Constructivist Therapy Over Time
For individuals in the U.S. & U.S. territories
In Constructivist Therapy Over Time, Dr. Robert A. Neimeyer demonstrates this empathic, client-centered therapy. In this approach, therapists follow closely where the client wishes to go in each session, focusing on the meaning clients assign to their experiences and constantly striving to guide clients toward the most emotionally significant areas of their narratives. Constructivist therapy views humans as meaning makers, and the meaning or sense that humans make of their lives in turn creates their experience of the world. This therapy helps clients to find new and deeper significance in what they may be experiencing, ultimately allowing them to grow and change.
In this session, Dr. Neimeyer works with an African American woman whose daughter was delivered stillborn. The client has been paralyzed by grief and depression for months. Over the course of six sessions, Dr. Neimeyer helps the client to make new sense of her life and work through her grief, while reconstructing a sustaining bond with her deceased child. These powerful sessions show how the client moves from near constant sadness to a new sense of hope, vitality, and strength.
Constructivist therapy is more of a theory of knowledge than a system of therapy. Constructivist theory holds that humans are meaning makers, and in a very real sense the meaning we create in turn creates our experience of the world. Thus, constructivists focus on the meaning clients attribute to their world and the ways these shape and constrain clients' sense of themselves, their relationships, and their difficulties.
In this approach, therapists pay close attention to where the client wants to go, both within the therapy session overall and moment-to-moment during the session. The client is central, and the therapist's job is to ask questions that will lead the client toward his or her own answers, not toward answers the therapist may have. Constructivists refer to this as "leading from one step behind."
Because of the centrality of the client, constructivist therapy has no fixed structure, seeking instead to follow the "affect trail" efficiently toward a rapid and deep contact with the client's central issues. In each conversational turn, therapy takes its orientation from the client, so it is important for the therapist to empathically enter the client's world of constructed meaning, whether conveyed verbally, coverbally, or nonverbally in the client's responses.
However, the therapist is by no means a passive visitor to the client's experiential world but, rather, subtly directs the process of their exploration toward emotionally significant "growing edges" of the client's awareness, fostering greater contact with the painful discrepancies in the client's story and the often hidden purposes served by the problematic feeling, pattern, or behavior.
Discovering the significance of the symptom typically fosters the symbolization and articulation of new meaning, and an emerging sense of wholeness and possibility that permits the client to move forward in novel ways.
Robert A. Neimeyer, PhD, is director of Psychotherapy Research in the Department of Psychology at the University of Memphis. He also maintains an active private practice in Memphis, Tennessee.
Since completing his doctoral training in clinical psychology at the University of Nebraska in 1982, Dr. Neimeyer has published 20 books, including Meaning Reconstruction and the Experience of Loss and Constructions of Disorder (both with the American Psychological Association). The author of over 300 articles and book chapters, he is currently most interested in developing a narrative and constructivist framework for psychotherapy with special relevance to the experience of loss.
Editor of both the Journal of Constructivist Psychology and Death Studies, Dr. Neimeyer has been granted the Distinguished Research Award, the Distinguished Teaching Award, and the Eminent Faculty Award by the University of Memphis and has been elected a fellow of Division 12 (Society of Clinical Psychology) of the American Psychological Association.
- Neimeyer, R. A. (Ed.). (2001). Meaning reconstruction and the experience of loss. Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.
- Neimeyer, R. A. (2005a). The construction of change: Personal reflections on the therapeutic process. Constructivism in the Human Sciences, 10, 77–98.
- Neimeyer, R. A. (2006). Narrating the dialogical self: Toward an expanded toolbox for the counselling psychologist. Counseling Psychology Quarterly, 19, 105–120.
- Neimeyer, R. A. (2006). Re-storying loss: Fostering growth in the posttraumatic narrative. In L. Calhoun and R. Tedeschi (Eds.), Handbook of posttraumatic growth: Research and practice (pp. 68–80). Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum.
- Neimeyer, R. A. (2006). Widowhood, grief and the quest for meaning: A narrative perspective on resilience. In Carr, D., Nesse, R. M. & Wortman, C. B. (Eds.), Spousal bereavement in late life (pp. 227–252). New York: Springer.
- Neimeyer, R. A., & Bridges, S. (2003). Postmodern approaches to psychotherapy. In A. Gurman & S. Messer (Eds.), Essential psychotherapies (2nd ed., pp. 272–316). New York: Guilford Press.
- Neimeyer, R. A., & Mahoney, M. J. (1995). Constructivism in psychotherapy. Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.
- Neimeyer, R. A., & Raskin, J. (Eds.). (2000). Constructions of disorder. Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.
- Affect-Focused Dynamic Psychotherapy
- Client-Directed Outcome-Focused Psychotherapy
Scott D. Miller
- Constructivist Therapy
Robert A. Neimeyer
- Existential–Humanistic Therapy Over Time
Kirk J. Schneider
- Experiential Psychotherapy
Alvin R. Mahrer
- Narrative Therapy
- Narrative Therapy Over Time
- Constructions of Disorder: Meaning-Making Frameworks for Psychotherapy
Edited by Robert A. Neimeyer and Jonathan D. Raskin
- Handbook of Bereavement Research: Consequences, Coping, and Care
Edited by Margaret S. Stroebe, Robert O. Hansson, Wolfgang Stroebe, and Henk Schut
- Healing Plots: The Narrative Basis of Psychotherapy
Edited by Amia Lieblich, Dan P. McAdams, and Ruthellen Josselson
- Identity and Story: Creating Self in Narrative
Edited by Dan P. McAdams, Ruthellen Josselson, and Amia Lieblich
- Meaning Reconstruction and the Experience of Loss
Edited by Robert A. Neimeyer
- Turns in the Road: Narrative Studies of Lives in Transition
Edited by Dan P. McAdams, Ruthellen Josselson, and Amia Lieblich