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Using Personal Construct Psychology (PCP) with children and adolescents

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Using Personal Construct Psychology (PCP) with children and adolescents

Using Personal Construct Psychology (PCP) with young people Preface - 4 With thanks to… - 5 Thinking about referrals - 6 About Heather Moran - 13 Repairing the child’s view of self following trauma - 15 About Joanne Robinson - 31 Using Personal Construct Psychology to support pupils’ transition between primary and secondary school - 33 About Abigail Tee - 44 Discovering new directions - 46 About Imogen Howarth - 55 The PCP Pack - supporting the exploration of children's construing with visual materials - 56 About Sam Beasley - 65 About Simon Burnham - 67 Personal Construct Psychology and school refusal. A case of empowerment and respectful curiosity. - 69 About Debra Mainwaring - 74 From the Ideal Self to the ideal learner - my journey with

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Using Personal Construct Psychology (PCP) with children and adolescents

PCP (and other tools) - 76 About Rachael Green - 86 Play as a way of knowing, learning and changing - 88 About Gabriele Bendinelli - 99 About Chiara Lui - 101 Pupil voice: Building the “ideal Classroom” with Personal Construct Psychology and Lego® - 103 About Faye Morgan-Rose - 111 Using Personal Construct Psychology in research: investigating the factors associated with emotionally based non-attendance from young people's perspective. - 113 About Gemma Shilvock - 126 Deconstructing children’s behaviour - 127 About Mike Hymans - 139 Using PCP in Practice: Working with Children and Adolescents. A Case Study in a Primary School using the Techniques as part of an Eclectic Casework Management Approach. - 141 About Lucinda Dunn - 151 Exploring construing about school using Minecraft - 153 Recommended PCP Education - 161 The story of this book -164

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Using Personal Construct Psychology (PCP) with children and adolescents

Preface This book is written to show how professionals are using PCP in creative, interesting and different ways in their daily work. If you would like to see how this book came about take a look at the last chapter - it is not the usual way! I invited people to write about whatever they wanted in PCP and the end result includes some great case studies and the enthusiasm of the authors shines through. It is an easy read so you don’t need to be in ‘work mode’ to enjoy it. Every chapter has an About the Author page where you can find out about them and their PCP journey and see their jolly faces - I am sure that it is PCP that makes them feel so good! The case material in this book has been anonymised to protect the identities of the children. Throughout the book, there is some text in very bold type. If you select it, you will go to the reference - they are not in the text because I think it affects readability. If you’d like to know more about PCP, there are some references and internet links at the end of the book. You will find some useful video teaching there - fantastic for busy professionals. If you have an iPad/iPhone/Mac, you might like to download the book from iTunes if you cannot see the videos in the Minecraft to elaborate construing about school. It has some video of an interview with a child so you can get a feel for how it might be. If you like this book, please review it so that I can find out about whether it would be a good idea to do another one. You can just add stars as a review if you don’t want to write a review. If you want to tell me anything directly, you will find my email address at the end of the last chapter. Happy reading! Heather 30th November 2014

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Using Personal Construct Psychology (PCP) with children and adolescents

With thanks to‌ ...my husband and children who might have liked me to be doing other things! ...my son Andrew who kindly experimented with Minecraft with me. ...the PCP group in Coventry who have discussed this idea with me and have always encouraged me along the way - great group of warm supporters Sally Robbins, Diane Allen, Grant Weselby and Peter Cummins ...the chapter authors who were willing to share their work for the love of PCP and somehow fitted their writing into their hectic schedules. Heather Š Heather Moran 2014 No part of this book may be copied or inserted into any other media without permission.

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Using Personal Construct Psychology (PCP) with children and adolescents

Thinking about referrals Heather Moran I thought it might be a good idea to start this book with something about referrals, setting the scene for the later chapters. The way a child or young person usually arrives at psychological and educational support services is that their parents, carers or teachers conclude that they (rather than the adults) have a problem or that they are a problem. It takes considerable effort for a parent, carer or teacher to gain a referral for a child because the referrer will be aware of the scarcity of resources and they will try not to refer unless they really can see no better option. So, by the time the referral is made, the problems (and the child) are clearly construed as requiring a higher level of expertise. Adults will rarely seek referrals for problems they understand and can manage. As a psychologist I have often observed a referred child in a classroom and wondered why that child was referred, rather than the others who seemed to be more problematic. A referral is not necessarily connected with any objective measurement of how bad a problem is and it cannot really be separated from the construing of the adult seeking the referral. When services receive a referral, the focus is upon the severity of the child’s symptoms and the service specification, checking whether there is a good match. Those which do not fit well, will be turned away and signposted elsewhere. This means that the reason for the referral (the adult’s constructions of the problem/s) will not be addressed, leaving them to feel that they are misunderstood or not taken seriously. Although there are not enough resources to offer a service to every child referred, I am going to argue that if we pay more attention to the construing of the adults we might be able to offer a more satisfying service, even when we will reject the referral or discharge the child. It is important to give careful consideration to the referral-seeker’s construing and to tailor our discussions about our interventions so that they

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Using Personal Construct Psychology (PCP) with children and adolescents

are meaningful to them. This does not mean that we have to offer something they request or demand but that we do need to explain what we are doing and why in a way which is understood as helpful. Tom Ravenette gave some great suggestions for thinking about referrals to an educational psychology service but his suggestions work nicely when applied to referrals from parents/teachers/professionals to all sorts of children’s services. Ravenette suggested that referrals generally fall into four categories (although most represent more than one category). In all cases, the referral is a result of some level of threat to the adult’s constructs and construing system.

Ravenette’s categories of referral

1. A threat to the teacher/carer/parent’s understanding of the child or of children (a referral seeking an explanation). A teacher might refer a child when they have never seen some sort of behaviour in a classroom before. It could be that the child is acting in a way that baffles the teacher, whether that is through their behaviour or in their learning. For example, the teacher might refer Caitlin, a quiet teenager, who has recently been climbing under tables and barking like a dog, or Billy who still cannot read at all at 10 years of age. A parent or carer may find they are unable to understand why Emma has no real friendships or they wonder why Jamil cannot make better progress in school even with good support from home. Referrals seeking explanations might be more common when the

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Using Personal Construct Psychology (PCP) with children and adolescents

family has a number of children and only one child has this particular pattern of problems. Sometimes the explanation may be formalised into a diagnostic term, such as psychosis or dyslexia, but not always. If the professional can provide the adults with a clear formulation and a view of the potential causes, the adults are likely to feel that their referral was dealt with properly and that they and the child have benefitted from it. The explanation might be rejected if it does not fit with the adult’s construing. This is a problem when a parent or teacher has construed the child as having a particular syndrome, such as autism, and then the assessment does not confirm the diagnosis. This has to be handled carefully to avoid a request for a re-assessment. Without a good alternative explanation, the adults may feel invalidated, as if the assessor has said that there is no problem, rather than that the problem is not autism.

2. A threat to the teacher/carer/parent’s competence in their role with the child (a referral for how to act effectively). The adult’s experiences with the child will be threatening constructs about themselves in the role they have in relations to the child. They need to talk to a professional who can tell them what to do. For example, a teacher might want develop some behaviour strategies to reduce the disruption Asima causes to the rest of her class. She asks to see a specialist teacher so that she can do better with Asima and with other children like her. A foster carer might be failing to develop a positive relationship with Thomas, although he has always succeeded with his previous 20 foster children. The carer wants 8


Using Personal Construct Psychology (PCP) with children and adolescents

to know how to build relationship with a child like Thomas, wanting to know what sort of approach will work better. Jimmy’s mum and dad might need advice from a psychologist about how to help him to resist the compulsions to wash his hands repeatedly. Referrals like this may be very heart-felt. The adults may tell us about their successes with other children so that we are clear that it is something about this one, rather than a more general problem. This can feel that the adults are negative about the child but it may be that their fear of failure in their role is intense and they have an urgent need to do things that will improve the situation. It might help to address such feelings directly and to discuss how their experience of being with the child makes them feel about themselves, in that role of carer/parent/teacher. It may be that exploring the way they feel about their relationship with the child shows their distress and anxiety, rather than the way it comes across at a first discussion. For these referrals, it can be helpful to provide plenty of information about that sort of problem and the strategies which work better, developing the adult’s feelings of competence and confidence.

3. A threat to the teacher/carer/parent’s role (a request for special provision). Here the adult’s constructions of the child and the situation are such that they feel the only way forward will be with some kind of external help. From their point of view, that will provide an expertise that they lack, therefore it often comes with an expectation that it must be provided by someone else 9


Using Personal Construct Psychology (PCP) with children and adolescents

although it could be a piece of equipment. For example, it could be that the teacher believes James need support with his maths from a visiting specialist teacher. It might be that Sophie’s parents are floundering in their efforts to stop her self harming, and that they tell us that she must have cognitive behaviour therapy. In these situations, the referring adult might be aware of what they would like as an outcome from the referral, but not always. If we deny their request without consideration of how that might (or might not) change things for them, they might construe us as obstructive and try another route into the service. Sometimes we might be quick to turn their request down, leading to them providing us with even more information in support of their case. It might help more if we explore their request and help them to think through the implications for them and for the child. We might be able to encourage them to look at possible sources of support (rather than focussing on one), then they may be able to consider which are the better options. This sort of referral may have been made because the adult feels they have reached the end of the line. This is unlikely to have happened quickly so their construing of themselves as unable to provide what is needed may be well-established. We may need to help them to reconstrue the the child as someone they are able to help, perhaps through opportunities for consultations with professionals.

4. A threat to the adult’s ability to help the child in future (a request for an insurance policy).

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Using Personal Construct Psychology (PCP) with children and adolescents

This is often relevant for the final year of a school stage, such as the last year of primary school, or at a transition into a stage of development. For example, the teacher might be raising awareness that Frankie might struggle in the large secondary school. Fernando’s parents might be worried about whether he will end up in prison because he still has temper tantrums at 14 years of age. The referral has an eye to the future, anticipating potential problems and hoping that they might be reduced or avoided if they are addressed now. It may also include a validation of the adult in their role as teacher/carer/parent through drawing such problems to the attention of the child professionals. Their referral might be made at the last minute with reference to the success they have had with the child but the recognition that things may change in the new situation. With these referrals, we will need to pay attention to the way the adult is construing both the child and the future situation. We might try to help the adult to see that the child is developing along a pretty normal trajectory in all but a few areas, elaborating their construing of the child’s competence. Alternatively, we might attempt to elaborate their construing of the child’s future, and then we can advise them of the possible sources of support in that phase of education or life. I usually ask parents what they worry about most for their child’s future so that I can bear that in mind in my work with the child and with them. This sort of worry is not uncommon for parents of children with disabilities and putting them in touch with other parents who have passed through that stage can be very helpful. Sometimes giving parents a chance to discuss their worst fears (without the child present) has a very significant effect on them and on my understanding of the referral. It is often an unvoiced concern that has never been shared fully, but it may spill over into frustration and despair when they are dealing with the child’s difficulties so having a chance to talk it over and get a professional view might be very beneficial.

Implications The key to dealing with the threat experienced by the adults behind the referral is to take care not to deny their concerns, but to actively explore 11


Using Personal Construct Psychology (PCP) with children and adolescents

them. Telling them not to worry is unlikely to help - we will be invalidating their construing which will compound their distress. This does not mean that we have to agree with them, but that we handle our disagreement very carefully, gently introducing the idea that we have a different construction. The pace of this will depend upon how much of a shift will be required. If we move too quickly, then the adults are likely to hang on to their original constructions even more tightly The process of change can be very uncomfortable. A child with the most obvious and difficult symptoms is not necessarily experienced as a problem by their teachers or carers. So, if we can help parents, carers or teachers to feel less invalidated by their experiences with the child, then the impact of the child’s problem will probably reduce. Just like beauty, a problem is in the eye of the beholder. Ravenette’s emphasis on the construing of the referrer (rather than the referred) draws our attention to the way we deliver our services. If we can tailor our responses to take into account the adult’s construing then we might have an alternative way of improving our service’s effectiveness.

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Using Personal Construct Psychology (PCP) with children and adolescents

About Heather Moran I first came across practical PCP when I was a teacher in a special school, where a colleague who was training as an educational psychologist on the Birmingham University course showed me a Tom Ravenette grid they had just been taught to do. I used the grid with some of the kids and just had to find out more. Two years later, I did the same course and learned a great deal from Brian Roberts, the course director. Brian was always alternative and very challenging to our thinking, tackling assumptions and generating alternative hypotheses. His enthusiasm for PCP was huge. My first piece of PCP writing was my course research, using PCP as an intervention with boys in a special school. I went on to do the advanced PCP course through the PCP Association, which is the only course I have ever done with no boring bits! I loved the fact that the other participants were all sorts of professionals, working with all sorts of people, in all sorts of roles. That taught me about the possible applications of PCP and how useful it is to think across the usual divides of professions, roles and stages of development. I had supervision from Tom Ravenette who was a source of thoughtful wisdom with such flair for creative ways of working with children, carers and teachers. By the end of the course I was eager to do more therapy so I changed roles by converting to clinical

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Using Personal Construct Psychology (PCP) with children and adolescents

psychology. Today, in my work as a child clinical psychologist, I use PCP all the time, in everything I do. It allows for therapeutic interventions to be tailored to the person, to be the therapy they need it to be. I find it especially useful with young people with ASD because it doesn’t matter if they have very idiosyncratic ways of seeing the world and other people. It has been a great approach for groups too: a colleague and I ran an open therapy group for adolescent girls who self harmed and were depressed. The group ran for 11 years with girls staying for anything from a couple of months to a year or so. We probably had 100 girls through the group and the PCP approach meant that the group could be adjusted to the participants who were in it but that we had a theoretical approach that the girls were able to understand and begin to use for themselves. From every point of view, I have found that PCP can be a very enabling sort of intervention, accessible to children of all ages and abilities, to parents and carers and to professional colleagues. It can be single session, short term or long term, used for meetings and consultations, and great for supervision and team development. It does not preclude what else you use with it, so that techniques from other modalities can be used according to the preferences of the therapist and/or client. So, PCP helps me to do therapy in a way that connects me with the people I try to help without compromising our individuality or humanity.

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Using Personal Construct Psychology (PCP) with children and adolescents

Repairing the child’s view of self following trauma Joanne Robinson As a therapist working in a child and adolescent mental health service, I hear many accounts from children, young people and their families of their experiences of trauma, such as abuse, neglect, and domestic violence. I hear about cyber bullying, particularly amongst teenagers – with the popularity of technology and access to social networking sites, this may not seem that surprising. According to the National Society for the Protection of Cruelty to Children, NSPCC, a 87% increase was reported in 2012/13 compared to previous years and one in five children had seen online content that was worrying. The media exposes us to accounts of children who have witnessed and become victims of conflict; families fleeing war ridden countries where they have seen the vicious attacks on people; children being trained as child soldiers; families experiencing the death or loss of others. Such traumatic events have an effect on everyone - children, parents, families and our communities. The trauma I am referring to is the type that causes significant stress that leads to a real or perceived threat to one’s life. Sadly, there are many children and families who have experienced trauma whether that be an isolated event, or multiple exposures, accumulated over time. Amongst health professionals, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is often used to describe a particular set of symptoms such as flashbacks, avoidance behaviours and hyper vigilance. It is important to note that such characteristics often present differently in children according to a variety of factors such as the child’s developmental age and parental mental health etc. It is not my intention to go in to detail about the many factors that influence children who experience trauma or discuss the different theoretical perspectives used to understand the impact of trauma on children – various accounts of this can be located elsewhere in the literature (see Ziegler(1)and Faust & Katchen(2).). However, I would like to acknowledge that children’s

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Using Personal Construct Psychology (PCP) with children and adolescents

reactions to trauma are not seen to be unidirectional in nature, which means that children may show a decrease or disappearance in current behaviours, develop new behaviours which may increase in frequency, and some behaviour difficulties may appear much later on in life. The changing nature of post-trauma behaviours is similar to that seen in ‘normal’ development, which makes identifying post-trauma responses difficult to distinguish. In addition, if traumatic events occur early on in life, prior to language acquisition, children may struggle to elicit memories of the event or lack the ability to verbalise their experiences. Instead, they may report particular sensory and emotional experiences. Unfortunately, children’s behaviours may get misunderstood as those characteristic of other difficulties, such as Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) and Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). This makes it important to undertake a comprehensive assessment, involving the parents/carers of children who have experienced trauma. Despite the complexity, what seems to be missing in the PTSD definition of trauma is the internal, individual experience and the impact on a child’s sense of self. For example, two children may experience the same event, but react in very different ways. This is often seen in families. The individual meaning attributed to an event, in relation to others, would dictate the child’s response, which in turn would influence the development of post-trauma symptoms. The impact, discussed later, would lead to an altered view of self, others and the world. It is the personal construction of events that I would like to explore in the following paragraphs. In order to understand this, we first need to look at the ‘normal’ development of self in children.

How children view themselves: typical development There is a large psychological literature base exploring a child’s understanding of self and I am not going to attempt to summarise this given the brevity of this paper. I would like to emphasise what I believe to be two salient points. Firstly, the importance of self has been linked to emotional and social development. Low self esteem, for example, has been associated with mental health difficulties later in life. Therefore it seems appropriate that professionals working with children and young people feel comfortable in 16


Using Personal Construct Psychology (PCP) with children and adolescents

tapping in to the child’s view of self, such as a child’s self image and self esteem. (The former is used to describe how a child thinks they are, which provides a description of self. The latter refers to how a child feels about themselves and can be considered more evaluative in nature). Secondly, social constructionists, believe that a sense of self is developed through social comparison and not in isolation. The relational nature of trauma is interesting in terms of how the attachment with others impacts on the child’s construction of self. Children are sensitive to their parent’s emotional cues and children do not need to have experienced trauma directly to be affected by it. Parents who have made sense of their own difficulties relating to the trauma are able to provide secure attachments for their children and there is a belief that their children will recover well. Alternatively, parents who do not cope well and where there is reduced family support there is an increase in the risk in the development of post-trauma symptoms. We therefore need to reflect on not whether the parent/carer was traumatised but where are they in relation to this. George Kelly, when writing about the theory of personal constructs, referred to ‘sociality’ as a means of relating to others through the understanding of another person’s construing. Self perceptions form and change constantly through the interactions with others and the world and for children their interactions will involve different systems such as schools, peer groups and family. So, how does this relate to the development of self in children? Like scientists, children are forming ideas about the world based on hypotheses, which are then tested and revised. In doing so children are able to make sense of their experiences. Central to Personal Construct Theory is the way children choose to discriminate between events i.e. distinguishing similarity from difference. This is what we mean by construing – the act of meaning making. Constructs are dichotomous and children choose to view themselves in terms of the one pole of a construct they think will validate their view of self, others and the world. Constructs are organised in to a hierarchical system and the relationship between different constructs will reflect the level of importance of personal meaning. Children’s self descriptions create a structure that is also multidimensional. This means that children are able to 17


Using Personal Construct Psychology (PCP) with children and adolescents

hold different views of themselves, such as having a physical, social or academic self. The relationship between different aspects of self and global judgements is hierarchically organised, with global self evaluations at the top of the hierarchy, so as children get older, you can anticipate a more elaborate self structure. Typically, constructs that are accessible are termed subordinate. Core constructs may exist at a lower level of awareness and tend to be more stable in nature. Core construing has been linked to the development of a sense of self. Constructs are not restricted to verbal descriptions or operate at a cognitive level. There are many ways to discriminate between events, whether that be in children’s behaviour, feelings or emotions. Some constructs operate at a pre-verbal level i.e. they do not have existing verbal labels. This means that very young children can construe and make sense of their experiences even if they are not able to verbalise them.

So what happens to the structure of self when a trauma occurs? Traumatic events provide new information, which does not integrate easily to existing views of self. When a traumatic event occurs, the frightening, scary experience becomes separated from the child’s current understanding of themselves, threatening their core construct system i.e. the predictions held about the world become shattered. What results is a collapse in the structure of self. The development of a “traumatic self” establishes itself as dominant and this is then integrated at the personal and social levels of relating to others. Different terms have been used in the literature to refer to the ‘traumatic self’, including the “false self”, the “damaged self”, and the “faulty self”. For children who have experienced ongoing, cumulative traumas, the greater exposure results in a greater integration to self and is more resistant to change. Interestingly not being able to integrate the trauma experience in to the current self-construct system may result in behaviours similar to dissociation. The self may become fragmented as the child attempts to make sense of the trauma, and in doing so, multiple aspects of selves develop, such as ‘self that is fearful’, ‘self that is angry’, and ‘self that is protective’. I am reminded of Miller Mair’s work on the ‘community of selves’ (3). Where 18


Using Personal Construct Psychology (PCP) with children and adolescents

fragmentation occurs exploration of the different aspects of self e.g. inviting the child to complete a portrait gallery of the various selves, would help give meaning between the relationships, aiming to increase integration. In young children, the prominence of preverbal construing results in the child being much more vulnerable, dependent and child-like. Given the disruption to self following trauma, it makes sense for health professionals to attend to repairing the self structure during therapy and incorporate the child’s view of self. Unfortunately this often gets neglected in favour of approaches that focus on symptom reduction.

Clinical implications based on Personal Construct Theory If self is central to trauma responses in children then how do we, as therapists, begin to understand this and work with it? From a Personal Construct Theory perspective, construct systems are thought to have limitations and, as we have alluded to, when events occur outside a person’s meaning making, such as a trauma, the person cannot begin the process of construing them. This is evident in Kenneth Sewell’s model (4), which is based on the belief that trauma creates an experience that remains separate from the rest of the person’s conceptual system. Self constructs related to a trauma are seen to be under elaborated and not well defined. But what if the child’s construal of the traumatic event becomes integrated in to the ‘traumatic self’? Recent research by Sermpezis & Winter (5) suggests that trauma-related constructs are actually well elaborated and it is the contrasting pole (viewed as the ideal self, or preferred self) that is less elaborated. Trauma adopts a superordinate position with no alternatives available. In doing so children start to become defined by their experiences. Therapy would aim to help children become less attached to their traumatic self and to establish a new sense of self. The intention is to help children see themselves as not being permanently hurt by their experiences. George Kelly (6) provides hope that “no one needs to be a victim of their own biography”. To guide health professionals and children through post-trauma therapy, I propose 4 main therapeutic aims when working with children who have experienced trauma (Figure 1), which tap in to a child’s view of self in relation to the trauma. A common theme is the need to understand the child’s 19


Using Personal Construct Psychology (PCP) with children and adolescents

perspective and how they make sense of others and the word around them. The transitional process is a collaboration of meaning making involving therapist-child-parent interactions. The aims reflect a way of relating to others (as described by George Kelly’s sociality corollary). As the child progresses through each of the aims, change occurs, which triggers either a tightening or loosening of constructs. Kelly wrote about the experience cycle and the creativity cycle to describe this process. After all, change itself involves an alteration in self construing. Familiarity with Kelly’s redefinitions of emotions such as threat, anxiety, guilt, hostility, fear and aggression is important because they are likely to play a role in trauma work during transition and change.

Figure 1: Therapeutic aims

The next section provides a brief overview of the four therapeutic aims with clinical illustrations. The examples provided are suggestions and are not intended to fully represent the many techniques/strategies available.

