for Kellian ideas and publishing. Mary Westbrook completed her
PhD on childbearing years, including the development of what was termed a ‘Cognitive
Anxiety’ scale based on Kelly’s definition of anxiety to complement the more
psychodynamic scales of Gottschalk-Gleser (Viney & Westbrook, 1976). Other students followed. Linda was promoted to
Senior Lecturer in 1973.
In 1980 Linda moved to the University of
Wollongong as an Associate Professor and departmental head, replacing her
husband, Alex, who had taken a senior administrative position within the
university. Wollongong, and surrounding areas, had few clinical or counseling
professionals at that time. She was instrumental in setting up and implementing
the M.A. Honours (Clinical Psychology) and the Ph.D. (Clinical Psychology), the
latter being the first of its type offered in Australia. In 1981 she became the
founding coordinator of the Psychological Services Unit (now known as
Northfields Clinic) and chair of its Management Committee. The courses and
clinic became recognized for providing a broader clinical perspective than a
narrow focus on behavioural or cognitive approaches commonly offered elsewhere
A crucial development was the setting up by
Linda of a Personal Construct Research group within the department in 1981.
This group met regularly (mostly weekly during term) for over 30 years with
Linda as its convenor. This group became very important for the antipodean
contribution to PCP, though independently there were others experimenting with
the approach elsewhere in Australia.
It provided the basis for the organization of conferences, the production of a
newsletter and the furthering of research for both staff and students. Crucial
to its success was the presentation of work in progress, rather than polished
finished papers. Staff presentations of issues they were wrestling with provided
models for junior researchers and the confidence for exposing what was not
clearly understood. Participants ranged from staff to undergraduates.
Linda reported that her first published
paper in the personal construct therapy area was in the journal Psychotherapy
in 1981 (Viney, 2006). But the range of her publications is outstanding. Books written or edited by Linda and
colleagues, invited book chapters and a couple of hundred articles in refereed
journals ranged in their content across measurement and assessment, lifespan
development, clinical, counseling as well as health and illness.
She became involved with the international
personal construct community at the fourth international congress, held at
Brock University. At the subsequent Cambridge conference in 1983, supported by
Richard Bell, she made the case for holding a conference in Australia, but the
vote for another location was announced by Don Bannister. We waited until 1993
when the congress was held in Townsville, with Linda involved in the organization.
Meanwhile she was instrumental in setting up a biennial Australasian Personal
Construct conference, the first one being in Wollongong.
Linda’s commitment to ethical and caring
practice led her to involvement in the its furthering in the profession as a
whole. She sat on and chaired numbers of committees that led to mandating and
furthering such practice within the Australian Psychological Society, the NSW
State Registration Board as well as local mental health committees. Community
involvement was central to her understanding of her role.
Linda’s life was not only that of a
committed academic. She delighted in classical music, literature and art. Like many committed to PCP, she was an avid
fan of detective stories and reveled in TV programs such as The Sopranos. She
had chosen not to have children but was committed to those of Alex from his
Linda died from Huntington’s chorea, a
cruel disease inherited from her father. She had seen his dying and lived with
the knowledge of what awaited her. This affected many decisions she made and
the relationships she did, and did not, engage in. Huntington’s is
disproportionately represented in the Tasmanian population where it can be
traced to a bounty immigrant who arrived in Launceston, Tasmania, from Somerset
in England in 1842 with her husband and seven children. This woman had 14 children in total, of whom
nine developed Huntington’s disease (Pridmore, 1990). Linda was descended from
this family and lived a decade more than the average for those descendants with
this disease. She died on July 8th, 2014. Her much loved husband had preceded
her by some 13 months.
Above all Linda was brave. Brave in that she knew what she would face
when the disease took over her life. She refused to allow it to dominate her
life – and succeeded for the most part. But striking too is the bravery in the
way she chose ‘the path less traveled’ in psychology, advocating an approach
that was critical of mainstream psychology and hence threatening to
others. This made the route to recognition,
publication and promotion much more difficult – and this at a time when sexism
was rife in academia. Despite her ambition, she stood up for what she saw as
‘right’, even when it was costly for her professionally and personally.
From the early 1970’s Charles Langley, who had completed his PhD
with one of George Kelly’s former students, Bieri, had been teaching PCP at
Melbourne University (Costigan, 2000) and used self-characterisation as part of
the selection procedure for the clinical course up until the 1990’s (Bell,
personal communication, January 6, 2015). The first Australian PCP thesis was
by Peter Salmon, an agricultural scientist, in 1978. In Perth a study group was
established in the Department of Community Services by Janet Bayliss and
Petrice Judge. Others worked in isolation. Langley encouraged Jacqui Costigan
to attend the second international congress on PCP at Oxford University in
1977. Jacqui, Bill Warren, Phillip Candy and Peter Burgoyne attended the third
congress held in Nijenrode, the Netherlands.
Pridmore, S. A. (1990). The large
Huntington’s disease family of Tasmania. The Medical Journal of Australia, 153,
Viney, L.L. (1969). Self: the history of a
concept. Journal of the History of the Behavioral Sciences, 5, 349-359.
Viney, L.L. (2006). Small steps against the
tyranny of distance in isolated communities. In P. Caputi, H. Foster & L.L.
Viney (eds.). Personal construct psychology: New ideas. pp. 71-80. Chichester:
Viney, L.L. & Westbrook, M.T. (1976).
Cognitive anxiety: A method of content analysis for verbal samples. Journal of
Personality Assessment, 40, 140-150.