Volume 6 · Number 2 · Pages 235–238
Ernst von Glasersfeld and Psychotherapeutic Change

Jonathan D. Raskin

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Context: The late Ernst von Glasersfeld humbly claimed that he was not a therapist and therefore had no comment on the relevance of his radical constructivism for psychotherapy. Problem: Because the constructivist view of psychotherapeutic change is often overlooked, this paper in von Glasersfeld’s memory uses his constructivist theory to conceptualize how such change occurs. Method: By briefly outlining the radical constructivist position and examining its theoretical implications for psychotherapy, the significance of von Glasersfeld’s theorizing for understanding therapeutic change is articulated. Results: A constructivist view of psychotherapeutic change emphasizes relational factors rather than the rote steps of an empirically supported treatment approach. While client-therapist interactions never instruct clients how to change, the therapeutic relationship is the mechanism by which client systems are disrupted and compelled to reorganize in new ways. Implications: Von Glasersfeld’s constructivism implies that therapy is a structured way of generating client change. Because all clients are closed systems, therapy is different with every client. Von Glasersfeld’s theory provides a basis for conceptualizing therapy in relational, rather than empirically supported treatment, terms.

Key words: psychotherapy, empirically supported treatments, personal construct theory, radical constructivism


Raskin J. D. (2011) Ernst von Glasersfeld and psychotherapeutic change. Constructivist Foundations 6(2): 235–238. http://constructivist.info/6/2/235

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