Establishing Safety For many children, the concept of ‘safety’ may be difficult to grasp and so one of the first tasks is to explore the child’s understanding of safety and where the child currently sees themselves in relation to this: clarifying that they will not be asked to talk about what happened to them before they are

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Using Personal Construct Psychology (PCP) with children and adolescents

ready to and that they can choose to slow down or stop the conversation at any time. For some children this may be a hard task because they may not have experienced “being safe” either physically (i.e. in their environment) or emotionally. You may need to agree on an alternative construction of safety, such as being “happy” or “relaxed”. Talking about this early on will help engage the child (and other family members) in sessions and strengthen trust in the therapeutic relationship. It is also important to talk to the child about what trauma means to them and what would trigger feelings of being unsafe. For example, I worked with a 10 year old child who had memories from when he was 3 years old of being in a car that was chased by the police. His memories were triggered when he saw blue cars (blue was the colour of the car he was in). The therapy room had a window, which overlooked the car park and the child would notice the colour and noise of cars that drove passed, heightening his emotional response as he anticipated being taken in the car. I was also working with a young person who was seeking asylum after fleeing their home country due to his family being threatened and attacked by the Taliban. Sadly, his younger brother was killed. The colour red triggered vivid imagery of the blood he had seen on his brother’s face. The therapy room had many objects in it that were red, which in the early stages of treatment had to be removed. It is important to make the physical space as comfortable and child-friendly as possible, making sure consideration is made to the child’s perspective of how safe the room is. Knowing that the child is able to recognise any triggers and regulate their emotional responses is an important aspect of trauma work as well as making sure the child is not in any current danger. Checking in with the child with whom they feel safe is needed, so support from significant others can be put in place between therapy sessions. Encouraging child and parent interactions during therapy will help to restore a sense of safety for the child. Giving the parent an active role in therapy with their child will strengthen the relationship and bonding, particularly when the child has experienced multiple traumas. Without establishing safety, it is not be possible to continue with traumafocused work. This may take many sessions and should not be rushed. Here 21


Using Personal Construct Psychology (PCP) with children and adolescents

are two strategies that I have found helpful. 1.1 Let’s imagine somewhere safe… The use of drawings are a great way to explore safety with children and this has been widely accepted with the field of personal construct theory, especially with the work of Tom Ravenette, an educational psychologist who used drawings with children. Inviting children to draw a picture of where they feel safe facilitates exploration, from the child’s perspective. It is encouraged that children use their imagination to construct an ‘imaginary place’. The therapist then gently enquires about the picture e.g. “tell me about the picture”. Children who have experienced war or terrorist-related trauma and are seeking asylum may find the notion of safety difficult. It may be best to collaborate with the child to construct an alternative place – this may be somewhere they feel calm or happy. For one 16 year old boy being safe or happy was not meaningful. Through exploring his view of self and current situation, he thought that “being comfortable” made more sense and he went on to describe a place where he felt most comfortable. For younger children, pictures can be completed with the parent, which would increase attunement with in the parent-child relationship and enhance attachment. 1.2. The Circle of Safety This is a creative technique I elaborated on since attending training on a new intervention for children who had experienced trauma (7). During the training we were introduced to a method of allowing the child to take control over where they would like to sit in the therapy room and how close they wanted to sit next to others (including) the therapist. It was suggested that the child maps out a circle, using string, to indicate the parameters of their personal space they did not want others to cross. I really liked this technique and having adopted it in my clinical work I appreciated how it encourages further conversations about the child’s understanding of keeping safe. It also increased the child’s ability to use visualisation and relaxation techniques. I have termed this adapted technique “the circle of safety”. The Circle of Safety involves the child either using string or pen and

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Using Personal Construct Psychology (PCP) with children and adolescents

paper, to create a large circle that they can step in to. Whenever they step in to the circle they are encouraged to visualise their “imaginary place” (as above) paired with slow, relaxed breathing. When the child steps out of the circle they are able to continue with any conversations. I have found this an engaging strategy for younger children in particular when cognitively they may struggle to switch attention from traumatic memories to ‘safe place’. The physical act of having to stand up and step into a circle can be very grounding and it offers a visual representation for containing emotions.

Figure 2: The Circle of Safety

2. Understanding the child or young person’s experience of trauma from their perspective

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Using Personal Construct Psychology (PCP) with children and adolescents

Relating to the child’s inner world is important before attempting to create a shift in meaning. Therefore the second therapeutic aim is about reaching an understanding of what the traumatic event means to the child. The therapist’s job is to understand and the child’s role is to be understood. Helping the child to accept that they have experienced a trauma and to become aware of and allow for self expression will increase the child’s sense of validation. This therapeutic aim is reflected in the quote by George Kelly: “If you want to know what’s wrong, ask, they just may tell you?” The child is not asked to talk about the event, but is invited to reflect on what it meant to them. It is not always possible for children to describe their experiences in words. When verbal communication is limited or in the case of pre-verbal construing, other methods can be used to act as a catalyst to explore meaning and self understanding. Cameron’s story, below, illustrates a pictorial technique called ‘Elaboration of a line and it’s opposite”. When using pictorial techniques it is important to provide a context to the conversation, for example “I’m meeting with you today because you have experienced something frightening and scary...”, and a clear message that there are no right or wrong ways of construing. By using laddering (8) (e.g. how come that’s important to you?) and pyramiding9 (e.g. what sort of person is like that?) questioning, it is possible to elaborate on elicited constructs. Constructs must be elicited tentatively as getting to core construing too quickly can make the child feel vulnerable. Cameron’s Story: Cameron, an eight year old boy, was referred for aggressive behaviour. He was often having angry outbursts at home and school, which was concerning for those adults that came in to contact with him. For much of his life he had witnessed domestic violence between his parents, which had resulted in his mother leaving home with him. They had no contact with the father and Cameron would say he missed him. Yet, his emotions would be heightened to any mention of his father, which was evident in his behaviour. He would become distracted and would lose concentration easily. Cameron would start to scribble hard on pieces of paper, scratch his leg, and tear paper. When drawing he would comment that he was “getting his anger out, but it wasn’t

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Using Personal Construct Psychology (PCP) with children and adolescents

working”. Despite these behaviours, Cameron said he felt angry inside. He did not want the anger to go away – “who would look after me and my sister?” he asked. Cameron elaborated further reporting that he was worried his dad would come back and “it would happen again” and therefore he needed to keep the anger around. Through talking to Cameron, it seemed that he may have been experiencing a contradiction in his construing between his anger and loss from not having contact with his father. 3. Elaboration of a line and its opposite Based on Tom Ravenette’s technique, I drew a line in the centre of a blank sheet of paper. The line was about three inches long with a diagonal smaller line pointing downwards at one end. I invited Cameron to turn the line in to a picture filling the whole page. I then encouraged Cameron to draw the opposite of his first picture – eliciting a visual bipolar construct (Figures 3 & 4). He was then invited to talk about his pictures. Cameron, always drew in black and he commented that he “wasn’t very good at drawing” and explained he had tried “to draw a pipe with an oven in it”. He proceeded to tell me that this was what he was going through and he “hadn’t come out the other end yet”. He said he was “going through the oven and it was horrible. It was hell”. His opposite picture was of his family and friends. He stated that he “would like to be happy”

Figure 3: Cameron’s elaboration of a line and its opposite

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Using Personal Construct Psychology (PCP) with children and adolescents

Figure 4: Cameron’s construct map

Constructing an alternative perspective and facilitating a change in (self) construing The third therapeutic aim reflects the stage in therapy when the child’s story begins to unfold. It is important to go slowly and always at the child’s pace. The child, with the help of the therapist, creates a distance between the self-trauma relationship. This enables a reflective process during which the child begins to understand that in time change is possible and that there are alternatives to the traumatic self. New meanings may emerge, which would result in the child and the trauma being less integrated. Construing is likely to become loose due to change in how the child is making sense of their past experiences. Being able to write about oneself can start the process of considering an alternative position and encourage reflection. It is believed that being able to hold more positive possible selves facilitates greater recovery from trauma. In Vicky’s story, below, processing the trauma memories (using Eye Movement Desensitisation and Reprocessing therapy) enabled her to reflect on how the trauma had shaped her view of self and how she had started to question that view. She completed a self-characterisation based on information that had been elicited during processing. The emergence of an alternative perspective helped Vicky to position herself differently in relation to the trauma she had experienced, which then facilitated the development of new meanings. She began to question her ‘old self’, revising her current conception of self.

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Using Personal Construct Psychology (PCP) with children and adolescents

Vicky’s Story: Vicky is 15 years old. She had struggled for a number of years with her feelings following traumatic and loss experiences. Her feelings would fluctuate between anger, guilt, anxiety, low mood and poor self confidence. Sometimes her feelings got too much for her and she would hurt herself. Vicky had a difficult time growing up. She lived with a family friend because her mother was unwell and experienced mental health difficulties. Vicky had memories of her mother in hospital – she was 10 years old at the time her mother died. Vicky cared for her Grandma and visited her often. Sadly, 18 months after losing her mother, her Grandma passed away. When I met with Vicky she was struggling, like many young people, with the demands of being a teenager – a sense of confusion over who she was and trying to make sense of her experiences. School work seemed to create pressure and worrying about home life added to the stress. Unfortunately, she described being bullied, which included nasty comments being posted online and threats to hit her. She felt very much alone. Despite her difficulties, Vicky was clever and kind. She had a good sense of humour and was motivated to improve her life and view of self. Vicky’s self-characterisation “I do feel different now. I am able to look at a situation and go the best way about it. Obviously what happened to my mum is upsetting for me but I am able to process what happened and manage the difficult emotions that come. I know that it wasn’t my fault and that I am a good person. I shouldn’t feel guilty for what happened. What happened to my mum is still going to upset me from time to time but it won’t traumatise me. I have come to realise that my mum wouldn’t want me to stay in the past. She would want me to live my life. I know that I am not going to forget my mum and part of me wants to stay where I am but the other part wants to move on.” 4. Connecting to the future and new possibilities The fourth and final therapeutic aim is one of hope and focuses on the future. By inviting the child to share their own ideas about change draws on

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Using Personal Construct Psychology (PCP) with children and adolescents

their imagination. This can be achieved through many creative methods, depending on the child’s age such as play, drawing, writing etc. Many new possibilities derive from the child’s creativity and they may start to experiment with different aspects of self they wish to develop or change in some way. The child is given the opportunity to reinvent themselves through expanding potential self- theories and revising their view of self and their experiences. George Kelly wrote about Fixed Role therapy as a way to experience a different way of being. This is where a child is invited to “Act As If” they were taking on a new role. Constructions of the self, others and the world may start to tighten as new experiences are validated and integrated in to a new self structure. Resiliency and attending to the child’s strengths are also reflected on at this stage, which encourages the child to start connecting to the future. Charlotte’s story illustrates how, through play, she was able to develop her own narrative of what happened. Through telling her story Charlotte was able to re-connect with a familiar self of ‘being happy with her friends’ which was important to her. She was able to develop her current relationships, which conveyed a shift in her post-trauma construal of self to a future self that had new meaning. Charlotte was encouraged to experiment with this and spend time with her family and her father doing something fun – she was starting to invest in current and new relationships and taking forward what she had valued in her relationship with her mother. Charlotte’s story Charlotte’s Story: Charlotte was 10 years old when she came to therapy. She had witnessed her mother collapse and die from a heart attack. Charlotte was encouraged to tell the story of “what happened to mum” by using characters that she had made from craft materials. The story was told in a particular way, which followed the protocol for a new therapeutic approach called Children’s Accelerated Trauma Treatment (CATT) 10. She was asked to repeat her story until there were no signs of emotional distress, called ‘hot spots’. Charlotte was then invited to re tell her story but this time to introduce a new person or character who would say/do something that would make her feel differently about what happened and create an alternative ending. The

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purpose of this was to develop a possible future and create a new meaning to the events that took place from her perspective. Charlotte decided to include her Grandad, who had also died “but was with her mother now”. Her Grandad came in to the story and told her “not to worry because her mother was happy in heaven”. Charlotte was surprised by this as she had focussed so much on how her mother may have been in pain that she had not consider she was free of pain and happy. Charlotte said she felt “happier knowing (her) mum was happy”. This altered her meaning of the trauma and allowed her think about her friends, which she had not done in a while and how much fun she used to have with her other family members. Charlotte decided to make plans to see her friends after school and spend more time with her dad.

Figure 5: Charlotte’s characters

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Using Personal Construct Psychology (PCP) with children and adolescents

Summary I hope to have demonstrated the need to keep the child’s sense of self central to therapeutic work. Being aware of how trauma affects the self is important in the recovery process. Personal Construct Theory offers a unique perspective, which allows health professionals to focus on the process of meaning making from the child’s point of view and in relation to others. Tapping into a child’s view of self complements many trauma interventions that have noticed trait-like shifts (during processing of memories and trauma narratives), disruptions and changes to self perceptions during treatment. I have proposed four main therapeutic aims, based on Personal Construct Theory, to guide health professionals and the child through recovery, starting with the need to establish safety and ending with new possibilities and connections to the future. Seeking to understand the child’s perspective is an ongoing process throughout and important for the future wellbeing of the child.

References ¹"

Ziegler,"D."(2002)."Trauma&c(experience(and(the(brain.(A(handbook(for(understanding(and(trea&ng( those(trauma&sed(as(children."Acacia"Publishing.

² "Faust,"J."&"Katchen,"L,"B."(2004)."Treatment(of(children(with(complicated(pos;rauma&c(stress( reac&ons."Psychotherapy:"Theory,"Research,"PracHce,"Training,"41,"4,"426K437. ³" Mair,"J."M."M."(1977)."The"community"of"self."In"D."Bannister"(Ed.)."New"PerspecHves"in"Personal" Construct"Theory."London:"Academic"Press. ⁴ "Sewell,"K.,"Cromwell,"R."L.,"FarrellKHiggins,"J.,"Palmer,"R."Ohlde,"C.,"Pa^erson,"T."W."(1996)." Hierarchical(elabora&on(in(the(conceptual(structures(of(Vietnam(combat(veterans."Journal"of" ConstrucHvist"Psychology,"9,"79K96. ⁵" Sermpezis,"C."&"Winter,"D."A."(2009)."Is(trauma(the(product(of(over(or(under(elabora&on?(A(cri&que( of(the(personal(construct(model(of(pos;rauma&c(stress(disorder."Journal"of"ConstrucHvist" Psychology,"22,"306K327. ⁶" Kelly,"G."(1955)."The"Psychology"of"Personal"Constructs."New"York:"Norton. ⁷,"¹⁰" Raby,"C."(2011)."Children’s(Accelerated(Trauma(Treatment.(A(2(day(training(course.(Level(2."BriHsh" AssociaHon"of"Art"Therapists."London,"UK. ⁸ "Bannister,"D.,"&"Mair,"M."(1968)."In"F."Fransella"(2003)."Interna&onal(handbook(of(personal(construct( psychology."John"Wiley"&"Sons"Ltd. ⁹ "Landfield,"A."W."(1971).(Personal(construct(systems(in(psychotherapy."Chicago:"RandKMcNally.

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Using Personal Construct Psychology (PCP) with children and adolescents

About Joanne Robinson I was working as an Assistant Clinical Psychologist in Leeds, UK, when I first came across Kelly’s Theory of Personal Constructs. I was supervised by Dr Richard Butler, an author of “The Child Within” (known locally as Chuck) who introduced me to Kelly. One of my first memories was reading Don Bannister’s book “Perspectives in Personal Construct Psychology” in particularly the chapters by Miller Mair’s (the Community of Selves) and Don Bannister’s (the Logic of Passion). It was a refreshing read and one that just seemed to make sense! Chuck, encouraged my thinking and I had many supervision sessions reflecting on Kelly’s work and my personal relationship to the theory. I have always viewed this period of time as being instrumental in my learning. My undergraduate thesis explored self construing in children with nocturnal enuresis. I then played an extensive role in the data collection and analysis of the Self Image Profiles for children and adolescents; the profiles being rooted in Personal Construct Theory (PCT). This was the start of my long-standing interest in children’s self construing… Through Chuck, I was introduced to others who engaged with PCT, such as Harry Procter, David Winter, Viv Burr, Trevor Butt and Dave Green. I also attended the research group meetings in North Yorkshire, facilitated by Helen Jones – I learnt how PCT could be applied to businesses, management as well as clinical fields. I was fortunate to meet Fay Fransella at her 80th birthday celebration conference and she was kind enough to give me a cassette recording of an interview with Kelly. It was quite something to hear

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Using Personal Construct Psychology (PCP) with children and adolescents

Kelly’s voice. In 2007, I obtained my doctorate in clinical psychology at Leeds University – my thesis being on how young children viewed themselves and the development of a young children’s version of the Self Image Profiles (of course Chuck and Dave Green were my supervisors!). I presented my findings at the International Congress of Personal Construct Psychology in Venice. I currently work with Children and Adolescents both in the NHS and the private sector where I adopt a PCT perspective in all aspects of my work. I have developed a specialist interest in children/young people who have experienced trauma and I was invited to Hertfordshire University to deliver a teaching session on Trauma and PCT to trainee clinical psychologists, which I really enjoyed. I have also contributed to Robert Neimeyer’s book on Techniques in Grief Therapy (a personal achievement). My recent adventure with PCT has been the supervision of a Doctoral Thesis exploring the child’s view of self following trauma. I aim to undertake more research in this area. I am keen to find creative ways of introducing people to personal construct psychology and what I now seem to be known for is my pens, which have a Kelly quote printed on them! In my spare time I enjoy playing the flute and I’m also interested in the combination of music and art. PCT and the arts seems to be a developing area - isn’t it interesting that Kelly just seems to get everywhere?

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Using Personal Construct Psychology (PCP) with children and adolescents

Using Personal Construct Psychology to support pupils’ transition between primary and secondary school Abigail Tee Within Educational Psychology there is a wealth of literature exploring both the risk and resilience factors, which can influence the success of transition for a young person from primary to secondary school. This important stage in education has been described as one, which can offer several exciting opportunities for both academic and non-academic development and enjoyment. Advantages for young people include new opportunities make friendships, increase their confidence and expand their skills and knowledge. Conversely, related literature has also highlighted a number of obstacles for young people prior to or during their transition to secondary school. Problems, such as increased anxiety surrounding issues such as bullying and contextual concerns, such as worries relating to a lack of familiarity with the secondary school surroundings. Some researchers have argued that the challenges associated with transitions during education can be further exaggerated for children and young people with additional needs. However, promisingly, those who receive the correct type of support can flourish both educationally and personally through the new positive experiences of success. This paper will explore some of the techniques and tools used during my first placement, as a Trainee Educational Psychologist (TEP) in Wales. Specifically, it will describe some of the possibilities for employing Personal Construct Psychology (PCP) to support children and young people in their transition to secondary school. The paper will begin with a brief description of a series of transition workshops designed for a group of year six pupils, where tools and activities based on PCP were implemented. Following this, 33


Using Personal Construct Psychology (PCP) with children and adolescents

some specific tools and activities that were used within the group will be described. These include the use of role-play, art and design to aid the communication and expression of the young people involved. To conclude, future suggestions, such as involving additional persons of support in the implementation of PCP approaches will be discussed. Additionally, it will be argued that PCP is a particularly useful approach for employing alongside person centered planning approaches. Both approaches are in line with the current government’s vision for education to increase practitioners’ ability to access the ‘voice’ of a young person. It is anticipated that they will help to empower children and young people during important stages of their education, which will lead to them being more fully included in the process. Enabling children and young people to contribute to and shape important decisions about themselves, will help ensure that their needs and aspirations are appropriately met.

The construction of the PCP based transition workshops PCP (1) postulates that each individual aims to make sense of the world by testing out whether his or her ‘constructs’ are accurate. More specifically, changes in constructs over time are what contribute to our development. Thus, an individual’s identity is a result of their memory and learning processes within their construct system. An individual formulates hypotheses (constructs) about the world they perceive, experimenting whether they are reliable and accurate by acting on them. The initial idea for applying PCP to transition in education occurred as a result of a referral requesting support for four Year 6 pupils prior to and during their transition to secondary school. Each of the pupils was described as having additional needs, which included Autistic Spectrum Condition, Dyslexia, and Dyspraxia. Their class teacher perceived them to be at risk of becoming ‘vulnerable’ during their transition to secondary school, both in terms of their academic achievement and social/emotional wellbeing. In addition, two of the pupils were described as ‘low attenders’ and at possible risk of disengagement from education. An individual consultation with the class teacher and a separate group consultation with the pupils were carried out. Both consultations employed 34


Using Personal Construct Psychology (PCP) with children and adolescents

person-centered thinking/planning approaches. Person-centred approaches have been described as highly effective in enabling and empowering individuals to actively engage in important decisions and planning in their lives (2). One particular tool that has been strongly recommended by educational practitioners, who use person-centred approaches, is the use of ‘One Page Profiles’ (3). These record the factors that are important ‘to’ and ‘for’ supporting an individual, from their own perspective. Discussions from Person Centred Planning consultations can form the basis of an individual’s future support. For example, in the transition workshops those things, which the pupils suggested were important ‘to’ and ‘for’ them, were incorporated into the activities and tools employed in the workshops. Examples of their interests that were incorporated included, drama, arts and crafts, design, information technology and group work as a method of support. Discussion based methods have also been strongly advocated by practitioners of PCP, which suggest that the best way to find out about a person’s perceptions, is to simply begin by asking them. "Discussion and argument are essential parts of science; the greatest talent is the ability to strip a theory until the simple basic idea emerges with clarity.” Albert Einstein During my placement I explored a series of transitional workshops as a means to supporting pupils. Goals of the workshops included minimizing pupils’ concerns and increasing their positive feelings associated with their move to secondary school. Drawing on PCP and the pupil’s interests helped develop creative and effective tools through consultation with pupils, rather than in isolation from them. Methods, which place individuals at the centre of their own process, are recognized as being amongst the most effective. Pupils can thus be encouraged to take ownership of their support, even through simple ideas such as naming and deciding the themes for their own support. For example, for my workshops pupils took the opportunity to agree the title the workshops themselves, which they called ‘Work Hard and Be Happy’. Even small ideas for including pupils more fully in the process can lead to some encouraging observations by practitioners - the pupils I worked with

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were delighted to shape their own support, which reaffirmed that their views were important. This resulted in increased enthusiasm and excitement, which had a positive knock on effect for future workshops. Whilst the tools and activities chosen for discussion in this paper draw on PCP to suggest ways to facilitate and enhance the constructions of young people’s perceptions of transition, they are unlikely to be suitable for all children and young people. Practitioners should make appropriate and creative efforts to adapt tools and activities, in order for them to work most effectively. Nonetheless, the content discussed in this paper may provide a reasonable starting point for educational practitioners to reflect on ways to support pupils in their transition from primary to secondary school.

Eliciting pupils’ initial constructions of their transition to secondary school The activity below may offer a fun method for eliciting the initial constructions of the pupil’s hopes/worries surrounding secondary school. Employing this activity at an early stage of support may be particularly beneficial, as it could help shape further support for an individual, from his or her own perspective of need. The Hope and Worry Box Activity 1. Each pupil was invited to write down or describe a ‘hope for secondary school’ and a ‘worry about secondary school’, which they then placed into a decorated shoebox. They did this anonymously, but after completing the task, they were given the choice whether to reveal who posted the comments. 2. The comments formed their groups’ bipolar constructs of their hopes and worries for secondary school. These constructs were explored further during following activities and discussion and were used to target and tailor the content of the workshops more effectively for the pupils. They also formed a baseline measure of the pupils’ hopes and worries surrounding their transition experience, prior to their involvement in the workshops. Some examples of the pupils’ hopes recorded included, “getting good marks” and “making new friends”. Contrary, their worries comprised of concerns, such as “I will get blamed for things that are not my fault” and “I will get detention”.

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3. The pupils revisited their ‘hopes’ and ‘worries’ after completing the workshops. Their comments acted as evidence that they could each alter and develop their own constructions with experience, over time. Through employing tools and mechanisms of support discussed in the workshops, pupils were supported to realize that they could create more positive hypotheses that would help them during their transition. As a consequence, some of the anxiety they experienced could be managed more effectively than they had previously imagined. This activity is useful for empowering the pupils from the outset of the workshops. Pupils’ contributions to the ‘hope and worry box’ can also provide them with visual evidence that they are influencing their own support. Further, they will have a record of their own constructions, prior to taking part in the workshops. They can then refer to these at a later stage in their support. Activities that provide pupils with visual evidence of their own development may facilitate them to realize that they have the ability to change their previous constructions more favorably, boosting their self-esteem. A number of specific advantages of this activity include its adaptability; there are a number of ways it could be tailored to the individual needs of a child or young person. Possibilities could involve carrying out the activity nonverbally through drawing/pictures or allowing individuals selecting letters/ words to create their own sentences. The shoebox could also be designed to engage the child or young persons own interests by using their favorite characters of themes. To maximize the potential for support, a further idea could be to also include the constructions of other individuals that help support the young person, for example, family members, teaching staff and friends.

Falsifying negative constructions about secondary school - I won’t be able to make friends As touched on previously in this paper, PCP is based on the principle that individuals actively construe every event in life. As a consequence, individuals learn how to make sense and interpret events occurring around them. Thus, an individual will respond to events based on the ways they have experienced similar kinds of events in the past. 37


Using Personal Construct Psychology (PCP) with children and adolescents

After the pupils completed the first activity (described above), one of the pupils’ key constructs that emerged was: “I am worried that I won’t be able to make friends or be able to start conversations”. The following game was developed using PCP and used as a vehicle for further exploring the pupil’s constructions and facilitate them to develop more positive constructions. Interesting Interview game 1. Pupils were placed into pairs and were told to pretend that they were completely unfamiliar with the other person in their pair. They were given two minutes each to interview each other to gain information about each other’s interests. They were informed that at the end of their two minutes, they would be asked to report back to the group what they had found out about one another. 2. Following the completion of the task, pupils realized that they were able to employ conversation starters that were useful for making new friends. It was decided as a group, that it might be useful to note some of the conversation starters and ways of maintaining the conversations that were used. On a large sheet of paper, the pupils decided, which ones they felt were most useful and they were recorded. 3. The notes from this activity were kept to produce a booklet of techniques and tools at the end of the workshops, for pupils to take home and use with their parents or teachers following the workshops. If carried out successfully, this activity could be an encouraging way of supporting pupils to develop positive ideas about their ability to make new friends and cope with new situations. Pupils can engaged in role-play to learn that they are able to develop ways of asking each other questions about themselves. In my direct work on placement, one young person, who enjoyed engaging in performing arts, took on a ‘presenter’ role, pretending to be TV presenter who was interviewing a celebrity - this was a lot of fun to watch! Observations such as these suggest that this activity may be especially suited to pupils who enjoy drama, but was also a confidence booster, for those who do not express such interests. The pupils appeared to become enthused by learning that they could be successful in conversing with a young person,

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which initially they were somewhat anxious about how or knowing what to communicate. At the end of the task pupils reported feelings of enjoyment and success.

