Personal construct group work with troubled adolescents



Publication Details

Truneckova, D. & Viney, L. L. (2006). Personal construct group work with troubled adolescents. In P. Caputi, H. Foster & L. L. Viney (Eds.), Personal Construct Psychology: New Ideas (pp. 253-270). England: John Wiley & Sons.


Research has established the clinical efficacy of personal construct group work as a therapeutic intervention for adults. However, the veracity of such a claim for adolescents is questionable, as currently there has only been a handful of outcome studies. The present research attempts to redress this imbalance. The effectiveness of personal construct group work with troubled adolescents was assessed by following three paths of inquiry. One path of inquiry assessed the effect of personal construct group work on individual construing and behaviour. Another path set out to assess effectiveness of group work as perceived by the adolescent group members, their parents and teachers. The third path investigated personal construct group work processes. The results from the three paths of inquiry provided some evidence that personal construct group work was effective in bringing about individual changes, was perceived as an effective intervention, and was effective through the group processes, by positively changing adolescents' constructions of themselves. These results do suggest that personal construct group work can enhance the understanding and therapists' capacity to share meaning worlds with troubled adolescents. Adolescence is a time of many maturational changes that adolescents need to make sense of and integrate. Strong feelings, both positive and negative are experienced, and often it is the expression of those negative feelings that brings adolescents into hurtful and conflictual relationships. Reactions to these negative feelings carry costs for the adolescents, their families, their schools and communities. Adolescents become highly vulnerable to emotional distress leading to mental illness, and to a range of harmful behaviours (Moon, Meyer & Gran, 1999; National Health & Medical Research Council, 1997). The cost to all who are touched by the adolescents can be extremely high and painful, emotionally, socially and economically (Moon et al., 1999). In this research study we propose that while personal construct psychology has been primarily established as an effective treatment for adults (Viney, 1998; Viney, Metcalfe & Winter, 2005; Winter, 1985a; Winter, 1992a; Winter & Watson, 1999), it could offer a lot for adolescents. The core tenets of the theory (Kelly, 1991a, 1991b) can accommodate the developmental needs of adolescents by enabling an understanding and appreciation of the transitional nature of adolescence and the processes of change involved. Personal construct psychology can make sense of the psychological processes of change in adolescence, and the personal construct approach would enable the group work leader to seek understanding about what the adolescents feel make sense and do not make sense, to examine these meanings and to assist the adolescents in subjecting alternatives to experimental test and revision (Kelly, 1979). The results from recent accounts of personal construct group work with adolescents (Jackson, 1992; Truneckova & Viney, 2001; Viney & Henry, 2002; Viney, Henry & Campbell, 2001; Viney, Truneckova, Weekes & Oades, 1997; Viney, Truneckova, Weekes & Oades, 1999) have indicated that personal construct group work is an effective therapeutic intervention for troubled adolescents, functional adolescents, and adolescent offenders. The outcomes have been shown to be comparable with other therapeutic models of intervention for adolescents (Viney & Henry, 2002; Viney, Henry & Campbell, 2001).

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