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'A Psychology for Living: Personal Construct Theory for Professionals and Clients' by Peggy Dalton and Gavin Dunnett

Mary Collings | 01.03.1991

Review by Mary Collings of 1st edition, 1990.

'A Psychology for Living: Personal Construct Theory for Professionals and Clients'Personal construct theory developed by psychologist George Kelly in the 1950s, was based upon the belief that all individuals are unique in evolving their own personal view of themselves, other people and the world around them. Personal Construct Psychology (PCP) offers a framework for people to understand themselves more fully and to consider how their own outlook may be preventing them from overcoming their personal problems. Many speech therapists have recognised the importance of PCP in their work with stammerers.

Much of the literature available on PCP is geared to professionals. The authors of this book have excellent credentials. Peggy Dalton (counsellor and therapist) and Gavin Dunnett (psychiatrist) both hold diplomas in PCP and have many years of experience as person construct therapists. They have succeeded in producing an important book, written in a style which makes it accessible to a wide readership.

The book is well structured and answers important questions about the theory and practice of PCP. It is not, however, a book about stammering, nor could it be considered to be a self-help book for stammerers.

Dalton and Dunnett, in their introduction, clearly define the basic structure of personal construct theory in the light of the philosophy that underpins it. Beliefs people have about their own personal development together with the influence on them and the way they lead their lives, are explored in the context of a personal construct view of development. They also examine, in personal construct terms, how we function as human beings - our psychological processes.

The authors consider ways in which things might go wrong for any of us in the natural course of events and their resultant effects on our outlook. They evaluate how grief, disablement, stress of work, retirement, etc. can trap a person into distress. From a person construct perspective various solutions are discussed.

The authors explain why PCP is such a powerful tool in helping people deal with their personal problems enabling them to make changes to improve their quality of life. A wide spectrum of issues is covered including childhood problems relationships in management and industry and summary from both authors about how PCP has helped in their own lives. After this the application of PCP is described, together with the sort of procedures that might be used in therapy.

Dalton and Dunnett explain the client's perspective in therapy. For example, the need to accept responsibility, to be prepared to explore, listen and learn. They also clarify the important role of the professional.

The final section of this excellent book examines how far it might be possible to apply PCP to oneself and makes it clear that this therapeutic approach has no specific programme or prescribed length. The aim of therapy is described as being the 'reconstruction and development of a creative approach to life'. Following on from this there are some helpful illustrations of how PCP was applied to individuals with a variety of different difficulties.

Finally, the value of PCP in group therapy is considered followed by advice to clients and professionals about therapy or training, including useful references and contacts.

In conclusion this book gives a comprehensive overview of Kelly's work without oversimplifying it in any way. It should be of great value to professionals and students who are eager to learn about PCP and to anyone who wants to understand themselves better. However, as the authors are careful to point out, it is not recommended to replace professional help where a person is experiencing real difficulties in life.

Every speech therapy department should keep a copy for reference. I expect to have a few copies in my own department to loan to speech therapists and stammerers who are learning about and involved in personal construct psychology and wish to delve deeper into the background.

From the Spring 1991 issue of 'Speaking Out'. Review by Mary Collings, Clinical Specialist in Dysfluency.