Falsifying negative constructions about secondary school Pupils’ worries surrounding negative ‘myths’ about attending secondary appear prevalent, both within the literature and amongst some of the pupils involved in the workshops discussed above. Children’s perceptions of secondary school may be greatly influenced by the myths communicated to them by their peers (4). Each of the young people I was involved with in the transition workshops mentioned their concern(s) surrounding a ‘myth’, which they heard about their secondary school. Some of the myths include the favorite -“your head will be flushed down the toilet” to the “you get detention for no reason” or “the teachers are monsters” and the even more alarming“my friend said he nearly got stabbed”. It is perhaps somewhat unsurprising that these young people were developing some anxiety about attending secondary school. There appears to be limited information surrounding negative myths about secondary school. However, some anecdotal evidence is available online. One popular example included-“high grades were amongst the most important thing about attending secondary school”. Exploring an individual’s constructions of their worries and the roots of these may be useful for clarifying the nature of their concerns. Gathering more detailed information could develop a richer picture of the origins of concerns, which could work towards targeting support more successfully. The activity below describes one idea for using PCP to aid practitioners to debunk some of the negative myths associated with secondary school.

Debunking the Dunking Exercise Pupils were asked to describe some of their concerns regarding secondary school. Prior to the activity, common concerns and myths, which young people had reported were researched for the purposes of the group. The myths were presented to the group as a ‘true’ or ‘false’ game. Pupils were then asked to give their reasons for their answers in order to elicit a bigger picture of their 39


Using Personal Construct Psychology (PCP) with children and adolescents

constructs and to confirm whether the information I had already collected from them was reliable and valid. The ‘myths’ were discussed in a group. Some anecdotal, as well as research evidence were explored, in order to attempt to debunk the ‘myths’ and encourage the pupils to modify their constructions more positively. The aim was to present new evidence to falsify any of the pupils’ current hypotheses that were constructed from previous negative beliefs. A supportive group setting may work particularly well in this activity, as it may facilitate a more safe and reassuring environment for pupils to disclose their thoughts, feelings and perceptions.

Falsifying negative constructions about secondary school -“I will get lost” During my placement Person Centered Approaches carried out with the pupils, revealed the common hypothesis that they were all concerned about the unfamiliarity with their secondary school environment. As a consequence, they feared getting lost and were anxious about attending their new school. The pupils suggested that they all enjoyed designing and creating, particularly using maps, which led to the development of the activity below. This involves creating a large-scale poster of a secondary school, which is useful for increasing the pupil’s familiarity with their new school. Before expanding on the details of activity, it is important to note that prior to undertaking this exercise, the pupils and myself had visited their secondary school, at least once. Mapping Comp task Each pupil was given a set of photographs taken of their secondary school to sort into piles of ‘recognized’ and ‘not recognized’ parts of the school. The objective was to provide the pupils with visual evidence of those places they were familiar with, to loosen their construction that they were not familiar with their new school. Using the same photographs a game called ‘comp photo bingo’ was devised with the group. A small map of the school was split into different areas e.g. upper school, lower school, and reception and called out to the

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Using Personal Construct Psychology (PCP) with children and adolescents

pupils. Each area of the school was called out randomly to the pupils. If the pupil had a photo that belonged in the area, they had to put their hand up and then placed it around the map in the correct place. After all photographs were called out, the pupils stuck the photographs around the small map to form a much larger representation poster of the school. The large poster was placed in their classroom. They then shared this with their class, describing what they had learnt about their new school. This activity benefits from being fully interactive and derived from the specific interests of the pupils of the group. A further advantage is that it can be shared with other pupils in the class. Pupils are given a positive opportunity to boost their own self-efficacy and sense of knowledge about their school by sharing with their peers. Allowing pupils time to practice this beforehand may simultaneously lead pupils to further acknowledge that they can overcome some of their anxiety and be successful.

Final considerations The paper has discussed a variety of tools and activities based on PCP for supporting the transition of primary school pupils to secondary school. Using the principles of PCP, such tools and activities have the potential to be a cost effective form of support used independently or as part of a series of workshops. The tools and activities can also be re-established and amended according to pupils transitional needs for the following years. Using PCP to support the transition of pupils from primary to secondary school can be an empowering, accessible, enjoyable and enlightening process for all involved. Educational practitioners commonly agree that those approaches, which are tailored to the individuals gain more effective results. Arguably PCP lends itself well for use alongside Person-Centred Approaches, as they both aim to facilitate positive change from the perspective of the individual themselves. Similarly, they both assume that each event a person encounters will be based on their own unique past experiences. These past experiences will impact on how they approach new situations and events. The most effective methods of support are therefore most likely to be ones which will explore an individuals’ constructions of events and how they developed through their prior experiences. Educational practitioners could facilitate pupils to amend their 41


Using Personal Construct Psychology (PCP) with children and adolescents

constructions more positively through using tools and activities to support them to test out their own faulty hypotheses. Equipping pupils with conflicting evidence about any negative perceptions may enhance their positive views towards an event, such as the transition to secondary school. Although these tools and activities may offer some suggestions for using PCP they will need to be adapted appropriately to the needs and interests of the young person. Particular attention should be paid to the use of additional communication aids to make activities suitable for children and young people with social or communication needs. Further, the environment and delivery of the activities in order to minimize any stress and anxiety the children and young people may experience needs to be considered. Involving of a network of individuals that are important in supporting the young person(s) involved e.g. parents, carers and support staff is also important. Further workshops and training for other individuals involved in supporting the pupils during their transition may be an appropriate and a valuable investment. Practitioners may wish to use solution focused tools, such as scaling in order to clarify the severity of an individuals concerns or hopes for secondary school. In the above workshops, this was carried out regularly, prior to and following activities in order to explore the possible negative/positive effects of the workshops. All individuals reported positive change, as a result of their involvement workshops. Some extremely encouraging results were reported by all involved. After completing the workshops, the pupils all reported that they had become more excited than anxious at the prospect of moving to secondary school. Ensuring that support is continued prior to and following pupils transition to secondary school will be important. All of the tools and activities described above also contributed towards the Person Centred Plan for each of the pupils, which they were able to share with their circles of support and take with them to secondary school. Their current teacher was informed of the outcome of the workshops in order that she might wish to share this practice with future pupils. This paper has aimed to demonstrate just a small amount of the possible scope for using PCP to enhance pupils experiences during stages of transition.

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Using Personal Construct Psychology (PCP) with children and adolescents

Acknowledgements I would like to express my appreciation to my placement supervisor and university tutors at Cardiff University for their time, guidance and support in helping me to complete the work described in this paper. I would also like to thank the school staff and pupils involved for their willingness to give me invaluable learning opportunities. All of which, have had opportunity to read the work and ensure that the pupils and work carried out in the paper are unidentifiable in order for all people involved to remain anonymous.

References 1. Kelly, G. A. (1955). The psychology of personal constructs. New York: Norton 2. Stalker, K. & Campbell, V. (1998) ‘Person-centred planning: an evaluation of a training programme’, Health and Social Care in the Community, 6(2), 130–42. 3. Sanderson, H. (2000) Person-centred Planning: Key Features and Approaches. York: Joseph Rowntree Foundation. 4. Delamont, S. (1991) The hit list and other horror stories. Sociological Review, 39, 238–59.

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Using Personal Construct Psychology (PCP) with children and adolescents

About Abigail Tee As a second year trainee Educational Psychologist, I consider myself as somewhat of a ‘newbie’ to the PCP world. I first came across PCP when I was introduced to its inspiring theoretical underpinnings, as well as some of those practical tools-such as ‘laddering’, by a university tutor, Dr. Jean Parry. I felt refreshed and enlightened by her knowledge and experience of PCP. I was fascinated by the potential of how even simple tools based on the theory could support young people to have a ‘voice’. I felt this to be key for any one who wanted to empower young people. I believe PCP is essential to professionals working in education who are hoping to create a richer picture of a young persons world, which is relevant to that young person. Additionally, it is of interest how techniques based on PCP could help ensure a shared understanding of issues for all key individuals involved in a particular piece of case work. In working with schools and even, more generally in day-to-day life, problem solving is often constrained by misinterpretations of explanations given by different individuals. Without understanding what specifically is meant by a person’s unique description of something that is important to them, on a very basic level we risk ‘shutting them off’ during our very first contact. As a consequence, an individual may

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Using Personal Construct Psychology (PCP) with children and adolescents

not be able to accurately express their self and any problem solving process may become hindered at the outset of our involvement. PCP can equip those in supporting roles with a scaffold to the same ‘level’ as the individual they are supporting. A PCP practitioner who joins the world of the person, who they are aiming to support can promote a shared understanding of things, that are important to the person requiring support and offer new angles and ways to inspire creative change. Since my introduction to the approach, I have become a PCP enthusiast, testing its applicability in all area of my work as a trainee. From supporting pupils to develop their self-esteem through learning about themselves, to facilitating young people’s play and communication skills by understanding their ideas about what types of activities are positive, fun and engaging to themselves. In my article, I attempt to describe some of my expanded pieces of work, which employ PCP through facilitating a series of workshops to help support the transition of primary school pupils to secondary school. Understanding the pupils’ hopes and areas for development from their own point of view was an incredibly enlightening experience. I was inspired by how PCP can offer some insight into how we can help young people test out their existing constructs of significant life events. Completing activities, which provide individuals with evidence to either confirm their positive beliefs or alter their more faulty existing beliefs can offer them hope and optimism for their new ‘chapter’ in life. I feel that PCP can be the ultimate tool to hope. Outside my use of psychology in my work, I even PCP myself in some of the non-psychology passions, which I try to practice. Running a marathon was mostly achieved by a constant reminder of despite going through some gruelling training experience….I was still alive and succeeding at the miles with smiles (and a lot of cake!).

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Using Personal Construct Psychology (PCP) with children and adolescents

Discovering new directions Imogen Howarth Early on in my training I was lucky enough to hear about Heather Moran’s ‘Ideal Self’ approach and, quite simply, it’s marvellous. Over time, I have slowly incorporated this, as a key technique to elicit children’s constructs, into my own practice. Children find it engaging, adults find it enlightening, and above all, it really works. This chapter describes three anonymised case studies in a little more detail, to give examples of how you might use PCP when dealing with specific issues. Of course, there are no limits on how or when to weave these techniques in and they complement every other approach by opening up discussions and giving each child new perspectives on themselves: expanding their ideas of who they can grow to be.

About my practice and why this approach works I hold a longstanding interest in ways to promote children’s voices. For a decade I worked within the assistive technology industry, personalising access to symbol/speech output devices to help children with communication difficulties get their opinions heard. My doctoral research explored ways to empower children to give their views on meeting with educational professionals. Children used a customised iPad app to draw, take photographs and use multimedia to express their thoughts on the whole process: how involved they felt and what they understood of the outcomes. Of course, PCP also employs such multi-sensory, hands-on resources. Its tools are child-centred and therefore promote conversations that are child-led and often surprising. Naturally, I embraced PCP as it chimed with my world view of how important children’s opinions are. Often, as adults, we try to tackle the difficulties children experience from our own perspective: a reactive take on what it is that we find difficult, or puzzling, or challenging. PCP enables adults to look through the child’s lens, to see how they experience an issue. It may reveal a completely different set of expectations

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Using Personal Construct Psychology (PCP) with children and adolescents

and beliefs to our own. Without the benefit of a PCP approach, adults may not appreciate key issues for the child, who in turn might have become increasingly despondent, disillusioned and hold no real expectation of being heard or understood. So, with PCP we can give motivating, sometimes quirky and invariably more interesting ways for children to express themselves and feel more understood. I have witnessed information, gathered through PCP, raise eyebrows, widen eyes, furrow brows, and bring smiles, tears and laughter to the room. Children have learned more about themselves, and in so doing have generated their own highly personal, infinitely more achievable and realistic, relevant solutions. Case study 1: James, Year 3, Autumn Term James’ mainstream primary school were concerned at his reluctance to engage in lessons and aggressive behaviours towards other students. James and I began by using the ‘Ideal Self’. The person he would not like to be was very violent and there were reoccurring themes of graphic and intense anger permeating James’ answers to most questions. James opted for a mixture of drawing and writing to complete his answers and as he drew he began to tell me more about his life outside school. James’ family circumstances were tumultuous and unpredictable. He seemed very insecure and his drawings reflected this lack of safety, trust and interpersonal relationships. As he began to complete the ratings scale between the two drawings, James placed his father as having a significantly lower opinion of him than other relations. James then disclosed a concerning level of domestic violence. His matter of fact delivery suggested he was totally unaware of how this differed from normal expectations or perhaps the home lives of his peers. I asked James to draw his family. He arranged them in a row, and all smiling, indicating a certain disconnect from daily life or lack of familial roles and relative importance. The exception to this was James’ father, who he placed under a table, with James standing on top. The elevated position in his drawing (pictured) seems to depict James as wanting to be victorious, or more powerful than his physically dominant father.

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Using Personal Construct Psychology (PCP) with children and adolescents

Figure 1: James’ family

James’ disclosure came as a shock to the school and in addition to their usual safeguarding procedures, senior staff arranged for James to have scheduled time with a key adult (nominated by him) each day. This increased awareness and openness improved relationships between home and school and James’ mother began to talk to his teacher on a regular basis. PCP techniques gave James a new way to be heard, and school a very different way to understand James’ communications and specific behaviours, resulting in greater empathy with the family’s needs. Case study 2: Connor, Year 1, Summer Term For the majority of his school life, Connor had not spoken to his classmates or teachers. He was friendly and polite and joined in with his peers through non-verbal gestures, body orientation, nods and shakes of the head. This had been just enough to stay under the SENCo’s radar in Year 1, but now the gap between Connor and his peers in social skills had become more marked. It was also very difficult to evaluate Connor’s comprehension in the classroom as he would not answer questions and his teacher was concerned. Given Connor’s lack of discourse, the thought of meeting with me had obviously unnerved him and when I arrived I spent time in his class to help him become more accustomed to me. We stayed in the class when the other

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pupils left for their PE lesson, so that he could move about in, and use cues from a familiar environment. Initially, we drew his ‘Ideal Self’ together, and Connor learned that there was no pressure to have to talk. His body language changed and anxiety visibly diminished. Connor began to smile. Pointing to parts of his own drawing turned to single words, then whole phrases. Connor laughed aloud at my pitiful attempts to draw superhero accessories and enjoyed correcting my work to adhere to his much more creative specifications. Much of what Connor drew was based in fantasy and he depicted himself with super powers and a very clearly external locus of control. He was not able to position other people on his ratings scale and did not seem aware that other people might think that he had (or could) make progress. I learned that Connor valued confidence, and wanted very much to have more friends in his class, but had no idea of what ‘confidence’ might look like or how to develop it. He initially described it as ‘magic powers’. We decided to look at different people (known to him and fantasy characters) who might display some of the attributes Connor admired. He helped me break these into smaller and smaller less ‘magical’ more ‘achievable’ behaviours. For example, ‘reading out loud in class’ became ‘reading to X (a Year 5 boy)’, which then became ‘recording one idea on a talk button and giving it to X (Class LSA) to press it’. Connor thought the last of these could be something he would want to try. I gave Connor a stretchy man to help his re-enactment (I get through a lot of those). We also drew a plan for a ‘Catch Myself’ card, where Connor was given the independence of ticking each time he noticed that he was able to record an idea. A completed (pre-agreed) number of ticks would enable Connor to receive a (negotiated) small reward each day. I tasked the LSA with making Connor’s personalised Catch Myself card into a laminated, durable resource. Shortly after my visit I was told that Connor was participating in a social skills group of two and three pupils, three times a week. His eye contact during whole class activities had increased. Most memorably for me, his teacher had set up a box for the children to post comments and drawings and she was astounded to see that Connor had used it independently… just once…to share a small drawing of his new kitten. 49


Using Personal Construct Psychology (PCP) with children and adolescents

Case study 3: Luke, Year 6, Spring Term Luke was referred to me by his Headteacher following concerns that he often arrived late and was developing poor attendance. He was reported to have average academic attainment and school felt they had good communication with his mother. His Headteacher told me that they were ‘baffled’ by Luke who could present as a ‘calm and sensible’ boy at school but that at home he was described as ‘rude, defiant and very reluctant to get ready in the mornings’. There was no mention on the referring paperwork about Luke’s weight, but when we met I noted that he was clinically obese and I felt it highly likely that his developing sense of body image would be impacting on many of his personal constructs. It was clear from my initial conversations with staff, and then with Luke, that his self-esteem was low, so we began with a game of “Guess Who Said This?” This game draws on positive psychology and solution-oriented approaches, and can be used to listen out for polaric constructs (e.g. terrified…excited; angry…peaceful).It can be particularly useful when a child lacks the vocabulary or confidence to even begin to describe themselves. Having first gathered many positive comments from my consultations with different staff members, I wrote them down and Luke was asked to guess who he thought had said this about him. I find that children respond very well to this more indirect praise, which they can optionally take away to reread after our meeting. Luke loved this affirmation of so many of his skills, abilities and positive qualities, and particularly that these things about him had been said to me, an unfamiliar visiting adult. In practice I have also found that to share the same positive statements with parents about their child has a powerful effect. It can be restorative in scenarios where a parent feels challenged or unsupported by the school, which was the case here. Luke was able to engage with the Ideal Self and ratings exercises much more easily because of this positive start. A picture of the person he did not want to be emerged which was really quite moving. Luke chose a female of his age, disconnected from family, and with only pretend friends, pets who attacked her, and recurrent themes of isolation, disempowerment and a very

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externalised sense of control. Those closest to this person blocked her attempts to exercise and Luke described her as ‘scared’ and ‘sad’. In contrast his ideal self was awash with close, kind family members, many thousands of friends and so many friendly pets that he had his own zoo. Notably, this ideal exercised daily and was described as ‘invincible’. Luke lacked insight as to how to move towards becoming this person, opting instead to equip him with a team of scientists and engineers who would do the hard work for him. Luke told me they would invent gadgets for him to acquire all the useful knowledge about anything he ‘zapped’, ‘mind control’ and a ‘teleporter’ (Figure 2).

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Using Personal Construct Psychology (PCP) with children and adolescents

Figure 2: The kind of person I would like to be like

Although I did not ask him directly about this, Luke volunteered many comments and drawings that revealed a preoccupation and anxiety around weight, exercise and bullying. I later met with his mother who was also extremely overweight, and had declined school’s previous suggestions of a meeting with the nurse or dietician. Seeing Luke’s drawings and talking

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Using Personal Construct Psychology (PCP) with children and adolescents

through his own perceptions of body image brought Luke’s voice to the centre of discussions, even though he was not present at this point. It helped to initiate a more open, collaborative dialogue with Luke’s mother and school. The school nurse was given permission to introduce a bespoke exercise program and a nutritionist worked with Luke to help him understand more about the types of foods he could enjoy. Luke is an excellent cook and was very motivated to join a healthy eating group set up at school which benefitted him socially. Luke’s mother told me that she had not realised his level of awareness of difference and that the drawings had really helped her see how much he was affected. The process addressed an underestimation of Luke’s level of emotional maturity by adults working with him.

What have I learned so far? PCP captures a child’s personal aspirations in their own language. It is good to reflect how they have been heard through the repetition of these same words and phrases within a therapeutic letter as a written record of my visit for each child. The goals children describe are very subjective and might include adapting behaviours: “I want to fight less at school” or identifying sources of support: “people whose opinion really matters”. Tools such as the ‘Ideal Self’ provide a chance for children to explore how and why they behave in particular ways. Together we talk though alternatives and can examine the behaviour of others. There is scope with the Idea Self tool, to adapt it in various ways. A helpful addition I use is a box headed ‘magic’ which links to both the ‘past’ and ‘future’ sections of the ‘person I do not want to be like’. I ask the child what magic ingredients might go here to have created a different outcome: how could this person have prevented their future turning out this way? Could anyone else have done anything? Having invested their time and energies into creating the context for the person on the page before them, such questions often enable children to describe exactly what they feel is missing for them at that time. These are two direct quotes from the answers of children with whom I have worked: “another child played with him and checked he was ok”, “an adult helped her with her literacy…like…made her 53


Using Personal Construct Psychology (PCP) with children and adolescents

problem-solve, instead of just giving her the answers�. Another useful discovery is to use post-it notes for each heading, rather than a template. I can use as many or as few as I read the child’s body language and responses, and the writing is always legible to the child. I also have accompanying symbol graphics for weaker readers. Having these to hand speeds up the process, reducing waiting time for the child and I always scribe for them if asked to. It is tempting, given the tight time-frames of school visits, to write rather than draw. In practice it is good to resist this as it is often through drawing, and its associated sense of flow, calm and shared experience, that some of the most enlightening discoveries have happened. I allow up to two hours with each child, sometimes across more than one visit where possible, and find that I have a wealth of information to assimilate and share (with permission). PCP gives children the confidence and knowledge that they can change. The conversations that arise during and following this type of work help children (and adults) move forward, and to plan all those small stages paving the way to success. This approach also provides a very visual and personal way to demonstrate how language is not common. Staff and parents are frequently surprised by the terms children use to define opposite ends of a behaviour, emotion or trait. It is only by gently exploring these concepts and their opposites that a better understanding of how children see themselves can be achieved.

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Using Personal Construct Psychology (PCP) with children and adolescents

About Imogen Howarth I was introduced to PCP during my time as a trainee EP at the University of East London. It has always seemed such a practical and child-friendly approach that, over time, it has become almost instinctive for me to weave aspects of PCP into assessment, consultations and family work. In my current role as a Community Educational Psychologist in Suffolk, I find that the accessible nature of eliciting constructs and core values freshens discussions and forms the basis of activities that families and teachers say they enjoy. PCP steers conversations to be more person-centred and relevant from the outset. This in turn produces constructs that have the most perceived value and makes people feel heard. I feel that this helps me co-construct steps forward with pupils, teachers and families at the centre: to see what might be changed, rather than what I would want to change.

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Using Personal Construct Psychology (PCP) with children and adolescents

The PCP Pack - supporting the exploration of children's construing with visual materials Sam Beasley & Simon Burnham In the PCP literature it has long been recognised that the exploration of verbal construing can helpfully be supplemented by non-verbal methods. Peggy Dalton has argued that this becomes essential when there is any degree of communication difficulty experienced by the client and Tom Ravenette has pointed out that under any circumstances when working with children it is the responsibility of the adult to adjust their methods and materials according to the child’s communication skills. This advice is particularly pertinent for those currently involved in the assessment of and planning for young people with special educational needs, as the recent Children and Families Act highlights the importance of properly understanding their views and ensuring they are heard. Simple factors such as a child's age, maturity and confidence in social interactions can be barriers to their clear verbal communication and there is considerable evidence that children and young people whose behaviour is a cause for concern may have language and communication difficulties that are undiagnosed or poorly recognised. Understanding that visual approaches should be a core part of a PCP practitioner's repertoire when working with children, a range of methods and materials have been devised. For example there have been modifications to Kelly's repertory grid technique to make it more accessible for children through the use of physical objects or pictures. Dolls may be used to represent significant people in children's lives such as family members, as might any other characters a child finds interesting, such as PokÊmon, Go-go dolls and Doctor Who cards. Other practitioners have described the use of a laptop computer as an engaging visual stimulus to support a conversation

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with a child, resources such as the Blob people pictures as a method of exploring children's constructions of themselves and others, and using drawings as a way of enabling children to express ideas which they might struggle to put into words. This paper describes a set of materials called the PCP Pack, inspired by Phillida Salmon’s ‘Salmon Line’ technique in which the practitioner suggests or provides a construct that seems relevant to a child's situation as an alternative to trying to elicit emergent and contrast poles through conversation. In the authors' experience, newcomers to PCP work with children often find that it takes significant practice to develop the style and content of questions that are best suited to eliciting relevant information from them. Having some simple prepared constructs available at the start of a session gives both the practitioner and the child a relatively easy start to their discussion and from this start there is an increased chance of more confident and capable sharing of personal information. At the same time it should be pointed out that the Pack can also be used as a resource by experienced and confident PCP practitioners who can follow their own judgement as they pick and choose from amongst its contents, creating new materials and eliciting new constructs as required. As noted above, the use of visual materials when eliciting and exploring children's views is frequently essential, irrespective of the skills of the practitioner using them.

The PCP Pack The PCP pack is a collection of resources on paper and card, ideally kept in an A4 plastic wallet or equivalent, that provides some 'ready-made' constructs to be presented to children as visual prompts for conversations. The pack also comprises resources such as pictures and word cards, and spare card and other materials to allow children to create their own pictures and word labels and to allow practitioners to move beyond the ‘ready-made’ materials as required. The Pack is inexpensive to create and it is highly portable, being no larger than a pad of A4 paper when complete. Suggested contents for the PCP Pack Several A5 size re-usable construct poles printed or drawn onto card in

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opposite pairs. These should be pictures or symbols such as Smiley face/Sad face; Thumbs up/Thumbs down; Plus/Minus; Tick/Cross. For example:

Several A5 size pieces of plain card for improvising/creating new construct poles to supplement the above as necessary. An envelope of individual words, ideally laminated and each one cut out separately. This will be a bank of common, re-usable, useful nouns and names, many of which are likely to be relevant to most children and young people. For example: Mum

Dad

School

Gran

Reading

Friends

Football

A collection of generic, re-usable pictures of people, places, activities, animals, food, symbols, etc. Like the bank of words these should ideally be laminated and each cut out separately. For practical purposes each one should be as small as possible whilst remaining recognisable; a few centimetres across in most cases. Two or three packs of sticky, Post It style notes in different sizes. These are used for adding new words or pictures to the bank of generic, re-usable ones during a conversation with a young person. Typically these will be names of people or things that are specific and personalised for the young person. A piece of string or thin cord of approximately 30cm in length to act as the 'either/or' decision point between the two poles of the construct. Almost anything of the appropriate size could fulfill this function but the flexibility of string or cord positively invites an understanding that the midway point between the poles is not rigid. Some pens and pencils to allow for the quick creation of new construct poles, word cards or pictures on the plain card and Post It notes.

Using the PCP Pack As part of a general 'getting to know you' conversation, experience suggests that asking a child to sort a range of people, things and places under

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the Happy/Sad face poles is an easy and relatively stress-free way to start investigating their view of the world. In terms of what Kelly referred to as the range of convenience of a construct - the number of situations in which the construct is useful for the construer - this basic Like/Don't Like or Good/Bad judgement is clearly of wide-ranging value and there can be very few people of any age who never find a use for it. Depending on the age of the child the pictures representing the poles need to be chosen with care (smiley faces obviously risk patronising a disaffected teenager), and the particular meaning of each pole picture should always be agreed before the sorting begins - does the happy face, for example, mean "I like it", or "Makes me happy" or "Good", or something else? Below is a typical initial outcome from using the Pack. The Happy/Sad faces have been provided by the PCP practitioner as a starting point and the child has sorted a relevant mixture of generic pictures and word cards, also provided by the adult, under the two poles. These have been supplemented with some personalised words and pictures that are relevant to that child's circumstances on Post It notes. A piece of cord or string separates the areas underneath the two poles. The cord represents the decision point at which something must be considered either one thing or another and most children intuitively grasp the possibility of making finer-graded judgements under each pole, so that placing something directly under the happy or sad face indicates that it is construed as more positive or negative than something nearer the middle.

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Figure 1: A typical opening activity with the PCP Pack

Next are two examples showing the use of the PCP Pack in work with children and young people. These are not detailed case studies, just snapshots of PCP work carried out in the style of Ravenette's 'one off assessment', where the intention is to help illuminate a young person's thinking and, with their permission, to inform decision making and problem solving. Figure 2 shows the outcome of a basic sorting of a range of people and things under Happy and Sad faces by an eight year old girl called Jenny. The psychologist had been asked to meet Jenny because her parents and teachers were concerned about some aspects of her behaviour at school and at home. The cards sorted were a mixture of words and pictures, some provided and some created during the session using the names of the particular individuals concerned. Jenny was very precise in her placement of the cards and took some care to explain why her grandparents were closer to the Happy end than her parents - she was mature enough to understand that while grandparents can spoil their grandchildren, parents have to make tough decisions that children sometimes don't like. Likewise, her pet dog, whom she adored, was nevertheless a nuisance sometimes when she took him for walks.

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Figure 2: Eight year old Jenny sorting important elements from life at home and at school. The poles were agreed to mean "makes me happy" and "makes me sad".

Working within a PCP framework, questions that are very likely to occur to the practitioner, having first established why things are where they are in this arrangement, are whether the negatively construed things and people might ever be construed more positively, and under what circumstances this might happen. What was most unexpected in this discussion with Jenny was her insistence that she could not imagine the possibility of School moving across the line from Makes Me Sad to Makes Me Happy. Jenny could imagine feeling different about her very strongly-disliked Maths at some point in the future - she might like it more as she grew older and kept working at it - but she could not envisage changing her view of school. This was puzzling as there were no expressed concerns from the adults involved about Jenny's work or attitude to school, partly because Jenny herself had never told anyone that she didn't like school. Talking to her in more detail about her daily experience of school revealed things that were making her anxious that she had not previously discussed. With Jenny's permission this

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information was valuable in subsequent problem-solving discussions with her mum and school staff that were focused on helping to reduce these anxieties. Figure 3 shows a snapshot of part of a discussion with 15 year old John undertaken during a wide-ranging assessment of his special educational needs. In this case the psychologist suggested that it would be helpful to think of some of the significant people and things in John's life in terms of whether he felt he could influence their behaviour. John often alluded to his own sense that he had had little control over how his education had progressed so it seemed a natural stepping off point in the conversation to ask him to consider in more detail what "influence" and "control" might mean, and how he could identify his own capacity to change things around him. To start this, John was asked to sort some significant people and things under these two contrasting poles, which were written onto cards during the conversation: Figure 3: A construct suggested by the psychologist working with 15 year old John. The agreed meaning for the word "control" was that John felt he had some ability to influence how that person or thing behaved.

John was clear that his mum and her partner Jim would listen to him and take some notice of his views. Why was this? John felt they took notice of his views because they cared about him, and his view of school was dominated by a sense that no one there cared about him, which he construed in turn as

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giving him no influence over what happened there. So a construct about control became a construct about caring. This led to some further useful discussion about John's ability to identify caring in people outside of his family; people who might show caring behaviours in a manner that was different to close family members. John was able to concede that there might be some members of staff who did care about his welfare, and that because they did care it might be helpful to him to talk to them about his wishes for the next steps in his education. Likewise, with John's permission, it was helpful to make school staff aware that his behaviour and attitude in school was based partly on a sincere but misguided perception of them as "uncaring" people.

Advantages of the PCP Pack and some cautions Experience of using the PCP Pack with a range of children and young people aged from 6 to 16 years suggests that the principal advantages of using these materials and methods within a PCP framework are as follows: • By using visual materials that allow children to communicate a great deal of information non-verbally, practitioners can greatly reduce the chances of a child seeming to have nothing to say or being reluctant or unable to answer questions, particularly in the early stages of an assessment or therapeutic session when the child’s trust or confidence may be at their lowest levels. • Providing or donating construct poles, whilst they are invariably not the child’s own personal constructs, nevertheless often provides valuable information that may not have been disclosed if the session relied only on that child’s ability to describe their own thinking. • The materials required are inexpensive and yet very engaging for children who are able to take a very ‘hands-on’ approach in their responses drawing and writing on them and arranging them in many different ways according to their own judgements. • The visual arrangements allow a practitioner to demonstrate to a child the essentially abstract idea of constructive alternativism – the possibility of seeing the same thing in a number of different ways – in a very concrete fashion. By moving the word cards and pictures into different positions under 63


Using Personal Construct Psychology (PCP) with children and adolescents

the construct poles, or changing a construct pole whilst leaving the other elements in place, the practitioner can present the child with snapshots of alternative ways of construing things and encourage them to, as Kelly puts it, ‘try them on for size’. • At a suitable point in time the whole arrangement of poles and elements organised beneath them can easily be photographed either for a final record of the child’s thinking at the conclusion of a piece of work or as an interim record to be returned to at a later date as a point of comparison. • The materials lend themselves to a wide range of adaptations and modifications to suit a range of ages and therefore can easily be made appropriate for work with adults if required. Some caution is also advised around the following issues: • As is the case with Salmon Lines, when a practitioner suggests or provides the construct for a young person to use there is a risk that this construct will be far removed from one that the young person would ordinarily find a use for and therefore the views they express may lack authenticity or predictive value. This risk is minimised by the use of constructs that can reasonably be supposed to have a wide range of convenience such as Like/Dislike. • Constructs that are provided will generally be in the form of simple opposites such as Like/Dislike or Happy/Sad. As noted above, these have many uses but a truly personal construct is more likely to be a contrasting judgement such as Intelligent/Popular than a dictionary-definition opposite such as Intelligent/Unintelligent. For this reason it is important to avoid giving the young person the impression that 'thinking in opposites' is required, as this may mislead them if more conventional, verbal construct elicitation activities also form part of the work being done with them. Footnote: to protect the anonymity of the young people involved, some of the details presented in the case studies in this paper have been altered in addition to giving pseudonyms to the individuals mentioned.

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About Sam Beasley I was first introduced to PCP by Heather Moran while working as a teaching assistant in a special secondary school with children on the Autism Spectrum. Inspired by her passion for PCP, I promptly signed up for and completed the PCP foundation course through the PCP Association. Right from the start, this gave me a particular interest in using PCP creatively with young people with social and communication difficulties. When I began my doctoral training to be an educational psychologist (EP), I was pleased to meet Simon Burnham, who helped me to continue growing as a PCP practitioner in my new role. I chose to explore the value of practical PCP through written work and found it exciting to share ideas with Simon and other trainees. I particularly enjoyed it when we fed back as a group our experiences of using different techniques with young people. It was great to hear how others were also using PCP in so many aspects of their work and how children and young adults with a range communicative styles were able to engage. I therefore jumped at the opportunity to do something similar with EP colleagues while on placement with Hampshire Educational Psychology in Year 2 of the course. Co-leading a professional development session with Phil Stringer, it was inspiring to refresh ourselves with the theory (could

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Using Personal Construct Psychology (PCP) with children and adolescents

anyone remember all 11 corollaries?!), share experiences and practice techniques for using PCP in casework. While in the final year of EP training, Trainees and EPs alike spent time understanding the changes to the process of statutory assessment of special educational needs under the Children and Families Act (2014). As the voice of the young person was being put more at the heart of the assessment process, I became interested in using PCP to gain a more thorough understanding of young people’s views and represent them authentically during this process. Like many of my colleagues, I think the SEN reforms offer an opportunity for EPs to approach an EHC needs assessment with an intervention mindset. I value the way PCP techniques can offer ‘assessment’ and ‘intervention’ simultaneously. Having recently started working as an EP in Hampshire, I am putting these ideas into practice. It certainly helps put the joy back into what has historically been recognised as one of the least pleasurable aspects of the job.

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About Simon Burnham I first came across PCP when I was a trainee educational psychologist at Birmingham University in the mid-1990s. At that time the course was continuing a strong tradition of teaching and promoting the value of PCP. I have a very clear memory of finding Kelly’s original two volume work tucked away on the shelves of a quiet corner of the university library and realising from what looked like decades of thumb and finger marks on the pages that pretty much no one was reading beyond the first 100 or so pages of the first volume. To be truthful it was Fay Fransella’s and Peggy Dalton’s Personal Construct Counselling in Action that really fired me up and showed how PCP might be used in a number of different ways with children and young people, although that book was mainly about work with adults. Several years later I was delighted to be able to tick off two items on my professional ‘bucket list’ when Fay Fransella kindly agreed to review my book Let’s Talk and Peggy Dalton got in touch to finalise arrangements for some training that I subsequently ran for the PCP Association. Since I qualified as an ed psych PCP has never been far away from my thinking at work. It has provided me with a range of tools and insights into the thinking of young people and adults and it has been responsible for countless ‘penny drop’ moments during discussions about behaviour and motivation. I think Kelly’s highly generalisable theory of the person as a scientist, trying to predict and control events around them, is probably the single most powerful and productive idea I’ve come across as a psychologist 67


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and I can’t imagine how different my own practice would be if I had never been exposed to this idea and all of its corollaries.

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Personal Construct Psychology and school refusal. A case of empowerment and respectful curiosity. Debra Mainwaring Having been introduced to Personal Construct Psychology a number of times, at both undergraduate and post graduate level, I find its potential for eliciting the voice of the vulnerable child or young adult very appealing. Being keen to find out more about its application from skilled practitioners, I was privileged to learn from an eminent advocate of this effective way of providing the young client with a vehicle for promoting change. As a newly qualified Educational Psychologist in the UK, I attended a day’s workshop delivered by the remarkable Tom Ravenette (1). Tom’s narrative approach to sharing his practice was captivating. His unraveling of complex case, after complex case, was done with ease and simplicity! Thus I became an ardent follower and have built Personal Construct Psychology into every initial session with clients of all ages and presentations. One of Ravenette’s major concerns, as it is mine, is the rarity of selfreferral amongst young people. Such was the case with16 year old Karen, who was referred to me by the local hospital school after being a school refuser for 18 months. I arranged to see her in a consulting room at the hospital with the request to advocate for special consideration for sitting a few GCSEs. The hospital teacher was concerned about Karen’s self doubt and this was apparent when she appeared with an angry scowl, and slumped into a chair with arms folded, head down. I cheerfully welcomed her and explained the purpose of my visit, asking her if I was correct in thinking that she wanted to sit her GCSEs. She looked up and nodded. I asked if she minded my taking notes, whilst assuring her that anything she shared would be confidential. I began with a PCP technique called triadic elicitation -

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asking her who was in her family. She mentioned her Nan, her Dad and her big sister (her Mum had died when she was a toddler). I drew a circle in the centre of the paper to represent Karen herself and asked her where I should put a circle for each member of her family (depicting her strength of attachment to each one). I then asked her where each of these people were now, and three things that each of these people would say about her. The result is depicted below: Figure 1. Triadic Elicitation

What is particularly powerful about this technique is that the words elicited come from within – they are constructs linked to a person’s beliefs and values. In Karen’s case it suggests that being ‘smart’ is important. I decided to explore this construct by inviting her to tell me a little more about what ‘smart’ meant to her. I did this by using, what Kelly called, the dichotomy corollary. I asked her: “If you are not ‘smart’ what are you?” She replied ‘dumb’. I then drew the two poles of the construct to further explore how smart she saw herself to be. This technique is known as the Salmon Line (2).

Figure 2: Salmon Line

I then questioned the fact that, compared to her family members, she did

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not believe in her own capacity for being ‘smart’. She said she needed more evidence of her smartness - as she had not gone to a ‘proper’ school for so long that she was no longer sure if she could do the things she needed to pass her exams. I said I could assess her abilities to think and reason the next time we met if she would like that. Her face lit up and we agreed on a time to meet again. I returned to the Salmon Line and asked her some questions about being ‘smart’ in order to understand Karen’s beliefs further. This type of questioning is called pyramiding. I began by asking, “What makes a person smart?” and contrasted that with “what makes a person dumb?” A very earnest discussion followed:

Figure 3: Pyramid

The next step was to create some aspirations and goals based on why Karen thought it was helpful to be ‘smart’ in life, and used a technique called laddering with her responses to “why” questions. smart “…because smart people get good jobs” “…because then you can have more money” “…because then you can travel” “…because then your life is more interesting and successful” Karen was enjoying this so we continued to explore her perception of the concept of ‘dumb’ – the opposite pole: dumb “…because they don’t go to school” At this point I interjected with: “so far you have shared that people in your family think you are smart; and you want to be smart in order to have a good job, money and be able to travel - am I right?” Karen confirmed this. I

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continued: “Is there anything in the way of this for you?” She said: “Yes, I don’t go to school”. We then explored “why might someone not go to school?” She then revealed a history of bullying and described school as a place where she did not feel safe. Further laddering explored why people bullied and then pyramiding was applied to establish what might make school safe, certainly safe enough for her to go there to sit her exams. For Karen, the most important thing was to be able to “enter the school without anyone seeing me” and for the exam to be held in a room “away from the bullies”. Kelly (3) stresses the importance of developing a sense of competence before promoting change. Thus I encouraged Karen to create the ideal qualities she required to be able to attend school and to rate herself against each quality out of 10 (with 10 being the most competent). She listed the following: “…learn how to relax” 4 - ideal would be 7 “…be less scared” 3 - ideal would be 6 (because exams are scary). “…not care about what other people say” 6 (she reported feeling better already about that as she felt she was currently “letting the bullies steal her future”) - ideal would be 10 as she didn’t want to consider them at all! Karen was then asked what support she needed to enable her to take these steps/make this progress. She considered that listening more to what her sister said, as well as following her example, would be a great start. Her sister was a travel agent and Karen thought this would be a good job to aspire to since it would enable her to both earn money and to travel. I offered to teach her some relaxation techniques in future sessions, which she agreed would be a good idea. We then drew a feelings thermometer from 0 to 10 and scaled an image representing the least scary thing about school, to the most. I then asked her to narrate the adaptations necessary to reduce ‘scariness’. We ended the session when we realised that we had been together for more than 2 hours and her Nan was about to collect her. We both marvelled at the 4 sheets of A4 paper that were covered on both sides with her self revelations. I pointed out that there was nothing on the papers that could identify her. I reached for my highlighter pens - highlighting in pink anything that she didn’t want me share with anyone; in orange for things that could be shared 72


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with certain people; and green for things that could be shared with everyone. The latter consolidated the agreement that her ideal conditions could only be met if we sought help from others at home and school. Karen and I met twice more at the hospital - once to complete the British Abilities Scale, 3rd Edition and to introduce her to some relaxation techniques. We met again so that I could give her feedback on these, especially her above average ability to think and reason (thus giving her independent evidence of being ‘smart’). I also explained the arrangements that I had made for her attendance at school during the exam block. Ensuring my presence at school when she was taking her first exam was just as well because the special considerations’ supervisor had not included Karen on the list and was about to refuse her entry. Happily, Karen passed the 5 subjects she had chosen to focus on at the hospital school, and was able to enter a 6th Form College the following year. What was both inspiring and empowering about this approach was, as Butler and Green point out, it enabled me to see ‘beyond the diagnosis’. Instead of ‘treating’ her as a ‘school refuser’ I was able to build up trust so that I became a partner in a young woman’s journey of self-exploration, and gently challenge her self-doubt through what Butler and Green describe as ‘respectful curiosity’ (4). (1) Ravenette, T. 1999, Personal Construct Theory in Educational Psychology. A Practitioner’s View, London: Whurr. (2) Salmon, P. 2003, A psychology for teachers. In Fransella (ed.) International Handbook of Personal Construct Psychology (pp. 311-318), London:Wiley. (3) Kelly, G A 1955, The psychology of personal constructs, New York: Norton. (4) Butler, R & Green, D 1998, The Child Within. The exploration of personal construct theory with young people, Oxford: Reed.

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About Debra Mainwaring I was introduced to PCP techniques during my training as an Educational Psychologist (EP) at the University of Manchester that commenced in 2000. I used triadic elicitation followed by a salmon line with some of the high school students referred to me for exam considerations to explore more about them and give them a voice in an otherwise ‘procedural’ set of events. I found it to be an enjoyable process from both the young person’s perspective and my own and was keen to learn more. After completing the course and taking on my first role as an EP I saw an advert in The Psychologist for a 2 day course in PCP being run at the Institute of Education, University College London. I was not disappointed. I was enthralled by case work sharing by none other than Tom Ravenette himself! The highlight was his sharing of the use of vague drawings and how he simplified his input with very complex casework by using PCP to explore and clarify issues and set goals with young clients that had been self-identified and negotiated via PCP techniques. I went on to apply these teachings when working with adolescents in particular and found it to be a great way to build rapport with them, explores their values and was a great vehicle for including their voice in my reporting and encouraging self-determination in goal setting. I emigrated to Australia with my family in 2003 and have continued to use

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PCP in all of the roles I have worked in from academic, to not-for-profit consultant and now as a private practitioner, consultant and co-Director of Wellbeing Australia. I find it especially useful in helping principals of schools develop wellbeing plans and to develop clear contracts in my supervision of a range of professionals. I have recently started using dynamic assessment with schools for designing innovative plans for children with a range of developmental difficulties but have a gifted and talented profile. PCP complements this work and can assist in helping schools and parents move away from the idea of us being experts and instead taking ownership of plans that sometimes move away from traditional approaches to providing a social and academic curriculum for these children and definitely assists me in promoting inclusion.

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From the Ideal Self to the ideal learner - my journey with PCP (and other tools) Rachael Green For a self-confessed ‘social constructionist’ like me, PCP makes perfect sense. For me, the world is constructed from our experience, we can’t assume we know what one another is thinking or how they are experiencing and interpreting the world. When we can get a window into this sometimes their behaviour makes much more sense. When we listen without judgement and truly want to understand the inner world of another, we are doing our job. I see my role as one predominantly focusing on change and how to bring it about so Kelly’s concept of ‘constructive alternativism’ (i.e. that whatever a person’s current view of something is, it is always possible to construct an alternative one) (1) is a core assumption in my practice. Vygotsky, Piaget, Feuerstein and Dynamic Assessment, are all predominant theories in my professional life and fit perfectly with PCP for me. My initial EP training introduced me to the work of Tom Ravenette (2). I had used the “Who Are You?”(3) technique a number of times as well as “A Picture and its Opposite” (4), although with mixed results. The former I found difficult to use with young people with language difficulties descriptions could provide ‘thin narratives’ which I was not convinced ‘got at’ constructs of reality. The latter I found more successful although, again, where language and cognitive difficulties were present, responses could be limited as I felt for some it was too abstract. I do like the focus on children’s drawings though and like the idea put forward by Ravenette (5) that a picture can convey personal meanings that a child is unaware or unconscious of and by requesting an “opposite” picture, further elaboration of meaning can be gained or inferred. Thus, when I found it, the “Drawing The Ideal Self” (6) technique was of great interest to me. What I like about this approach is that it marries up both

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the Ravenette techniques in one neat and ‘user-friendly’ package and with more of a concrete focus that I find particularly helpful in eliciting constructs. It involves three stages; asking the client to draw a picture of the person they would not like to be, then a picture of their ideal person and finally helping them to construct a rating scale so they can decide where they currently are between the two. At the picture stages clients are given categories to provide some elaboration and structure to their constructs of the ideal and not ideal self. This approach can be used with children, young people and adults of any age. It is a great way to elicit a child’s view of themselves and the world around them and therefore provides the perfect tool for educational psychologists (EP’s) who are increasingly charged with determining the child’s views about themselves and their situation. In the very ‘user-friendly’ manual Heather Moran explains what you need to know about PCP to be able to start using the technique. For me, sometimes it works well, and sometimes it works less well – it needs practice and the support of a good supervisor as successful use is very dependent on the skills of the assessor. However, it can work even for children and young people who find verbal communication difficult. Here is one example of how an adapted version of ‘Drawing the Ideal Self’ was incorporated into a piece of casework with a young lady with significant learning difficulties called Jess. So far this work has taken place over a term in a special school where I work for a day a week and is on going, although I have only worked directly with Jess for 3 sessions at present. Most of the work has been carried out with staff – working on their constructs as well as helping them to understand Jess’s view of the world. Jess is at a school for pupils with moderate and complex learning needs and was 15 at the time that I started work with her. She had had a rough start in life as at that age of 7 she and her 3 younger siblings had been taken into care following a long history of physical and emotional abuse and neglect. Since this time a high level of social services involvement has remained and Jess now lives with her paternal aunt and younger sister. Jess has a history of learning difficulties and been in a special school environment since she was 10. Her speech is immature, and at times can be difficult to understand and her vocabulary is limited. Whilst her understanding of language and social 77


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skills are developmentally delayed, she can decode text and write and spell reasonably well. She has been recently diagnosed with epilepsy and is on medication for this and a recent CAMHS assessment concluded that, as might be expected, she had an attachment disorder (not ASD as others had thought). Things had come to a head at school and the reasons for my involvement were due to concerns about Jess’s behaviour. Despite staff efforts to manage her behaviour, Jess would often be found shouting, swearing and lashing out at peers and staff and had hurt one other pupil a number of times. Jess was always remorseful afterwards and appeared to regret her behaviour. The Head teacher was increasingly concerned about the disruption Jess was causing and was concerned that the school could no longer meet Jess’s needs. Multi-agency meetings lead to agreement that my role was to focus on the school situation and needed to help Jess and school staff to develop different ways to respond so that she could engage with learning in class. In the initial consultation with teaching and support staff the teaching assistant was particularly concerned that Jess was having a lot of ‘absences’ in class and was concerned about this in relation to her epilepsy diagnosis. It became apparent that we needed to investigate this further as a starting point to rule it in or out as a major influence on her learning and behaviour. The first step was to carry out some very detailed functional assessment. I helped the teaching assistants to carry out observations in lessons and a pattern emerged in some lessons of Jess having up to 13 “mini absences”. Also, episodes of Jess shouting and swearing in lessons generally preceded or followed an absence. All the lessons where the high number of absences occurred were lessons that Jess reported as subjects she did not like or lead by teachers she did not like. The exception to this was ‘Hair and Beauty’ which she did like and behaved well in but had a number of ‘absences’ on the mini bus to college on the way to these sessions. We quickly developed a hypothesis that these ‘absences’ were related to stress or anxiety. Information from a youth club she attended outside school, and particularly enjoyed, added to this hypothesis as they reported that they had never noted any such behaviours and were very surprised to hear how she was in school. At home there were some reports of absences at times and it seemed that recently car 78


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journeys had been quite stressful experiences for Jess as her carer and sister had recently had a lot of arguments in the car and at one point it was alleged that an argument had become physical. The stress related hypothesis was confirmed by Jess’s consultant neurologist who said that the EEG evidence did not indicate such high levels of epileptic activity that this number of absences suggested and indeed felt that they could be an indication of stress. So what was causing this stress in class? Under the current behaviour strategies the school was using she was certainly under a lot of pressure to behave and “be good”, but as with many people with attachment difficulties, self- regulation and control were hard for her. I decided I needed to explore Jess’s views about herself but was keen to relate this closely to the learning environment. It seemed that she had lost focus on ‘being a learner’ in class and I wondered if by focusing on what she needed to do (rather than the current focus on what she needed to stop doing) would help. So I therefore decided to adapt the “Drawing the Ideal Self” technique slightly (under the guidance of the author) to focus on constructs around the “Ideal Learner”. The adaptations made to the original ‘Drawing the Ideal Self’ were as follows: Construct

Questions used to investigated the construct

Person

What are they like? How would you describe them?

School Bag

What would it look like? What would be in it?

Book

What books would they read?

Teachers

What would they say about them? How would they describe this person?

Spare time

What would they do in their spare time?

Friends

What would their friends say about them?

Family

What is their family like?

In class

What would they be doing in class?

History

How did they get to be like this sort of learner? Were they always like this?

Future

What will they do when they leave school?

The first step was to ask Jess to draw a picture of “The learner you would

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not like to be like”. She point blank refused to do this, saying she could not draw and didn’t want to do it, immediately appearing to be quite distressed. I had anticipated this may happen so I had brought along a back up in the form of Helen Rogerson’s “How’s My Life Cards?”(7). This is a pack of cards with various pictures of ambiguous figures in different scenarios showing different emotions. I asked her if she would like to pick one of these instead of doing a drawing. She quickly agreed and spent some time looking through the cards. The items that are marked with an asterisk are where became noticeable distracted and agitated. During these items she would try to change the subject, breath deeply and fidget a lot – all the types of behaviours that we had observed in class would often lead to an absence. Such behaviours were generally more prevalent when we talked about the ‘learner she would not like to be’. In the language of CBT, they were appeared to be ‘hot thoughts”, leading to behaviours suggesting feelings of stress.

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Figure 1: Step 1. The learner I would not like to be like

Jess found this part very difficult. She does have difficulty understanding concepts of time and I wondered if this impacted on her ability to think about different points in time. Her common response to scaling questions was “I don’t know” and it felt as if she had never considered that things could be different in the future. When asked what she could do to get towards where she would like to be she simply said, “Be good”. When I tried to explore what this would involve she could not elaborate. When asked how others could help her she said, “ they can help me be good”. These constructs seemed thin

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in detail and there appeared to be possibilities she had not thought about before now. In the future, I wonder if more work on the rating questions could help her understanding of different points in time and certainly impact on her ability to understand that change is possible, in spite of her learning difficulties. Perhaps it could impact her conceptual and language abilities as well as make her feel better. This is certainly a piece of work that I intend to try next.

Figure 2: Step 2: The Learner I would like to be like

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Figure 3: Step 3. Rating scale

Some of Jess’s constructs seemed a bit confused and indistinct – perhaps a reflection of how she feels a lot of the time when trying to make sense of the world around her. For me, Jess’s picture choice for the ‘learner she would not like to be like’ said a lot. She wouldn’t like to be the one that no one could see – she did not want to be invisible – what better way to prevent this happening than shouting and swearing and being loud in class? If she felt invisible she began to feel stressed and then the cycle began…. With Jess’s permission I shared her ‘Ideal Learner’ work with staff. They were quick to see the significance of her fear of being ‘invisible’ and put some thought into ways to make her feel noticed in other ways, some as simple as sitting her at the front and every so often touching her lightly on the shoulder to show they knew she was there. Following the “Ideal learner” work with Jess a ‘Eureka’ moment came, which I believe I noticed because of the PCP work I had done. I had realised that she needed help to know how to clearly define and move towards a more ‘ideal’ state and was also very aware that a lot of her behaviour was very common to young people with the type of attachment difficulties she experienced. With staff, I had began some work to help Jess to start to recognise different states and feelings, particularly how to recognise and stay ‘calm’, (it was a very poignant moment when I was trying to construct a five point scale with her I asked her to recall a time she had felt very calm and relaxed and she whispered, “Never. I don’t know how that feels”). Helping Jess to understand this was an impossible task in the minds of some staff who saw her past experiences and learning difficulties as insurmountable barriers to change. One day she was particularly agitated, she was in the corridor 83


Using Personal Construct Psychology (PCP) with children and adolescents

shouting and swearing and sounding very distressed. I left my office and went to speak to her - “Are you ok, Jess, you sound a bit stressed?”, I asked, “No one’s calming me down!” she shouted back at me. Suddenly it became clear; her construct around her capability was that she was dependent on others to do things for her. In her world calming her down was someone else’s job, not one she had control of. This was a turning point and we then focused on this construct, re-framing her ideas about her capacity and telling her that it wasn’t something someone else had to do, she could do it for herself and we would help her learn how. I drew heavily on the work of Louise Bomber and we wrote a ‘nurture plan’, starting with a focus on self-regulation, which was shared with carers as well as school staff. Feedback from some staff has lead me to think that this work has helped them re- assess their constructs of Jess. Staff adopted some simple ‘scripts’ and questions, watching carefully for early signs of stress, describing what they were seeing and reminding her to use one of the pre-agreed strategies. Within a few weeks Jess was starting to notice when she was stressed and taking action herself. There is still a long way to go, we are thinking of even including some ‘bio-feedback’ so she can very tangibly see what happens to her body when she is stressed and begin to make the link to physical signs. However, by starting with a careful focus on constructs, really listening to Jess and now carefully mediating her learning8 change has begun to happen. I think what works about the “Drawing the Ideal Self” technique for me, is that it is simple, and fairly unthreatening (although not without threat for some), but can provide a quick way to build rapport and provide a window into someone’s thinking, their constructions, their experience, even with those who find it hard to express themselves verbally. What they don’t say or can’t say can be as important as what they do say. It can tune you into their world and to listen out for other ‘clues’. It is the perfect way to really understand someone’s ‘point of view’; the starting point for meaningful change. 1 Ravenette, T. (1999), see p.180 2 Ravenette, T. (1999) 3 Ravenette, T. (1999), see p. 183 84


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4 Ravenette, T. (1999), see p. 202 5 Ravenette, T. (1999), see p.169 6 Moran, H. (2008) 7 Rogerson, H. (2014) 8 This part of the work has been very informed by the theory of ‘Mediated Learning Experience’ Feuerstein et al. (2002)….but the details of that are probably for another paper!

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About Rachael Green I first came across PCP many years ago when I was working as a teacher and completing an Open University Psychology conversion course, so that I could apply for Educational Psychology (EP) training. As part of the course we had to do an assignment which involved constructing a ‘repertory grid’. I remember at the time being interested but a bit baffled as to what it might be used for. However, things fell into place a year later, when I started my EP training at the Tavistock Clinic in London and I realised the practical significance of PCP in my work as an EP. Much of the approach to EP work during my training was concerned with understanding the experiences and views of those we were working with and PCP was an important part of this. This was back in the days when Rick Beaver’s ‘Educational Psychology Casebook’* was fairly new. I read the chapter on PCP with interest and experimented with many of the techniques for ‘Eliciting the model of the world with children’ (Chapter 10) in my EP work. This book led me to the work of Tom Ravenette, which has been very influential on my practice, particularly in developing my consultation skills. In more recent years the techniques, applications and experience with PCP that I have drawn on have grown. I have found Heather Moran’s ‘Drawing the Ideal Self’ technique extremely useful for eliciting and working with pupil views. I am just finishing a doctorate in Educational Psychology at University College London and during this course have benefited from attending a presentation by Heather about the using the ‘Ideal Self’ which has reignited my passion for PCP. Also, in my role as a supervisor for trainee

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EPs, I was lucky to have a trainee who was using repertory grids in her research, which opened my eyes to the possibility of using PCP as an evaluation tool. Now, for me as an EP working in a variety of educational settings, PCP is a very central part of my practice in many ways. Both in terms of working with children and adults, to elicit and understand their views and also for the potential of a PCP approach to be a brief and powerful intervention to bring about change - both core aspects of EP practice.

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Play as a way of knowing, learning and changing Gabriele Bendinelli and Chiara Lui In their first years of life children spend most of their time playing in many different ways: alone, with adults or with other children, at home, at school or outside. Pretty much everything can become a game: a finger, a glass of water or a blade of grass. In the common sense play is a label associated to pleasure and freedom, amusement and fantasy. So it is opposed to duty and responsibility, work and rationality. Adults often let their children play as long as they are young, but as they grow “reasonable” play becomes a reward, a tool to facilitate learning, something to regulate and to do alone. When they unwind and play, adults themselves usually need to justify their actions with some reasonable explanations. But is play really just something fun and not all that serious? If we think about our personal experiences of play just for a while, we get an idea of how important play can be in a person’s life. Everyone has a favourite game from their past, and what they felt in that moment made the experience a special one to remember until the present day. Curiosity and power, thrill and boredom, joy and grief, recklessness and precision - these are all emotions that we feel while we play, not just freedom and amusement. Figure 1 depicts the favourite game chosen by a colleague of ours. We immediately considered it as an email mistake because we couldn’t understand it.

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Figure 1: Favourite game

Then we put ourselves in her little shoes and the game appeared: Hideand-Seek. That is what every child sees when they are chosen to be “It” and count. In the following pages we will have a journey in children’s shoes starting from the question what is the child fundamentally engaged in while they play? The following two metaphors will be the reference points that guide us: the child as a composer and play as a laboratory for musical experiments. Passing through the different kinds of play, we will end our journey in the psychotherapy and the classrooms, exploring how play can be involved in change and learning.

The child as a composer Children have been studied by many psychologists and educators following what we can call the Pinocchio model: animated puppets that must be guided by adults in order for them to abandon their innate inclination towards Toyland and achieve the right shape. This model assumes that children’s agency must be discouraged because good children are those who passively suit the adults’ molds. If you are headstrong and disobedient, you

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must be educated well! Fortunately, other psychologists and educators - for example Piaget, Montessori, Kelly, Ravenette - have traced another path. They assume that children, since their first moments of life, are people, active agents that - as their knowing process goes on - create themselves and the world, developing all throughout their life. In order to live and grow, children have to relate to other people, especially in a dependent way, because they are not able to take care of their needs by themselves. However they are not subjected to these relationships, they create them since they perturb the unknown other and let themselves be perturbed. The term perturbation comes from the theory of Autopoiesis formulated by H. R. Maturana & F. J. Varela and refers to the biological perspective of living beings as closed systems structurally determined that specify what is significant for their existence. “That is, we can deal only with systems in which all their changes are determined by their structure, whatever it may be, and in which those structural changes are a result of their own dynamics or triggered by their interactions” (Maturana, H.R. & Varela F. J., 1992, pag. 96). Following this model, at birth babies suddenly meet an overwhelming world populated by millions of events that they cannot understand. But, as people, as living beings structured to act and to know, they catch the regularities emerging from their recurrent interactions. Making sequential distinctions, they compose melodies and make sense of this undifferentiated chaos. They compose the world. One of the first melodies emerging from this interaction is most likely the caregiver. The psychoanalyst Daniel Stern describes this process well in his “Diary of a baby”, using the metaphor of “spatial melodies” widely. Gaining the child’s perspective, he compares the visual field to an emerging melody from the chaotic background. As a distinct sound that becomes recognizable from the noise in terms of sound frequency, visual perception operates by specifying spatial frequencies. “The baby does not arrive into life with preformed notions of the world’s objects. It is all new. There are no preconceptions or established systems of things to clash against his visual sensations” (D. Stern, 1977-2002). After the first melodies, that the baby creates in his knowing process, a 90


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sort of polyphony or symphony appears: not just one, but many melodic lines are created at the same time. While one starts and goes on, another one appears and goes on itself. Each melodic line can be isolated from the other ones, but they sound simultaneously and generate something unique and surprisingly complex, yet harmonious. And the experience has its own rhythm, specified by each knowing system, as well as the punctuation in reading, or the intonation of speaking (Fig. 2). Figure 2

Think of a three-month old baby that perceives a shadow in their field of vision: they perceive it once, they perceive it twice and going on and on they construe the regularity of a hand. After a month, that baby will probably construe that hand as something that they are able to control, linking that visual form with the sensation of directing their movements. That hand itself will soon become a means of knowing, letting the child touch everything around them and feel it for the first time. They meet the other hand, a foot, and start to coordinate them as an orchestra conductor. Each time a new melody is written, a door opens and multiple experiences are viable. Paraphrasing Piaget, children compose the world as they compose themselves.

Play as a laboratory Following this metaphoric line, play can be considered a laboratory where

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children compose their world, defining and extending their melodic lines. Indeed, play generates a dimension of experience whose features resemble George Kelly’s description of enactment, a typical role-playing technique formulated by G.A. Kelly within his Personal Construct Psychology, structured for the psychotherapeutic setting. (Kelly, 1955, p. 411). If we think about how children explore the environment, concentrating on an object and moving to another one, deciding how to combine things together and creating a story or testing a function, all these choices establish some boundaries that divide a delimited and protected space as opposed to the chaotic and overwhelming world. These boundaries can be more or less permeable, more or less stable, but inside that space everything is accessible to the baby: that which can be elaborated enters the room; that which is too unpredictable and threatening stays out. Inside the play context children can repeat their experiments as many times as it is useful for them. They start composing their melodic assumptions about the world, then they sing them and test their fluency, and at the end they revise the whole symphony, especially when melodies sound bad. In these last cases the boundaries of play lower the impact that failures can have on their life and relationships. Indeed, if something goes wrong it can be revised through play before taking it in their everyday life. In these terms we can consider play a special dimension of experience that encourages change. The typical experience of a 9-month-old baby that repeatedly throws the dummy on the floor is a clear example of these processes. Through this action, incomprehensible to most of adults, the baby can test many hypotheses about the world: they learn what sound is produced when the dummy hits the floor, understand how to modulate their strength in order to produce multiple effects, lay the foundations of what will be the alternation of moves in communication. This knowledge would be impossible for this early system that is the baby if they didn’t concentrate their energies on one action at a time. Otherwise, they may get overwhelmed by the chaos and would not be able to discriminate what they can and cannot do. After many repetitions of its impact with the floor, the dummy falls on the carpet and doesn’t make any noise this time. The child’s assumptions fail! That is a serious moment when a question emerges, becomes an action and 92


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gives life to new experiments: “What has happened to my dummy?”

The forms of play Psychological literature traditionally makes a distinction between the various forms of play. One of the most common classifications presents the Sensorimotor play, the Symbolic play and the Play with Rules. Instead of looking at them as separated and sequential steps of linear human development, we can consider them as a useful interpretative way to punctuate the stream of a baby’s experience. Our proposal submits that every form of play is a specific kind of laboratory that allows some experiments and gives life to certain melodic lines that will change as the child develops. Each laboratory does not disappear or become less important when another one emerges (as the classical view of children development holds). Rather, as the different forms of play appear, they create new lines that interact with the old ones in a reciprocal perturbation so that the whole polyphony is always changing and re-creating itself thanks to an autopoietic process. In the Sensorimotor laboratory the child conducts experiments to construe the regularity and predictability of their world. Using all their sensorimotor schemata, like when a baby rolls a ball, they face chaos and anxiety and settle on something stable that is the starting point of the knowing process. Sensorimotor play is fundamental in the first year of life, however, it is never abandoned insofar as an adult can also face anxiety with sensorimotor experiences. In particular, in this laboratory children create some melodic lines that we consider fundamental for psychological life. First of all, in the first few months after birth, children construe the border that divides and links their body from and to the outside world. As this border becomes more and more stable, they start to create so-called reality. This term to say that, in a constructivist epistemological perspective, reality exists only as an interpretation of the knowing subject. It is the baby, as a knowing active agent, that specifies what is “outside” as something stable and regular, that recurs time after time, and learn to call it “reality”. Starting from this border, children gradually discriminate between the 93


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different parts of their body and experience their power to control them. From being the focus of exploration, each part becomes one of the means that children can use to explore the perceptual field. At the end of this process the body is integrated as a whole and children start to experience their own agency: the power to actively manage this overwhelming world and to be the leader of their laboratory experiments. Thanks to these important creations, in the months following, children explore the many different ways through which they can manage the world. Objects enter the room and a question appears: what can I do with them? Looking for answers children start to scream intentionally to call their mother, dump and fill, push and pull, move things around, throw and gather items. After the baby has construed something stable out of the overwhelming chaos, they can start to consider their knowledge the outcome of their own creation. Beginning to use objects to stand for something altogether different, in the Symbolic Laboratory - or Pretend Play - children develop a first form of reflexivity: their reality is a construction they can manage in order to create new worlds. Transforming a spoon into an airplane, a blade of grass into a magic bracelet, children start to look at what is around them from other angles. The more they play, the more they become aware of their power to change perspective. It is surprising the attention they put into maintaining the boundary between so-called reality and fiction! Only a raised eyebrow or a little silence are needed to indicate that this boundary is going to be broken by the interlocutor. Starting from this early form of self-reflexivity children begin to experience that people don’t always see reality in the same way, and they become aware that different people have different points of view. Their interest then focuses on stepping into the others’ shoes and on exploring the world of human relationships. Playing, in particular, helps children to embody the social roles they see around them (parent, teacher, butcher, policeman) and experience the feelings, decisions, actions and thoughts that are implicated. The roles that are too threatening to be acted out in everyday life are the most significant ones in this laboratory. In the protected space of play, I can safely throw my doll around and repeatedly hit it in order to express those feelings of anger that my mother would otherwise punish. 94


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Psychological literature identifies at least two other forms of play: Sociodramatic Play, in which children invent and act out together imaginary stories distant from so-called reality, and the Play with Rules, in which children experience how to negotiate rules and participate inside a group of pairs. From our point of view these types of play have a point in common: in both scenarios the child is not the only scientist in the laboratory, as they coconduct experiments with other children. In particular, children share their commonalities and face individualities by negotiating their knowledge regarding social scripts and rules of social interactions in these contexts. For example, when a boy and a girl pretend to be a family, they contaminate their knowledge about how to take care of a baby and about the masculine and feminine social roles as this following dialogue shows (Baumgartner): I am the mother and you are the father, now the mother goes to work and you take care of the baby. But mothers don’t go to work. What? My mother goes to work. Mine doesn’t! Well this mother is like mine and goes to work...bye bye!

The Application of Play in Education and Psychotherapy As we approach our conclusions, we would like to suggest some possible implications of play as a laboratory for education and psychotherapy issues. By the term education, we do not intend to discuss how play can be a useful tool to encourage learning. Instead, we wonder how the idea of play as a laboratory can shine a light on the construing processes that characterise educational learning. Learning a specific skill, for example reading, asks the child to face a perceptual field where many elements lie: blank space, lines, dots and circles, letters, sounds, words and sentences. Every child construes and organises this field from their own specific point of view (and as we well know in the context of learning disorders, such as dyslexia, letters can be difficult to put together). We can hypothesise that these processes are replications of past experiences… can we trace them in the different laboratories of play? Does 95


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the playful laboratory that the child has built in his early years influence the way he learns at school? With regards to psychotherapy, play can be considered a highway to the child’s world. We could translate Kelly’s famous statement: ‘if you don’t know what is wrong with a patient, ask him, he may tell you’ into another one: ‘if you don’t know what is wrong with a child, play with him, he may tell you’. Sure enough, play is the main language children use to communicate their everyday experiments: when they enter the therapy room, they will probably replicate the experiences they normally have. Their knowledge emerges gradually in the movements, explorations and actions they choose to do, in the stories, silences and doubts they express. Furthermore, if children feel in the condition to successfully experiment with the therapist, they can bring their problems inside the room through play. Therefore play becomes the means through which the therapist makes a diagnosis of the child’s problem and encourages him to explore alternative paths. For example, think of a child that is scared of losing his parents’ love because of the imminent birth of a sister. This child tries to express this feeling to his parents, but they find it difficult to accept them. On the contrary, they punish the child and ask him to be happy for the little sister the mother has always desired. In this child’s experience many feelings will overlap, one over the other, leading to some non verbal questions: will my parents love my sister more than me? Will I be excluded? I hate my sister, am I a bad child? Will I lose my parents because of this? Play-therapy could be the context in which the child could try to unravel the knot. By facing an alien that has arrived from an unknown planet and is willing to eat the farmers of a small village, this child could explore all the possible scenarios that he can imagine are likely to happen and look at his questions from different angles: from the farmers’, the alien’s and the survivors’ point of view. The therapist could be, from time to time, an enemy to fight against, an ally or simply a caring spectator, yet always a co-composer of the problem with which the child is dealing. Perhaps, by replicating the game many times, the child could find some indestructible bricks that are useful to create a safe space wherein to protect himself during the attacks. Then, with the therapist’s help, he could focus on the solid sense of continuity 96


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and stability given by the bricks and try to find it within the relationship with his parents. Maybe this change in constructing the problem could forge a new path to follow in his everyday life. The following are some questions we put forward to psychotherapists who wish to work with children: how can we understand the child’s experiments using a non-verbal language? how can we be reflexive about the way we play? how can we facilitate movement and change through play? last but not least, what about using games in therapies with adult people? What are the resources and limits of proposing this dimension of experience to them?

Conclusions Having arrived at the end of this journey, we feel that the effort to step into children’s realm of play leads to a world that is, though not immediately comprehensible, surprisingly attractive and worth exploring. We have discovered that play is not an incidental experience in children’s life, but rather a dimension of experience that shapes their world. Furthermore, it can be intended as a language that children use to speak to adults. This implies that it is up to us to grasp what the child wants to say instead of asking him to speak our language. Like a musical instrument, we have to tune and re-tune ourselves continuously, staying conscious of ourselves in order to be useful to the children we relate to. It is a perpetual practice of selfreflexivity, which we feel is closely tied to the experience of reciprocity. In a continued game of reciprocity, we can be fully present with the child if, at the same time, we are fully present with ourselves. We would like to conclude with a quotation by Butler and Green that for us is like a radio dial whenever we feel it impossible to tune into the child’s frequency: "it is precisely those children who most frustrate our efforts to help that we need to make the most conscious effort to understand" (Butler & Green, 2007).

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Baumgartner, E. (2002). Il gioco dei bambini, Roma: Carocci Editore. Bannister, D. & Fransella, F. (1986). Inquiring man. The Psychology of Personal Constructs. 3rd edition. London: Croom Helm Ltd. Butler, R. & Green, D. (2007). The child within: Taking the young person’s Perspective by Applying Personal Construct Theory, 2nd Edition. London: Wiley. Gilberto, M. (2014). Il dolore fisico dal punto di vista di chi soffre, Rivista Italiana di Costruttivismo, 2 (1), 21-32. Kelly, G.A. (1955). The psychology of personal constructs. Vol I & II. Norton, New York. (2nd printing: 1991, London and New York: Routledge). Kelly, G.A. (1966). A brief introduction to personal construct theory. In Bannister, D. (Ed.) (1970), "Perspectives in Personal Construct Theory". London: Academic Press. Maturana, H. & Varela, F. (1987). The tree of knowledge. The Biological Roots of Human Understanding. (Revised edition 1998) Boston and London: Shambhala. Ravenette, T. (1999). Personal Construct Theory in Educational Psychology. A Practiotioner’s View. London: Whurr Publishers Ltd. Stern, D. (1977). The first relationship. Infant and mother. 2nd Edition: 2002. Massachusetts and London: Harvard University Press. Stern, D. (1990). Diario di un bambino. Milano: Mondadori Editore.

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About Gabriele Bendinelli I graduated in 2006 from the University of Padua with a degree in Clinical Psychology writing a thesis on patients’ narration in therapy. At that time I was interested in how people transform their biographies thanks to a therapeutic relationship. The different ways in which film directors tell their stories inspired me: film narration was the first lens that I used to understand the meaning-construction process. Then I met PCP at the Institute of Constructivist Psychology in Padua, where I specialised as a therapist and I am currently training as a future teacher in psychotherapy. PCP has been for me, and still is, not only a theory. It is a bridge that leads me to the Other and helps me to help them. PCP has been helping me also with the second psychological field that interests me the most: adoption. In 2006 I started to train in international adoption and I am now working as a consultant and therapist with couples, abandoned and abused children and adoptive families. Helping people to create one of the most important relationship in one’s life – the parent-child relationship – is a complex yet exciting challenge for me. Kelly’s Inquiring

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Man guides me everyday in anticipating all the family processes that I meet. Reflexivity and sociality are my silent lens to understand children language: play. Together with my colleague Chiara Lui I presented a paper about play during the 12th EPCA Conference in Brno. This book contains a revision of that paper hoping that it will help other people to deepen the PCP approach in children’s land. Play is where I recently landed and will be the starting point of my next journey.

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About Chiara Lui When I was nineteen, struggling with the choice of the university, I landed to Psychology moved by the curiosity about the nature of human beings. After five years of a sense of fragmentation in studying such a variety of psychological theories, I graduated in 2004 in Clinical Psychology with a thesis on otherness and intersubjectivity from a phenomenological point of view. I was interested to ask, first of all to myself, how understand others, what kind of personal and ethical position assume to sit in front of a person who is suffering and is asking me some help. Then, after a year of apprenticeship in which I have been in contact with contexts like jail and educational services, I chose the Institute of Constructivist Psychology in Padua to start my post-graduate specialisation in Psychotherapy, meeting Kelly's Personal Construct Psychology for the first time. There I became a Psychotherapist - my current main job - and I am currently training as a future teacher in psychotherapy. During my four years of training - as well as everyday - I discovered the

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huge potentiality of PCP as a theory for the practice, a useful tool that I can manage and that guides my professional choices, starting from the possibility to understand and respect the meaning-construction process of each person in complex interactions. Thanks to PCP I also connected my everyday practice as psychotherapist with the other interest that I developed in time: mentoring and consulting with kids and their families who have to face the learning difficulties phenomenon. I feel challenging - often strenuous but always exciting - the effort to understand the infinite ways to construe realities and I verify everyday how kids are genuine "scientists" and creator of their own meanings. Working with kids I can remain open to the alternativism thanks to the best tool I know: good and surprising questions! Play, the last issue I am interested in with my colleague Gabriele Bendinelli, is another way to give voice to the aim of trying to describe the world from other's perspectives, especially from that one of kids and their construction processes.

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Pupil voice: Building the “ideal Classroom” with Personal Construct Psychology and Lego® Faye Morgan-Rose Figure 1: “Ideal Classroom” by Poppy*, age 14 (*pseudonym)

Introduction This chapter introduces a technique I have developed to elicit pupils’ views on their life in school and uses a personal construct theoretical approach of contrasting poles. It is an adaption of Williams and Hanke’s (1) “drawing the ideal school” technique. Developed as part of my Doctoral thesis, due for submission in June 2015, this technique has been used with both primary and secondary aged pupils attending mainstream schools and those attending a secondary school for pupils with moderate learning difficulties. Several of these young people have used the Lego® in additional and

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unexpected ways, including one young boy who used it to show me how he was “being bullied” at school. I have also found it to be an excellent ice breaker and “social distraction” from what can often be an intense situation, particularly for those pupils with autism.

Acknowledgements This technique has been created with the kind support and guidance of Colette Soan, Sue Morris (University of Birmingham), Jane Williams (Dudley Educational Psychology Service) and Heather Moran (Coventry CAMHS) and Walsall Educational Psychology Service. LEGO® is a trademark of the LEGO Group of companies which does not sponsor, authorize or endorse this technique or research.

Equipment • Lego® Build To Express Kit 45110 (available from Lego® Education for approx £40). • School equipment (Harry Potter Hogwarts Classroom Kit 4721 is good, with the removal of the Harry Potter minifigure and mirror).Harry Potter Kit (£15-20) Lego® minifigure accessories are available cheaply from online auction sites. I included: • Domestic animals. • Laptops. • Food. • Kitchen equipment. • Plain white A4 Paper. • Plain white A3 Paper (optional). • Lined paper and black pen for making notes. • Smart phone / tablet / camera to photograph the models (the name of the young person is not in the photograph).

Instructions Throughout the task, the child builds the model and you write the labels. This ensures the young person focuses on the building of his/her model and 104


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that the labels are recorded accurately. Part 1: Building the “Ideal Classroom” Ask the young person to think about the kind of classroom they would like to have (I tend to use the term “dream classroom”). This is not a real classroom, but one they can dream of and use their imagination to create. Explain that a Lego® brick can represent anything they like and that there are no right or wrong ways of doing this activity. As the young person makes their model and places items onto the base board, ask them questions such as “what’s that?”, “what’s happening here?” and “why is that important?” Write down their answers onto the plain white A4 paper, perhaps using the paper as a map of the model. When the young person is happy with their model, photograph it and: a) If you have the facility to print off straight away, do so and stick the photo onto a sheet of plain white A3 paper and annotate together....or.... b) If you need to print the photo off later then go through your notes with the young person, double checking you have understood their labels and explain you will be printing it off and annotating it later. The Questions You will now ask the young person nine questions, recording their answers onto lined paper. These questions have been adapted from Williams and Hanke (1) and Kangas (2). 1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6. 7. 8. 9.

What are the most important things in this classroom? What is your favourite thing in this classroom? If you were to walk into this classroom, how would you feel? If this classroom has rules, what would they be? What are the students doing? Tell me three things about the students. What are the adults doing? Tell me three things about the adults. What happens at break time for the students of this classroom?

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Part 2: Building the “Non-Ideal Classroom” Ask the young person to think about the kind of classroom they would NOT like to have (I tend to use the term “worst classroom”). This is not a real classroom, but one they can use their imagination to create. Explain that a Lego® brick can represent anything they like and that there are no right or wrong ways of doing this activity. As the young person makes their model and places items onto the base board, ask them questions such as “what’s that?”, “what’s happening here?” and “why is that in your worst classroom?” Write down their answers onto the plain white A4 paper, perhaps using the paper as a map of the model. When the young person is happy with their model, photograph it and: a) If you have the facility to print off straight away, do so and stick the photo onto the plain white A3 paper and annotate together....or.... b) If you need to print the photo off later then go through your notes with the young person, double checking you have understood their labels and explain you will be printing it off and annotating it later. The Questions You will now ask the young person nine questions, recording their answers onto lined paper. These questions have been adapted from Williams and Hanke and Kangas. 1. What are the most important things in this “worst classroom”? 2. What is the worst thing in this classroom? 3. If you were to walk into this classroom, how would you feel? 4. If this “worst classroom” has rules, what would they be? 5. What are the students doing? 6. Tell me three things about the students. 7. What are the adults doing? 8. Tell me three things about the adults. 9. What happens at break time for the students of this classroom? Part 3: Discussion The final step is ensuring you have understood what the young person has expressed through this work. Clarify what you feel they have said in terms of

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what they feel they would not like in their classroom. Discuss who can view the photographs and if possible, give them a copy of the photographs to take away. Part 4: Optional Mapping Development and Progression towards the “Ideal Classroom” This technique can be expanded on by applying Heather Moran’s rating technique (3). Place the two drawings on the table with the “Non-Ideal classroom” to the left and the “Ideal Classroom” to the right. Place a piece of A4 plain white paper in between them, landscape orientation, with a line across the middle, as shown in Figure 2. Current and previous schools (or subjects) can be plotted onto the line, along with an “OK point”. Ask the young person if there is anything that can be done to move towards the “OK point” and what the differences are between those plotted on the line. Figure 2: Classrooms and rating scale

Part 5: Optional Eliciting Superordinate Constructs Through Laddering. A further elaboration of this technique (which I used for my thesis) is the use of “laddering”. Here you examine the young person’s “Ideal Classroom” and highlight what you feel is a key construct. You then present this to the young person, checking it is correct and ask for a contrast. These are then “laddered” by asking “why is that important?” or “what would that look like?” until you elicit a superordinate construct or until the young person can no longer expand further. See Butler and Green (4) for more detailed

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instructions.

Sample Report This is how I have presented a young person’s views of their “Ideal Classroom” in a recent report:

Figure 3: Sample report

Doctoral Thesis: Initial Key Themes Initial (incomplete) thematic analysis of the data collected for my thesis (eight students attending a nurture group within a school for pupils with moderate learning difficulties) indicates that key themes are likely to include: Ideal Classroom • Kinaesthetic learning styles • Noise levels • Organisation and volume of equipment • Skills for future employment • Security of personal belongings • Responsibilities and characteristics of the adults

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Non-Ideal Classroom • Personal safety • Freedom of movement • Teaching style • Disorder of environment • Characteristics of the adults

The How and Why? I will now explain a little more about what brought me to this point and the decisions I made in my research which led me to create this technique. My research begun with a focus on the “voice of the child” and how this could be best achieved for students with moderate learning difficulties. In line with recent statutory requirements (Education, Health & Care Plans, 2014) this meant finding new, and better ways of ensuring a young person’s views are heard. As research by Rose (5) highlights, young people such as those with disabilities are rarely involved in the decision-making processes in education despite the fact that these decisions will have a profound impact on their lives. Furthermore, Todd (6) argues that by involving pupils with special educational needs in the decision-making process we can highlight the skills and abilities they have and allow their views regarding proposed interventions to be heard, thus increasing the likelihood of success. With this in mind I chose to focus on the use of a non-verbal technique to elicit young people’s views on their life in school. I felt that verbal techniques alone did not offer the widest opportunity for pupils to express themselves fully. Having previously been an art teacher I also knew that for many young people, the act of drawing can be very anxiety provoking whilst other creative techniques such as construction and model making seem less daunting. This brings me to the question of “why Lego®?” Well, I’ll try to limit my response here! It’s fun, colourful and normally considered a “toy” so is not associated with “work” for most young people. It is culturally familiar within the UK and as such, young people are able to carry out the process of placing one brick upon another, using the studs to join them securely. Importantly, this procedure can be undone should a “mistake” be made, again, reducing 109


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any possible anxiety. Finally, I have found this technique to be a creative, engaging, nonthreatening and stress-free approach to eliciting pupils’ views on their life in school. There are undoubtedly more uses for this technique and selection of materials than my research has explored so I eagerly await hearing about those in the future.

Get in Touch Feel free to contact me for more information or with questions and comments via my email: theidealclassroom@icloud.com or my website: http:// theidealclassroom.co.uk

References (1)Williams. J., and Hanke. D., (2007) “Do you know what sort of school I want?”: optimum features of school provision for pupils with autistic spectrum disorder, Good Autism Practice, 8 (2): 51-63. (2)Kangas. M. (2010) Finnish children’s views on the ideal school and learning environment, Learning Environments Research, 13 (3): 205-223. (3)Moran,H. (2001) Who do you think you are? Drawing the ideal self: a technique to explore a child’s sense of self, Clinical Child Psychology and Psychiatry, 6 (4): 599-604 (www.drawingtheidealself.co.uk). (4)Butler, R. J., and Green, D. (2007) The Child Within, West Sussex, Wiley. (5)Rose, R. (2005) Encouraging questions and raising voices, paper presented at the inclusive and supportive education congress, international special education conference, Glasgow. (6)Todd, L. (2003) Consulting the children, Special Children, September/ October: 15-19.

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About Faye Morgan-Rose I am currently a third year trainee educational psychologist at the University ofBirmingham where I was first introduced to PCP by our Course Director, SueMorris. Sue presented us with the theory and the “Ideal Self” technique byHeather Moran which instantly appealed to my approach to working with young people so I wished to find out more. When an opportunity arose to complete a foundation course in PCP I jumped at the chance, and quickly enrolled. By this time I had already decided to use PCP for my thesis using an adaption of Williams and Hanke’s (2007) “Ideal School” technique. My career began as an art teacher, working in Africa, the far-east and the middle-east for a total of nine years. During this time I studied for a post graduate diploma in psychology and discovered the educational psychology profession.Returning to the UK in 2008 I studied for a Masters in special educational needs whilst working with children with autism, pathological demand avoidance, and challenging behaviour at a specialist school. This gave me the experience needed to gain a post as an Assistant Psychologist for the National Autistic Society, based in one of their schools in Kent. I t was during this time that I became school-based lead person for several research studies including an EU funded project using smart phone

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technology and a Lego® International sponsored study into Lego®Therapy. In 2011 I was given an honorary contract by King’s College, London to join Liz O’Nions and Francesca Happe, in their research into the social and emotional differences of children with extreme demand avoidance. I joined Liz, as she travelled around the UK at weekends, visiting young people in their homes, to collect the empirical data needed, for her research. Now, in my final year of educational psychology training I’m on work placement with CPA Limited, a private educational psychology service, working in schools across the west midlands. I’m enjoying the opportunity of carrying out more in-depth work including therapeutic approaches such as cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) and parent support sessions using Emotion Coaching and Theraplay® approaches. My future career goals include becoming qualified to deliver both Theraplay® and Video Interactive Guidance sessions for parents/carers.

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Using Personal Construct Psychology in research: investigating the factors associated with emotionally based non-attendance from young people's perspective. Gemma Shilvock Introduction Although there is still considerable variation in the way that researchers and practitioners conceptualise the term school refusal, or emotionally-based non-attendance (EBNA), it is generally accepted that the main characteristics are associated with the emotional distress that is experienced by the child at the prospect of attending school. Within the literature, it is widely accepted that EBNA is associated with a combination of interrelated factors. However, the largest proportion of the research has primarily focused on the clinical characteristics of children and adolescents with EBNA (aspects of their mental health which may render school attendance challenging, such as separation anxiety, social anxiety or depression, for example), while the views and subjective experiences of emotionally-based non-attenders are largely invisible and unheard in the wider research. The purpose of my doctoral research was to explore the factors associated EBNA from the perspective of young people demonstrating early signs of school refusal behaviour, associated emotional distress, and deemed ‘at risk’ of developing more severe and extended forms non-attendance in the future. Personal Construct Psychology (Kelly, 1955) was used as a psychological framework to interview three girls, by using a range of techniques to explore their views and personal constructs associated with their school refusal.

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The method A combination of PCP techniques was used to elicit and explore constructs from each of the three girls, including an open-ended question, a rating scale of donated elements, a sentence completion task, and laddering’ and pyramiding techniques to further explore constructs in greater depth. Open ended question This open-ended question started the interview process, indicating why the girls had been selected for the study, and aiming to elicit and explore each child’s own construing of their reported poor school attendance: ‘Your parents and your school have mentioned that you sometimes find it difficult to come to school, or might not want to come to school or get upset/ worried about coming to school…I’m interested in finding out whether you think this is true?’ Rating of donated elements A set of 22 statements was compiled from the existing research, which included a range of factors involved in school refusal and EBNA (Box 1). The girls ranked these statements along the continuum of most like me and least like me (Figure 1 Salmon line).

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Box 1: Evidence based factors associated with emotionally based non-attendance

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Figure 1: Salmon Line

Once each of the girls had ranked all the statements along the Salmon Line, a range of statements was selected as a focus for further questioning/ construct elaboration. The girls then selected statements that they felt were most pertinent to them (these usually included the top five statements that were ‘most like me’). However, recurring themes were also noted throughout the activity which focussed discussion further (e.g. recurring home/parent factors or certain personality factors that the young person rated as most like them). Sentence completion task The girls were also provided with a range of incomplete sentences to elicit some of their thoughts, feelings and experiences associated with school. These sentences were purposely left general and open-ended, to allow for the girls’ subjective views (Box 2).

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Box 2: Sentence completion task

Laddering and pyramiding of constructs Laddering and pyramiding techniques were used with the girls throughout the interview, in order to explore emergent poles of their constructs in greater depth (e.g. calm, paranoid, worried etc). Firstly, once bipolar constructs were established (the identification of two contrasting poles), the young people were asked to indicate their preferred pole. Following this, a variety of laddering and pyramiding questions were asked, in order to explore their values and beliefs further (a useful reference for more information on laddering and pyramiding is Simon Burnham's book, Let’s talk: Using Personal Construct Psychology to Support Children and Young People (1)).

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Research findings The techniques used throughout the interviews provided rich information about the girls’ experiences of their difficulties attending school, their personal constructs, and the factors they associated with their school refusal. PCP techniques were used both in order to elicit the girls’ views, and also as a psychological framework for analysing and understanding themes abstracted from the interviews in greater detail. For the purposes of this chapter, just some of the themes from my research are discussed below in respect to: The young carer role; Ambivalence; Anxiety; and Returning to school. The young carer role The girls reported several difficulties associated with home and familial factors, indicating that their mothers experienced emotional and/or physical difficulties that required additional care from either themselves or other family members. Two girls also felt a responsibility to mediate difficult family circumstances and problematic relationships at home. ‘I worry if mum’s going to be alright…she’s not very well sometimes…’ ‘I have to just try and calm him (my brother) down somewhere, tell him to just be quiet because it really all goes down onto my mum…sometimes it gets me worried and then it’s worrying for my mum' One of the girls reflected upon a time in her life when her non-attendance initially began. 'L' experienced a traumatic incident in her family, which resulted in her preference to stay at home, in order to ensure her family’s safety and mediate any conflicts that may occur. ‘…they were outside; they started fighting; my brother…stabbed my other brother… I was just really worried that they were going to start again.... it scared me… ever since then I’ve always worried about what’s going on at home’. The most significant factor within this theme was the anxiety and distress reported by the girls when they were at school, if they knew that their mothers were alone at home. ‘… the other day I went home from school and everyone was out and my mum said she fell over when no-one was in and she had to wait for someone to come back to help her…I’m sad when you know that no-one’s going to be in the house and my mum’s going 118


Using Personal Construct Psychology (PCP) with children and adolescents

to be on her own’ Two the girls often worried about their mums' well-being when they were at school. However, at the same time they also felt assured that their mums and families would more than likely be fine at home, and they generally felt motivated to come to school. Additionally, these two girls also recognised the importance of coming to school to learn and socialise with their friends. In this respect, both girls enjoyed attending school and showed a preference to feel less worried about their parents and families. Figure 2 provides an example of one girl's bipolar constructs, and her responses from laddering and pyramiding questions (the * represents where she is now and the + represents her pole preference).

Figure 2: An example of bipolar constructs associated with worrying about parental wellbeing

The girls’ personal constructs regarding the importance of remaining at home to look after their mums (emotionally or physically) or ensure that no conflicts arose between family members, were incompatible with other constructs of attending school as a student. Kelly argues that a person’s construction system is continuously in a state of flux, with changing emphases likely intermittently to influence the young person’s direction of choice about going to school or staying at home. Ambivalence All three of the girls reported simultaneous or conflicting thoughts and

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feelings towards home and school. Two of the girls reported both positive and negative emotions associated with attending school, which they often found confusing and difficult to articulate. For instance, a common trend throughout the data was the difficulties the girls reported in trying to manage their dual role as a student at school and a young carer at home. For instance, although 'L' recognised school as a welcomed break from difficult family circumstances, she also felt drawn to stay at home. 'I’m happy to see my friends (at school) but I still want to stay at home with my mum’ ‘(I feel calm and a little happy in school) because I’m away from the horrible things that could happen at home but I still want to be there because…I don’t know why?’ The girls reported that their circumstances at home, whether these involved family conflicts or parental illness, sometimes pre-occupied their thoughts when they were at school and made them feel anxious. Consequently, this further reinforced their desire to be at home. ‘The odd occasion that I would worry (in school)...if something happened like an argument at home…I feel ok knowing that it’s going to be alright, but in a way I feel that I want to be at home more than anything’ ‘Sometimes I don’t want to come to school because, like, I prefer to stay at home with my family to know what’s going on … then I go to school and think about my family all the time’ Anxiety The importance of staying at home to ensure their mothers’ and families’ wellbeing appeared to represent a key construct for all three girls. It became evident throughout the interviews that these constructs made it difficult for the girls, in varying degrees, to sustain a high level of attendance at school and they experienced varying degrees of anxiety in consequence. The girls’ use of language referred to feeling ‘worried’, generally being a ‘worrier’, feeling ‘paranoid’, and ‘scared’ in response to their thoughts of attending school and leaving home. According to Kelly, constructs of transition are when an individual’s construct system is placed under pressure to change or to see oneself 120


Using Personal Construct Psychology (PCP) with children and adolescents

differently. As a result, a range of negative emotions can be experienced, some of which are described as threat, aggression, anxiety, guilt and hostility. Personal construct psychology has a particularised view of anxiety. Kelly suggests that anxiety is experienced when we are confronted by events which we find difficult to predict or interpret. Hence, we cannot predict the outcome of our own actions or the actions of others. In the context of the girls’ responses, the prospect of attending school appeared to lie outside the range of convenience of their personal constructs, and therefore, feelings of anxiety were experienced due to feelings of uncertainly and unpredictability. Two of the girls in particular reported feelings of being ‘worried’ at school when they knew their mothers were going to be at home alone. In this case, the girls anticipated that their mothers’ wellbeing would be at risk when they were at school, which caused uncomfortable feelings of anxiety, potentially due to their construct system being under-elaborated or potentially invalidated. ‘If my mum is at home alone, I feel worried if she’s gonna be alright, I feel better when I’m at home with my mum…to make sure she’s alright’ ‘You’re sad when you leave your house and your mum because you won’t see her for quite a while…when you get to school your know your mum’s ok because my sister will be looking after her…if someone wasn’t there to look after her I would feel worried’. Returning to school In one of the cases, 'E' reported on several occasions that she finds it extremely difficult to return to school after an extended period of absence. She discussed the difficulties she experiences in returning to school after being ill or after school holidays, as she gets accustomed to being at home. Hence, what might begin as a somatic complaint may well develop into more psychologically or emotionally-based difficulties at the prospect of attending school after extended periods of absence. ‘I don’t like returning to school…because I get used to being at home. When I think about coming back to school in September after the summer holidays I feel scared’

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In exploring this issue in greater detail, a bipolar construct was identified as scared-confident (Figure 3). E identified feeling scared at the prospect of returning (*), and showed a preference to be more confident in school (+). Figure 3: Bipolar constructs of scared and confident

At the prospect of returning to school after a period of time off, E reported the uncertainties she might experience in the school, which contributed to her feeling scared. ‘If I come back to school, I just feel scared because…if you’re coming back to school and you might have not been there for a while……you could be thinking about what lessons have you got and what’s happening in the day and stuff…you might not be confident and you might not talk to a lot of people and you might wonder what people think.’ Although she reported that she feels scared to come back to school (after being at home for a period of time), she also acknowledged that she feels more confident once she is settled back into school. ‘If you’ve been off for a month you might feel scared when you’re coming back… when you’re actually in school you might get a bit more confident because you’re back and you feel happy’ It seems that the anxiety experienced in returning to school after time off results in difficulty re-establishing attendance, which is likely further to exacerbate the non-attendance. Reflection on E’s comments in PCP terms suggests that more sustained periods of school attendance result in a greater elaboration of the her construct system (e.g. ‘confident’, ‘I want to go to school’). If one assumes that the school environment is positive for the young person, this would result in the young person forming more positive anticipations about attending school. However, the longer the period of time that a young person remains at home, the greater the risk that the contrast

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pole (of attending school) will be attenuated (e.g. ‘scared’, ‘I want to stay at home’), in contrast with the more fully elaborated anticipations of home as ‘safe’. Such cognitive influences, and their impact on the dynamic construct system, are likely to have a significant influence on the young person’s decision-making process and emotional experiences. In some cases, young people may exert maximum control, by choosing from a narrow range of possibilities as a way of managing their anxiety or threat in unfamiliar situations. In an impulsive attempt to escape uncomfortable feelings of anxiety related to returning to school, the young person may spend little time on weighing alternative options related to attending school, and move to pre-empt the issue and take control by remaining at home (see the Circumspection-Pre-emption-Control cycle, Kelly, 1955, for more information on decision making).

Why use PCP in research? George Kelly argued that there is no objective, absolute truth, and that events are only meaningful in relation to the ways that are constructed by individuals. In the context of this qualitative research, personal construct psychology provided a useful structure to explore young people's interpretations of their world and lived experiences. When working with children and young people with anxiety, direct questioning may be experienced as invasive and potentially overwhelming. Additionally, when interviewing children, it is important to make the process enjoyable and nonthreatening, through combining a variety of activities and methods (e.g. drawing pictures, writing and/or speaking). Therefore, I believe that the application of PCP techniques afforded an unthreatening, enjoyable and highly accessible way of gathering young people’s views in regards to their non-attendance, and an appropriate methodology to explore this sensitive topic. The benefits My research has attested to the value of personal construct psychology as a primary conceptual framework for collecting, analysing and interpreting data from girls with emotionally-based school refusal. The variety PCP 123


Using Personal Construct Psychology (PCP) with children and adolescents

activities provided a flexible, creative and visual medium for the girls to explore and express their views, and generate discussion. The laddering (“why”?) and pyramiding (“what”?) questions provided useful prompts to help the girls elaborate their construing, while exploring their constructs informed a ‘deeper’ understanding as to why the girls experienced anxiety in relation to attending school/leaving home. Some of the girls experienced difficulty in expressing their views orally and they needed a few prompts. The Salmon Line activity and sentence completion task cued their thinking about their attendance difficulties, while avoiding risks inherent in more structured, direct, (and potentially leading) questions. Using PCP as framework for interpretation also allowed me to extract themes that may otherwise have been missed (e.g. exploring the construct poles of ‘scared’, ‘confident’, or deeper reasons for the personal significance of ‘worrying about parents’, ‘staying at home’).

Conclusion This research process and its outcomes have affirmed the importance of listening to the views of young people with emotionally-based nonattendance, as this provides a powerful source of evidence which can inform appropriate interventions, and a more holistic, ecologically valid understanding of the young person’s distress. Although the focus of this chapter fell primarily on home-based factors as key influences upon the girls’ non-attendance and anxiety, a range of school factors was also highlighted in the original research. These have an equally important, parallel role to play in informing intervention to reduce risks and strengthen supportive influences on pupils’ circumstances, thoughts, feelings and behaviour. The current chapter aimed to demonstrate the value of using PCP in research, and to encourage others to use PCP as a research methodology and/ or framework for assessment with emotionally vulnerable young people, and indeed those demonstrating emotionally-based non-attendance. Additionally, the application of PCP is not restricted to assessment purposes, but offers great potential as a framework for planning multi-level, multi-modal intervention for emotionally-based non-attenders, that supports change in

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schools, families and the young people themselves.

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About Gemma Shilvock As an Educational Psychologist, I regularly use PCP as an underpinning framework for my casework, and find it can be an extremely useful tool to elicit children’s thoughts and feelings. Practical applications of PCP enable flexible and creative ways for children and young people to express their views, partly due to the variety of techniques available. During my doctoral research at the University of Birmingham I used a wide range of PCP techniques to interview young people with emotionallybased non-attendance. These techniques proved ideal for qualitative data collection and analysis, and I would greatly encourage others to use it as a research methodology. In the future I hope to expand my use of PCP and continue to develop my skills in therapeutic work.

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Deconstructing children’s behaviour Mike Hymans A useful starting point for understanding how children and young people makes sense of their world is to apply the ‘theory of personal construct psychology’ (1). This theory is based on the philosophical background (or epistemology) of ‘constructive alternativism,’ which suggests that each of us constructs (or invents) our own way on interpreting the events we experience: although we may see some ways of constructing the world as more useful than others, no one has yet developed a universal and accurate system of constructs. Kelly suggested too, that we always have some alternative ways of making sense of the world rather than having our understanding determined by circumstances or our biography. Kelly presented his theory in the form of a ‘fundamental postulate’ and 11 ‘corollaries,’ and see Bannister and Fransella (2) for a good description of these basic principles. The fundamental postulate states, “A persons processes are psychologically channelised by the ways in which s/he anticipates events.” This means that out thoughts, feelings and behaviours follow on from the way in which we anticipate things. Essentially Kelly was viewing the individual as striving for personal meaning. He argued that individuals grapple to understand their world: they perceive similarities and differences/themes in events before them, propose theories about such events, foster anticipations about the future and seek to test out how much sense they have made of the world through their behaviour. Teenagers, especially, are often in a state of flux as they revise their ‘core constructs, about who they are and what they value, and test out whether their construction of their world is accurate and makes sense to them.

So what is a construct? At its most basic, a construct is a distinction we make (e.g. polite versus ill mannered) that has a particular range of usefulness for us: (it cannot be

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applied to chocolate for example!) and it is probably grouped with others (such as considerate versus inconsiderate) under a ‘hierarchical’ or ‘superordinate’ construct such as well behaved versus uncouth. Importantly the wording is only a label used by the child/young person based on their personal experiences and, clinicians should always avoid making assumptions about the meaning of words for the child/young person based on their own construct system.

Why discover the child’s/young person’s constructs? A key assumption within Kelly’s Personal Construct Theory is his ‘individuality corollary:’ “People differ from each other in their construction of events.” This central theme runs throughout his theory as he places great stress on the uniqueness of each person’s construct system. However, according to Kelly, unless we have some understanding of another person’s set of personal constructs about a particular topic, and that person has some understanding of our constructs, the process of communication between us will be inadequate: this is Kelly’s ‘sociality corollary,’ which implies the need to come to some understanding of the current conceptualisation of the subject matter and, this is where a ‘repertory grid’ can come in useful. A grid provides a space for listing and the ranking of constructs elicited in connection with the subject matter: it was developed to help the clinician understand their client. The repertory grid supports a credulous listening approach, allows the clinician quicker access to the client’s world and allow the client to look at their ‘self’ in an organised way. Problem areas for the client can be jointly identified and the results can be the start point for the clinician’s dialogue and intervention with the client: by eliciting the client’s constructs the clinician is tapping into the personal dimensions the client uses to anticipate events. The process is a means of finding out how someone uses their personal constructs and, the grid is a way of having a structured conversation as well as a way of culling from a large amount of data a picture small enough to be useful without ‘over-reductionism’: it is a first tentative sketch of how someone might see their world and provides a focus for intervention.

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How are constructs elicited in practice? Constructs can be elicited by the ‘traditional’ triadic difference method and with young people this would usually be along the following lines: “Think of three people you know. You don’t need to tell me their names but, tell me in what way one of these three people is different from the other two. Tell me in terms of their behaviour and/or how they are as people – their personalities and not in terms of whether they are male or female or in terms of eye/hair colour or their height.” A typical response would be something like: “he is clever or she always does her work in class.” I would then say: “What do you think is the opposite of being clever/always doing work in class.” Care has to be taken if the respondent says, “one is clever and the other two are stupid.” We have to be sure that for the young person being stupid is the (‘bipolar’) opposite of being clever. On the other hand, their opposite often illuminates a point for further discussion: is gets bullied the bipolar opposite of thick for instance. To elicit further constructs by this method, I would say, “either use the same three people or choose another three people or any combination of these options (i.e. keep two and add another one or keep one and add another two), and tell me in what way one of these three people is different from the other two ….etc.” I have sometimes used the grid below with children/young people, rather than a more formal/traditional grid, after the first (emergent) construct or end of the bipolar pole has been elicited, that is the construct mostly used. Note that the opposite (implicit) construct or other end of the bipolar pole is obtained before considering the ‘implications, importance and behaviour’ columns in the table, and a rating scale (from 1 to 7) is used for the importance column, where a rating of 1 is a preference for the emergent construct/end of the pole with a rating of 7 being a preference for the implicit construct/end of the pole. I include in the table an example taken from some work with a young person. Construct

Implies

Importance

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Behaviour

Opposite


Using Personal Construct Psychology (PCP) with children and adolescents

Being clever

The teacher likes me

2

Correctly answering questions in class

Being stupid

Butler and Green (4) and Ravenette (5) suggest several alternative means of construct elicitation, which I summarise below. General description • “Tell me three things about other kids in your class.” • Give me three descriptions of what your brother/sister is like.” Who are you? • “If I were to task you to tell me three things that best describe you, what would you say?” Self-evaluation • “If I were to ask (e.g. your mum/teacher) to describe you, tell me the three most important things she could say about you.” • An alternative would be: “Tell me three things about … (e.g. the sort of boy/girl who worries a lot about going to school).” The opposite or contrast pole is sought after each of the three descriptions are elicited and, the constructs can then be elaborated by asking: • “At which end of the pole would you prefer to be?” • “What is important or special about your preferred end?” The behavioural constituents of a construct can be elicited by ‘pyramiding’ (see below), that is by asking what a person typically does/feels/ thinks when they are described by the constructs. Other alternative means of construct elicitation with children and young people include: Self-portraits (or presenting a sketch of a child/young person’s face, looking angry or sad) and asking:• “How do you guess this person is thinking/feeling?”

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• “Do you ever feel/think like that?” • What might make that person feel/think this way?” • What thoughts go through your mind when you feel this way?” Portrait galleries (where children/young people are asked to draw faces showing feelings and then asking them to say e=what makes them feel this way). Drawings in context (e.g. in magazines, comics, books) with accompanying questions such as: “What do you think is happening?” What do you imagine they might be feeling/thinking?” Why are they feeling/thinking this way?” What do you guess would make a difference to the way that person is feeling/thinking?” Once again the contrast (opposite) pole would be sought after each description and/or answer to a question. Laddering Hinkle developed the method of laddering to test out one of his hypotheses stemming from Kelly’s ‘organisational corollary’: Each person characteristically evolves, for their convenience in anticipating events, a construction system embracing ordinal relationships between constructs. This is a system that looks a little like a computer folder tree. Hinkle’s hypothesis was that the more superordinate a construct (i.e. the more abstract and higher up the hierarchy of constructs), the more it will resist change. In the laddering process, the clinician is often asking the client to consider aspects of their way of understanding the world, which they have never thought of before. Laddering consists of asking the question ‘why?’ The child/young person is first asked which pole of a given construct they would prefer to describe. The why question can be phrased in many ways, for example, “what are the advantages for you of being someone who …..?” Or, “why is it important for you to be .. rather than …..?” You can see that the question of ‘importance’ in the grid above is making use of the laddering process. There are no hard or

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fast rules, however by repeatedly being asked ‘why’ the client climbs the ladder of their construct system towards areas of their most superordinate constructs and their basic value systems. This information can be alarming and threatening as well as exciting and interesting. Pyramiding Pyramiding was first described by Landfield (7) and is also related to Kelly’s organisational corollary as well as the hierarchy of constructs. It involves asking the young person to successfully ‘climb down’ their construct system to more concrete or subordinate levels. The questioning asks for more specific details of the construct. For example: “What kind of person is someone who is introverted?” The answer may be hard to get to know as opposed to (<>) easy to get to know. The next question might be: “What kind of person is someone who is hard to get to know?” The same kind of questioning then takes place with the opposite end of the pole/contrasting construct. The young person’s responses can be reproduced schematically as shown below (Figure 1). Figure 1: Pyramiding

To get to specific behaviours the clinician can ask: “How do you know when a person is cold?” “What do they actually do that makes you think they are cold? One such answer might be: They look at you without blinking. Thus to complete the ‘behaviour’ column in the grid in paragraph 8 the clinician will be using pyramiding with the client.

Some case study examples 132


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Many practitioners are now adopting the repertory grid as a means of entering the phenomenological world of the young person by exploring the nature and inter-relationships between various elements and elicited constructs. The process of repertory grid making begins with the elicitation of constructs and, this is equally applicable for children and young people as for adults because it provides us with a framework for understanding someone rather than simply being a technique. Harry – aged 12 years Harry has cystic fibrosis and still requires frequent hospital admissions: his attendance at school is poor. He engages in provocative behaviour towards adults and peers, knocking and touching them, getting too close, using foul language and teasing. He has been known to bully ‘quieter’ students and rarely engages with peers at break times, preferring to hide in corners or on the stairs. He exhibits highly inconsequential and impulsive behaviour and is frequently unresponsive to requests to comply with particular adult instructions, especially in unstructured situations: he will be openly defiant, swear and become verbally aggressive and threatening. I was interested in finding out about Harry’s academic self-esteem as a learner: using the standardised ‘Myself as a Leaner Scales’ (MALS), I assessed Harry’s self-esteem. His responses to the MALS suggested that he had below average academic self-esteem in that he self-reported that he: found learning difficult; is not good at doing tests; is not particularly clever; does not like having difficult work to do; and does not know how to solve problems. These results pointed to Harry’s lack of confidence about his learning ability or self-efficacy at that time. I then used a combination of the general description and who are you? Methods of construct elicitation to obtain the following bi-polar constructs: C1. Being naughty <> behaving well C2. Being interested in school <> cannot be bothered with school C3. Getting told off <> getting praised C4. Concentrating on work <> distracting others C5. Getting angry <> staying calm Burden suggests “is that if we want to understand better why children do

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well at school, or sometimes fail to live up to our expectations, it would be helpful to gain some insight into their views of themselves as learners. What we need to tap into, in effect, is their learning self-concept. There is now general consensus that our thoughts and feelings about ourselves can be assumed to fall into a number of categories – our learning ability, our sporting prowess, our ability to relate to others, our physical attractiveness and so on. These perceptions combine (and sometimes cancel each other out) to help us construct what is usually known as our self-image. How we feel about these self-perceptions is often referred to as our self-esteem. The interaction between our self-image and our self-esteem is usually considered to lead to the construction of our self-concept,” (page 2). I did not use any laddering or pyramiding but simple asked Harry to rate these constructs from 1 to 7 against the ‘elements’: me now; how I would like to be; what my mum thinks; what my form tutor thinks; what my deputy head teacher thinks) in the Table 1. Table 1: Harry’s ratings of his constructs C O N S T R U C T

How I Me W o u N o ld w Like to Be

What My Mum Think s

What My Form Tutor Thinks

What The Deputy Head Teache r Thinks

Rating of 1 at this end

Rating of 7 at this end

C1

Being Naughty

4

6

4

4

3

Behaving Well

C2.

Interested in School

5

2

4

5

5

Not bothered With school

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C3 C4 C5

Getting Told Off Concentrating On Work Getting Angry

3

6

3

2

3

4

2

4

4

5

5

6

3

3

3

E1

E2

E3

E4

E5

Getting Praised Distracting Others Staying Calm

By eyeballing Table 1 above, it was possible to hypothesise that Harry would like to be: behaving well (C1); concentrating on work (C4); staying calm (C5); interested in school (C2); and, getting praise (C3). In contrast, Harry believed that deputy head teacher thought that Harry enjoyed: being naughty (C1); not being bothered by school (C2); getting told off (C3); distracting others (C4); and getting angry (C5). These differences were first checked with Harry for their accuracy and, once confirmed, were then discussed with Harry and his head teacher. The resulting discussion led to drawing up a behavioural contract, between Harry, the deputy head teacher and Harry’s mum. Constructs 1, 4 and 5 were used as behavioural targets and the deputy head teacher agreed to talk with subject staff to get their agreement as to how they could help Harry achieve his targets. The deputy head teacher also agreed to check that staff were fulfilling their obligations to help Harry. Harry’s mum agreed to reward Harry with being able to stay up later over the weekend for his part in achieving the targets with an 80% success rate. There was also a set of consequences for Harry if his success rate fell below 80%. It was agreed that the contract would be reviewed by all parties and psychologist after two weeks and amended accordingly. Dee – aged 14 years and permanently excluded from school. I met Dee at Pupil Referral Unit. She presented as cooperative, forthcoming and pleasant. Dee told me that she had become a school phobic due to the bullying she experienced and because she was not getting taught properly, and as a consequence she had lost trust in teachers and could never return to a mainstream high school again: Dee also complained of being 135


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agoraphobic. I was interested in finding out about her academic self-esteem as a learner and, as with Harry, I therefore administered the standardised MALS (9). Dee’s responses suggested she had a ‘low average’ academic self-esteem and, it was noticeable that she: needed lots of help with work; gets anxious when she has to do new work; and she finds a lot of work difficult. However Dee acknowledged that she was good at discussing things, which was evident form the way in which she worked with me, and that, “thinking carefully about your work helps you do it better.” I then used a non-standardised ‘sentence completion test’ to elicit a variety of personal constructs, which Dee was then asked to rate against how her ‘significant others’ construed her: she also asked to rate these same constructs against her actual and ideal self. The elicited constructs were as follows: C1. Gets confused <> able to understand C2. Perceived as dumb <> perceived as clever C3. Being bitchy <> being straight up C4. Feeling uncomfortable <> feeling relaxed C5. Being organised <> being disorganised C5. Being able to concentrate <> easily distracted C6. Acting a bit mad <> acting normal C7. Having different ideas to others <> having the same ideas as everyone else The ‘significant others’ included her mum, her friends, and a teacher at the tuition centre: when Dee’s ratings of her personal constructs were statistically analysed it was hypothesised that Dee saw herself (now, that is then) as having different ideas to others; acting a bit mad; being easily distracted; and, being disorganised, whereas she thinks that the tutor at the tuition centre construes her as having the same ideas as others; acting normally; and, being able to concentrate. Dee believed that her mum construed Dee as being clever but feeling uncomfortable about herself, whereas Dee believed that one of her girlfriends construed Dee as being as being dumb and disorganised. Dee told me that she didn’t mind being perceived in this way because she interpreted her friend’s rating as be jokingly and as a useful way of maintaining their friendship. Dee also said that another of her girlfriends 136


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rated Dee as being bitch, which Dee told me was a trait of females with whom she mostly associated. She said that most of her friends were boys anyway, whose company she preferred, albeit that she did not nominate them as significant others in the choice of elements. In terms of the difference between how Dee construed her actual and ideal self, Dee aspired towards becoming more clever, feeling even more relaxed about herself and being able to concentrate better. I would suggest that Dee’s constructs (i.e. ways of making sense of her world) are very much age appropriate as well as being personal and pertinent to her. The information from the analysis of Dee’s ratings (grid) were used in a joint interview with Dee, her mother and, provided an insightful way for both parties to understand what has been happening in Dee’s life. However, Dee’s tendency to ‘act a bit mad’ and her preference to be in the company of boys was born out when her mother informed the tuition centre staff that Dee had gone to live with her boyfriend, which resulted in Dee’s estranged father agreeing to have parental control for an interim period. A meeting was held at the tuition centre with Dee’s father, centre staff and myself to discuss measures that would need to be taken to help Dee realise the consequences of her behaviour (e.g. sometimes acting a bit mad): a self-regulatory log was set up for Dee and an interview with a specialist careers officer arranged to help Dee focus on her future aspirations. Dee applied for a place at college and moved back in with her mum with agreed contact with father.

Conclusions Personal Construct Psychology (PCP) can be viewed as an attempt to understand children and young people’s behaviour by appreciating how the world appears to them. A young person’s behaviour will make sense to them even if it exasperates others. Psychologists, teachers and other professionals working with children and young people, will do best in deconstructing young people’s behaviour by suspending their own constructs when using PCP by adopting a credulous approach: the psychologist’s relationship with the young person must be one of ‘equal experts.’ If, as a professional involved with children and young people, you don’t understand their behaviour or know the answer to the problems presented to you, ask the young person! 137


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References (1) Kelly, G.A. The Psychology of Personal Construct vols 1 and 2. New York: WW Norton, (!955/1991). (2) Bannister, D., & Fransella, F. Inquiring man: the psychology of personal constructs. 3rd edition. London: Croom Helm (1986) (3) Fransella, F., Bell., R & Banister, D. A manual for Repertory Grid Technique (Second Edition). Chichester, West Sussex; Wiley (2004); Jankowicz. D. The easy guide to repertory grids. Chichester, West Sussex: Wiley (2004); Fromm. M. Introduction to the repertory grid interview. New York: Waxman, 1995. (4) The Child Within: Taking the Young Personâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s Perspective by Applying Personal Construct Psychology (second edition). Chichester, West Sussex: John Wiley (2007). (5) Personal Construct Theory in Educational Psychology: A Practitonerâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s View. London: Whurr Publishers (2004) (6) Hinkle. D., N. The change of personal constructs from the viewpoint of a theory of construct implications. In Fransella, F., Bell., R & Banister, D. A manual for Repertory Grid Technique (Second Edition). Chichester, West Sussex; Wiley (2004); (7) Landfield. A., W. Personal Construct Systems in Psychotherapy. Chicago: Rand McNally (1971) (8) Myself As a Learner Scales (MALS), Burden, R. London: NFERNelson (2006) (9) Ability alone is not enough: How we think about ourselves matters too. An introduction to the Myself As-a-Learner Scales (MALS). Rob Burden, University of Exeter.

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About Mike Hymans I first came across PCP when I was completing an Open University whilst working as a teacher in a pupil referral unit. Then when I trained as an educational psychologist (EP) some 10 years later my course director had a regular guest speaker slot that included a presentation by Tom Ravenette. I dabbled with PCP as a practising and then just prior to staring a CPD doctorate at the University of Nottingham, I attended a four-day workshop, presented by Fay Fransella, on repertory grids. My doctoral thesis used PCP and repertory grids to explore professionalsâ&#x20AC;&#x2122; constructs about working in a multi-disciplinary team. As a research adviser on the EP Training Course at University College London (UCL) I have supported trainees in their doctoral research using PCP and rep grids: I also am a guest lecturer for UCL trainees presenting on the using PCP in EP practice. I have also presented on a similar theme to other EP training courses as well as to my EP colleagues in the field. I am a member of a PCP interest group at the University of Hertfordshire. Today, in my work as an EP in private practice in schools as well as an expert witness for family and criminal law court casework, I use PCP all the time, in everything I do. It allows me to gain a much greater understanding of children and young people through a structured, narrative PCP interview.

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As with Heather Moran, I too find it especially useful with young people with ASD because it doesnâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t matter if they have very idiosyncratic ways of seeing the world and other people. It has been a great approach for groups too: I have used it especially with professionals in groups (e.g. psychologists, teachers, social workers) to help them make meaning of changes to their delivery practice, especially in the context of multi-professional working and systemic changes in special schools. More recently I have used PCP within parental and staff focus groups in reviewing community drop in services for visually impaired children and their parents/carers. In every aspect be it clinical work or staff development work, I have found that PCP can be a very enabling, accessible to children of all ages and abilities, to parents and carers and to professional colleagues. I find that I can quite easily vary and tailor the way I use PCP to suit a particular situation or event.

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Using PCP in Practice: Working with Children and Adolescents. A Case Study in a Primary School using the Techniques as part of an Eclectic Casework Management Approach. Lucinda Dunn Presenting Scenario Tara was a 10 year old girl who was struggling in the school environment with her emotional regulation and relationships. Tara was referred to me as a piece of school casework to look into her difficulties in school. She was schooled in a small, nurturing one form entry primary school. Referral information given stated that her parents were looking into an assessment to ascertain if Tara had Autistic Spectrum Condition (ASC). School staff was unsure that this was the best way forward as they felt that Tara had issues with her relationships due to her behaviours towards others and her view of herself rather than an organic difficulty. They also had concerns regarding her conduct in class and felt that this was sometimes â&#x20AC;&#x2DC;choice behaviourâ&#x20AC;&#x2122; from Tara. Tara was reported to show a lack of attention and concentration in class in a fairly consistent manner, be unkind to her peers and appear argumentative to staff and not follow their requests. Tara also had a medical condition which affected her nose and she had a lot of mucus build up which was very obvious to her peers and those around her. Tara reported that she did not notice when she had mucus coming from her nose now as she had got so used to it so this left her vulnerable to her peers for comments and reactions. She was due to have an imminent operation to help with this, which she was very excited about.

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Initial Formulations Referral discussions led me to think that Tara was struggling with her peer groups as she was relatively new to the school and had arrived at the school reporting that she was a target of bullying at her previous school. Her medical condition and the unfortunate position of having a constantly runny nose also led me to feel that these were causal factors in her peer relationship troubles and thus behavioural presentation. It also seemed that there were mixed views about her from school staff with some staff finding her a biddable child yet others seeming less tolerant of her behaviours. This added to a hypothesis that there may be a difference in how staff responded to her behaviours in school. This led to uncertainty and confusion for Tara and thus put her in a vicious cycle of feeling emotionally heightened due to this inconsistency in how she was communicated with.

Direct Casework and Assessment Information As I started the piece of work Tara was observed in class and consultations were held with the staff in her class. In whole class lesson observations Tara showed difficulties with attending to the lessons and tasks. Observations showed that in this context she was often off task, (86% in one observation). In this lesson she looked out of the window, got up to mess with the blinds and windows, did not look at the teacher, messed with equipment, put her head and cheek on the table, stood up and sorted her chair, looked over to me to try to get my attention and turned her back on her peer deliberately when it was a partner talk task. She was also seen in a small group situation. In the small group task she was on task for 100% of the time and she listened and worked on the task really well. In the small group task she seemed to look worried but when I explored the task with her she did know how to do it. She showed a lack of confidence in her abilities and was anxious when talking through the task until she knew that she had the concept of the task correct. I then carried out some direct assessment with Tara. I asked Tara to 142


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complete the Beck Youth Inventories (1) self-concept subtest. This test is a self-report measure used to gauge pupil’s perception of level of distress in several domains. The inventory produces scores for: self-concept, anxiety, depression, anger and disruptive behaviour. The result is below: Scale Self-concept (BSCI)

Raw Score

T-Score

Severity

21

28

Much lower than average

This shows she had a poor self-image and poor belief in her capabilities. Worrying responses were as follows, when she reported the lowest scores and reported ‘never’; ‘I feel I am strong, I like myself, I feel normal, people think I am good at things’. Low scores than are typical for her age were reported for the following; ‘I work hard, people want to be with me, I am just as good as the others, I do things well, I am a good person, I can do things without help, I feel like a nice person, I am a good thinker, I am happy to be me’. Tara was also assessed using the Goodman’s Strength and Difficulties Questionnaire (SDQ) (2) and this was triangulated with her teacher completing them too to complement the assessment above. The reports from her teacher were very similar showing similar presentation and thus validity in the assessment. Both cited concern with prosocial skills and in relating to peers, showing some immaturity. Looking at Tara’s responses this showed that she viewed herself as vulnerable and a target from her peers. They both noted some hyperactivity and difficulties with attention too. I made the decision at this meeting to carry on meeting with Tara for the next few weeks to explore her views more closely and to see if I could help her in a therapeutic way to be happier in school, enhance her concentration and to have more purposeful relationships. Tara told me that she is ‘half happy’ at school and ‘half not’ and this is because she perceived that she gets bullied sometimes at school. She gave school 5 out of 10 on a scale where 10 is high. When we discussed this she raised her score to 7. This was after discussion where she had said that she did have friends at this school and that

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this school was better than her last school, as she kept being bullied at her last school and that didn’t happen at this school. Tara told me that she got on with the other children in the class and she had two closer friends who she sat with at lunch. She gave home a 9 on my scale as she told me that she likes to play with her sister. At home Tara told me that she enjoys games where she can act ‘like a real parent’ like playing with her pram and she also enjoyed watching TV. Tara told me that she did not settle easily, especially when something or someone upset her. She also told me that she enjoyed mouthing things and putting things into her mouth a lot; this was observed in school too at that stage. She told me that her nose did bother her and she got upset that she had this constant mucus appearing. She told me that she was excited about her forthcoming operation on her nose. Tara and I worked on a programme over a few weeks where we concentrated on helping Tara ‘find out about herself’ and her emotions and to learn to face up to these and deal with them. Tara and I discussed the things in school that troubled her and we also discussed how things could be better for her and make her feel more settled in life generally. We completed the Moran ideal self activity (Moran, 963) and she drew herself as she would like to be and how she would like to live. She drew on her favourite attributes, activities and interests. This allowed her to feel comfortable as well as allowing me to assess her levels of creativity and how she was able to process more abstract thinking. She drew a fantasy land where she would meet One Direction members and Harry would be her boyfriend. She was able to tell me what she would take with her to the fantasy land; her favourite dolls, CDs and books. She told me that she would be alone with One Direction and that she would not take her friends or family. This led to discussions about her relationships at school and home and the situation unfolded that she experienced tension with her younger sister at home. Her younger sister is the child of her mum and her stepdad who are married and whom Tara lives with at her main residence. Her sister is much younger than Tara and they also have to share a room. As the weeks went on this became a theme for Tara and things came out of the discussions like practical difficulties for the girls, for example Tara had to settle into bed making no noise and without a 144


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light on to read as her little sister was already asleep. This caused a frustration for Tara and we were able to talk this through and share this frustration with her mum at a meeting to put together some practical solutions to help Tara. Following this we moved on to completing the actual self activity together. When exploring the actual self exercise with Tara it seemed that she did not have an outlet to talk through her worries with anyone. She did not identify any significant others to support her at home or school. The actual self identified and concurred with the formal assessments around her poor view of herself and how others see her. It also highlighted that she didn’t find it easy to identify her feelings and to talk to others about them. I used the therapeutic story ‘A Nifflenoo Called Nevermind: A Story for Children Who Bottle Up Their Feelings (Helping Children with Feelings)’ (3) written by Margot Sunderland after I had identified that Tara found it very difficult to note her feelings and to know what to do with them once she had. This story allowed her to relate to the character that was holding onto his feelings and to see his journey of holding onto them then safely releasing his feelings with trusted others. Tara and I discussed emotions and emotional reactions. She often got overwhelmed with her feelings and then this is seen in her behaviour when she can vent her frustrations towards others including some staff and her parents, yet this is selective. Tara’s emotional presentation can seem angry at the world and unsettled with some confusion around her feelings. She seems to be unable to fully explain her emotions and she is not yet able to selfregulate her feelings without adult assistance and direction. She ‘bottles’ up some of her feelings and she struggles to understand the magnitude of some of her feelings. The Nifflenoo story allowed us to work through her feelings by firstly relating to Niffelnoo as she could retell the story to reinforce the message and then we could relate this to her through additional activities and discussions around the theme of the story. This led us to discussion about identifying a social network where she could choose people she could go to to share her feelings and to talk through her worries at home and school and we identified significant others. Tara showed good imagination and creativity when she was confident in 145


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the task and she felt confident to complete this. We used this skill to further explore her feelings and how she could manage these after identification. I asked her to pictorially represent angry and calm and she could do this very successfully showing good visual representation and flexibility. We completed angry together and we both drew our representations. She drew a firework explosion of strong colours for anger. Tara completed a representation of strong lines with strong, dark colours such as red, black and grey. She made defined lines down the page which filled the space. For calm she drew pastel coloured hearts, butterflies, stars and flowers which filled the page and made a beautiful montage. She attached appropriate vocabulary to both pictures. She completed the ‘calm’ version at home and showed that she had a full concept of the idea. She took this calm picture back home with her and stuck it in a prominent place in her room. As part of the work Tara was introduced to some techniques from the field of Mindfulness (5). Tara has also been shown some therapeutic breathing techniques which she used well and she called this ‘the trick’ and used it appropriately (7/11, breathing in to the count of 7 and out to the count of 11). She has recorded many times how she has used this approach to help her regulate her feelings and then was able to describe to her significant others what she needed or how she felt in an appropriate manner. We also completed some guided visualisation as part of the Mindfulness work and the Nifflenoo story work. She used her favourite beach where she goes on holiday. Again this has proved to be very powerful and she has reported that she has used this many times to help her regulate her emotions, especially in times of heightened agitation. During the course of the work, with school staff, we introduced some ABC (Antecedent, (presenting) Behaviour, Consequence) charts to look at the triggers and maintaining factors to her behaviour. These highlighted when Tara was unable to cope with others’ responses and how she managed this. This allowed for a monitoring and formulation for evidence for staff. The material was also used with Tara in the sessions where staff delivered assertiveness training to look through scenarios and use ‘talking therapy’ techniques to work through these with Tara in respect to her responses and how to communicate her feelings effectively. School staff continued to use the 146


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ABC Charts to help work out the triggers for some of Tara’s emotions and what maintains Tara’s behaviour and keeps her acting in this way in some situations. Tara and I completed some ‘Laddering’ (6) exercises on how she felt about the situations with her peers and what troubled her most. We then moved on to coping statements that she could use in challenging situations at home and school. It transpired that she was most bothered by the perception that they wanted to get her into trouble and that they wouldn’t listen to her when she was upset with them and felt cross. The laddering began by ‘I don’t have many friends’….. and followed through to ‘the children won’t listen when I am cross and then I get more cross’. Towards the end of the piece of work Tara was seen in a Drama/RE lesson and she was really enjoying this task and was able to understand the abstract representations in it. She was able to ‘act’ and show her emotions, including ‘crying’ and ‘sadness’ in her emotions through the acting. Her attention and concentration skill were much improved since the work began and she seemed less agitated overall. As part of the consultations with school staff her seating position was considered in class and this has helped with her attention and concentration also.

Concluding Comments and Casework Outcomes Tara has developed a complex emotional view about herself and this is coupled with low self-esteem. Tara had developed a framework of thinking around being bullied and this had become her internal narrative for when things went wrong. She and her mum reported that she was bullied at her last school and even though this has not been reported at this school but this was still how she viewed more challenging interactions. She had an internal narrative that all her peers are out to bully her and this was challenged and changed through the piece of work. In all sessions with me she reported that school was ‘good’ and that her weeks had been ‘good’ too. She appeared happy in school and this was reported by school staff also. This improved over the weeks I was involved. Tara struggled to know how to respond to the reactions of others with 147


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assertiveness and this was sometimes then translated in her reactions and was seen as anger. Work around this was continued by school staff informed by the assessment to develop assertiveness and monitored by myself. Tara was holding onto her feelings rather than sharing them appropriately with trusted adults. This likely contributed to her poor self esteem and her negative view of herself. She reported that she got scared if she allowed her feelings to be released as she worried that she may lose control or people will think bad of her and this further compounded her negative view of herself, leading to a spiral effect of her experiencing more anger because of this. Tara also had contributing sensory needs and immaturity of her sensory system. She sought out sensory experiences such as mouthing objects and required sensory snacks/ movement breaks. Once more since her emotions stabilised a little she was seen to do this less often. It quickly became apparent that Tara did not show any evidence of Autism or other neurological developmental conditions. Her social interaction, the ability to interact successfully with others in the social world was very good and she showed much maturity in her knowledge of the world and talking to adults about this. She conversed appropriately in a conversation, was able to take turns, use humour, good timing and content. Her social communication was very good and her language fluency and conversation very good mature in many ways. She showed good imagination and creativity when she wasis confident in the task and she felt confident to complete this. She did not show any obsessions or lack a flexibility of mind and is not restricted by any of these things in communication. Tara showed a poor level of self-esteem and self-image and this affected her emotional presentation and self-worth. She didnâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t feel that she wais good at things or as capable as the others. This was having an effect on her concentration and attention skills in class. At the end of the piece of work post assessment was carried out around this self-esteem and image and her behavioural presentation with staff and Tara. There had been a two point score change on the formal assessments which did show some improvement from Taraâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s view of herself. However, a large improvement was noted by the teaching staff in her attention and concentration and her ability to come and seek help from them when she 148


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needed it, shown on the post Goodman’s assessment and in further staff consultations. They also stated that she did not get as cross with the other children and she shouted at them much less. The most pleasing aspect of the improvements though were from Tara herself when she reported that she consistently used the Mindfulness Techniques, such as the breathing and the visualisation for emotional regulation and to help her assess her choices and this led to a more consistent and ready use of coping statements. Tara used the 7/11 breathing exercise consistently when situations became challenging or her emotions became heightened and she called this technique ‘the trick’. She also reported that the best thing about all of the work had been having someone to talk to who would listen to her and understand that she was finding it hard to cope with her feelings.

Summary The principles of Personal Construct Psychology played a large part of the piece of direct casework in using the techniques to obtain the information directly from Tara to aid the formulations and plan for outcomes for interventions. The techniques also informed the course of the work and provided a framework in which to work with Tara and to help her get to know herself better and enhance her emotional regulation through using the techniques and revisiting the formulations to inform practice. These techniques were complemented with techniques from cognitive behavioural theory, formal assessments and Mindfulness techniques. This eclectic approach allowed a rich picture to develop to inform and guide thinking and to provide the best outcome for Tara rather than focusing on a stricter, within-child diagnostic model of assessing purely the possibility of neurological developmental conditions, such as Autistic Spectrum Disorders. Being school based for this piece of casework for a longer, designated time each week (half a day) allowed applied direct work and on–going consultation with staff whilst being able to deliver a therapeutic piece of work directly. This was flexible in style. This piece of work highlighted to me, as an experienced Educational Psychologist, the power of using PCP techniques in casework. I was able to 149


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revisit and appreciate these techniques when ascertaining information from young people and sharing this information with staff and parents due to the strength of PCP as an eliciting tool. In this piece of work I shared the techniques with others to encourage analytical thinking and move away from a within child model. The most striking and powerful part of this casework through is how the techniques could elicit the views of Tara directly and empower those views and then use these to form outcomes to increase her emotional well-being and life satisfaction in school and at home whilst fostering understanding and support in the adults around her.

References 1. Beck et al. (2005) Beck Youth Inventories, second edition for children and adolescents, Pearson. 2. Goodman (97) Goodmanâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s Strength and Difficulties Questionnaire (SDQ) http://www.sdqinfo.org 3. http://www.drawingtheidealself.co.uk 4. Sunderland, M. (2003). A Nifflenoo Called Nevermind: A Story for Children Who Bottle Up Their Feelings (Helping Children with Feelings). Oxford: Speechmark Publishing. 5. Mindfulness - en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mindfulness_(psychology) 6. Little, B.R. (1972). Psychological Man as Scientist, Humanist and Specialist. Journal ofExperimental research in Personality, 6, 95-118.Kelly (1955)

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About Lucinda Dunn I was introduced to the benefits of PCP when training to become an Educational Psychologist 12 years ago. At this time I was bowled over by the enthusiasm of the Birmingham course director Mrs Sue Morris and how she shared the merits of the techniques with us. Since this time I have used the techniques within my psychology practice and more recently in an increasingly eclectic way and have enjoyed seeing the benefits of combining these techniques with others from other areas of psychology. This is where the thinking for this piece of work came from and shows how the versatility of PCP can be well married with other techniques from applied psychology. Applied psychology with young people and eliciting their views to make their voice heard has always been the root of my professional practice; alongside acting as an advocate for young people and this piece of work shows this. I continue to work in this way across a variety of settings and with families and young people helping to contribute to making young peopleâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s lives better and to help children raise their self-worth. Helping young people manage the stresses and pressures of the modern world and enhance

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their resiliency through eliciting and sharing new skills and developing their skills is essential to helping young people reach their potential and be happy.

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Exploring construing about school using Minecraft Heather Moran I had advance knowledge of Faye Morgan-Rose’s work using Lego to elaborate a child’s view’s of classrooms and I thought I might try it out using Minecraft. Minecraft is very popular with young people at the moment. I came across it in my work with youngsters with ASD, many of whom love the game. It is Lego-like, building with blocks to make all sorts of things but also has additional magical features which make it possible to build all sorts of things. An extra feature is breeding creatures, with wolves and chickens being particularly popular. A culture has developed around it with YouTube videos of the game that are viewed millions of times. There is a developing interest in using Minecraft in education and it is accessible for most ages, for most abilities and has the potential to be simple or complicated, depending upon the child. It seems to be popular with boys and girls and they are able to connect together to view each other’s creations or compete with each other.

Set up Luckily I have a willing 12 year old son, Andrew, who was eager to be try this out. I used the game to elaborate his construing of classrooms, school, students and teachers. Minecraft is a very engaging programme so I set a 30 minute time limit for him to make each of the classrooms, otherwise there was a real risk that the task might never be finished! Andrew made two classrooms, one he would not like and one he would like. I did not need to be with him for this and it probably would have proved to be a distraction if I had watched. Potentially, this could be a homework task. When they were finished, he showed me around them whilst I asked him some questions about them. I recorded the interview on the computer,

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allowing a recording of what we saw and what we said. We only did one ‘take’ so you will have to forgive the rather stilted start and you can spend time spotting my truly stupid question. I have left it in to show that even with daft mistakes, you can still get the job done! (If you are looking for a tool for this I used I Show U which recorded what was on the screen and what he said. It was a bit fiddly to set up but worked well once I had it organised.) The recording was for the purpose of showing other people and it is not essential to the process, as long as you can write down what the young person says. An alternative would be to record the conversation on an iPad or dictaphone. Author’s note - If you can’t play the videos on this device, they do play inside the iPad version of this book and that will work on an iPhone, an iPad or a Mac (search the iTunes bookstore). These links will take you to the YouTube videos 1. The classroom I would not like - Part 1 2. The classroom I would not like - Part 2 3. The classroom I would not like - Part 3 4. The classroom I would like - Part 1 5. The classroom I would like - Part 2

1. The classroom I would not like - part 1

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2. The classroom I would not like - part 2

3. The classroom I would not like - part 3

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4. The classroom I would like part 1

4. The classroom I would like part 1

I watched the videos and noted Andrewâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s constructs. There were four groups of constructs: teachers, children, the environment and school work. We looked at the groups in turn: each time I invited Andrew to provide the contrast poles and then to rate his school (marked with X) and his ideal school (marked with I). This gave an idea of the ways Andrew would like things to be different at school (Figures 1-4).

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Figure 1: construing teachers

Figure 2: construing children

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Figure 3: construing the environment

Figure 4: construing school work

Eyeballing the gap between his current and ideal ratings gives an indication of the things which are a greater issue for him. Looking at his ratings there are a few things which could be explored in more detail. In particular, I would have wanted to discuss more about what he meant by teachers being strict, particularly as it does not seem to be linked with good behaviour from the children. Enjoyment of work seems to be connected with

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it being easier. I could have explored things he has done in or outside school which were enjoyable but difficult. This would shed light on what exactly he means by difficult (e.g. is it related to effort or perception of the task). I asked Andrew for three things to change about the school (Figure 5) and he seemed to be suggesting that school needs to develop more entertaining teaching methods in order for him to feel engaged and competent.

Figure 5: three things to change about the school

Finally, I asked Andrew to give some advice to his head teacher and the governors about how to make school better (Figure 6). From what he said, it looks like more differentiation might help, or a boost in confidence so that he can tackle work without thinking it might be too hard for him.

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The whole of this process took about an hour and a half and there were plenty of aspects of Andrewâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s construing that could have been explored further. The process was pretty simple but from his view point, the Minecraft part made it more interesting. It provided a rich source of constructs, mostly without Andrew being particularly conscious of that. For some young people, that engagement would be very helpful. This process could easily have been used in a meeting with teachers to see whether they were aware of his views and to consider how they might respond to his suggestions.

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Recommended PCP Education YouTube videos There are some useful videos on YouTube. You will need to be connected to the internet to watch them. Harry Procter talks about the PEG, a really useful grid for practical work with a child, family or a group. Personal Construct Psychology and Qualitative Grids Exercise - How to use the Perceiver Element Grid Interpreting the Perceiver Element Grid Using the Event Perceiver Grid Relational Grids The Institute of Constructivist Psychology interviews world's colleagues (really nice to be able to put names to faces): "What's Personal Construct Psychology for you?" Repertory Grid - Vivien Burr - Part 1, Part 2

Useful websites The PCP Association is a UK organisation which has links to interest groups and CPD. The Personal Construct.net site has lots of useful links across the world, including to the free online journal. The European Personal Construct Association runs a conference and has links to PCP in various European countries. PCP training is available in Institutes of Constructivist Psychotherapy in Padua, Italy and Belgrade, Serbia . The Coventry Constructivist Centre runs workshops and quarterly study days. 161


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Reading The relationship between language and communication difficulties and behaviour Benner, G. J., Nelson, J. R., & Epstein, M. H. (2002). Language skills of children with EBD: A literature review. Journal of Emotional and Behavioural Disorders, 10(1), 43–56. Botting, N., & Conti-Ramsden, G. (2010). The role of language, social cognition, and social skill in the functional social outcomes of young adolescents with and without a history of SLI. British Journal of Developmental Psychology, 26(2), 281–300. Clegg, J., Stackhouse, J., Finch, K., Murphy, C., & Nicholls, S. (2009). Language abilities of secondary age pupils at risk of school exclusion: A preliminary report. Child Language Teaching and Therapy, 25(1), 123–139 Cross, M. (1998). Undetected communication problems in children with behavioural problems. International Journal of Language & Communication Disorders, 33(S1), 509–514. Fujiki, M., Brinton, B., & Clarke, D. (2002). Emotion regulation in children with specific language impairment. Language, Speech & Hearing Services in Schools, 33(2), 102–111. Harter, S. (1999). The Construction of Self. New York: Guildford Press. Lindsay, G., Dockrell, J. E., & Strand, S. (2010). Longitudinal patterns of behaviour problems in children with specific speech and language difficulties: Child and contextual factors. British Journal of Educational Psychology, 77(4), 811–828. Ripley, K., & Yuill, N. (2005). Patterns of language impairment and behaviour in boys excluded from school, British Journal of Educational Psychology, 75(1), 37–50. Use of visual and non-verbal methods to support work with children and young people

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Burnham, S. (2008). Let’s talk: using personal construct psychology to support children and young people. Sage Publications. Butler, R. (1985). Towards an understanding of childhood difficulties. In N. Beail (Ed.), Repertory grid technique and personal constructs: applications in clinical & educational Settings. Routledge. Butler, R., & Green, D. R. (2007). The child within: taking the young person’s perspective by applying personal construct psychology (2nd ed.). Wiley-Blackwell. Dalton, P. (1998). Mark: relationship problems for a 13-year-old with severe hearing impairment. In D. Syder (Ed.), Wanting to talk: counselling case studies in communication disorders. Wiley-Blackwell. Hardman, C. (2001). Using Personal Construct Psychology to Reduce the Risk of Exclusion. Educational Psychology in Practice, 17(1), 41–51. Moran, H. (2001). Who Do You Think You Are? Drawing the Ideal Self: A Technique to Explore a Child’s Sense of Self. Clinical Child Psychology and Psychiatry, 6(4), 599–604. Ravenette, A. T. (1999). Personal construct theory in educational psychology: a practitioner’s view. Wiley-Blackwell. Salmon, P. (1988). Psychology for teachers – an alternative approach. Hutchinson. Walker, B. M., & Winter, D.A. (2007). The elaboration of personal construct psychology. Annual Review of Psychology, 58, 453-477. Wilson, P. & Long, I. (2009). The big book of blob trees. Speechmark Publishing. Trauma Malchiodi, C. A. (2008). Creative Interventions with Traumatized Children. The Guilford Press. Stopa, L. (2009). Imagery and the Threatened Self: perspectives on mental imagery and the self in cognitive therapy. Routledge.

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The story of this book I wanted there to be a different sort of book about PCP. To me, the joy of using a PCP approach is in the practice rather than in academic writing. I had met a lot of other PCP enthusiasts who had not written papers about their work and they were interested but didn’t have the time. So, I thought that people might be willing to have a go at a writing if there were fewer restrictions on how they wrote. In March 2014 I sent this brief for the book to people I knew and to an Educational Psychology forum. Hi folks I am wondering about whether I can pull together some PCP papers on working with young people and their families written by .....YOU! Since there has not been another book focussed on kids and those who work with them for some time now so I thought I'd have a go at editing one.  I have no publisher and I am thinking that it will be self published and published for nothing!  There is little money to be made from publishers anyway, so since we can't become millionaires, I'd like to do it for love of PCP and to encourage a wide readership and introduce new people to PCP.  I'd like to create something which would be well-read and recommended as useful and interesting.  No cost would mean that more people might give it a go. If you know someone who might be interested, is using PCP in their everyday practice and can write about it with enthusiasm, give me their email address and I can ask them to join this merry band. There is a long time frame and the date is carefully placed to allow you to slog away as you lie by the sea or sit in a sunny cafe on your holiday!  Papers to be submitted by August 31st and I will edit, then publish via Amazon and iBooks (if I can work iBooks out) by October 31st.  It could be earlier if people have done the writing. So, if you are interested let me know by replying to this email and

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suggest a paper topic to me. I am not sure how many words a chapter 'should' be - I reckon between 2-3,000 words. I'd be easy on that though, so if you wanted to write a shorter one that would be fine too. I am intrigued to see if any of you will go along with this madness!  If you think it is not for you, let me know that too. Regards Heather I wanted the papers to be whatever people wanted to write so their enthusiasm would shine through. The topics were up to them and one of the great delights for me was that I didn’t know what they would write about. I believed that there would be a spread of topics and that there would be a variety of methods. I wanted to lay out my stall and ensure that people kept (mostly) to the my aim. I sent the details out in this email. Hi there PCPers I am writing to you because you have expressed an interest in making a contribution to the PCP book.  I hope this persuades those who are mulling it over because your contribution would be so so valuable. I am delighted to say that we have about 30 potential authors for chapters of the PCP book.  This reflects what I thought, there are people beavering away with PCP who are willing to share their enthusiam with others.  It may even be that we could have two volumes!  There is a nice mix of people at the start of their career and others who longer in their path, which will be great for newcomers to PCP to see.  I have been thinking a lot about what makes a paper readable and you will see in the proposal below that I am trying to make this book as easy to read as possible.  The potential audience is people like us so if we write something we'd each like to read, that might be a good start.  There are papers out there which are in the traditional academic style but not many

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books or papers in a less formal style. A good example is Dorothy Rowe (a PCP person who never really tells people that) - she is less constrained by formalities.  It would be good to connect things back to elements of the theory if that is relevant but don't feel that you have to prove what you know.  I am intrigued to see whether some of these papers will be creative and suggest new ways of using PCP, or have new angles on it, or illustrate new techniques which the author has developed. (I am excited by the prospect of the CPD I will get from reading them all!) The aim is to help the audience know and understand aspects of PCP and its use in the real world.  So, if you want to write about what you found in your research, that would be brilliant as long as the style is very accessible.  That might be great for some people but I recognise that it could be a little scary for those who are used to academic writing.   Freedom is not always comfortable. This is the final proposal, so see if you definitely want to take part and let me know your chapter title.  You can change it if you need to but I'd like to be able to make a list to make myself feel better! None of us will be any richer in money but we will have done something interesting and challenging that is helpful to our colleagues, as well as raising the profile of PCP. Hope to hear from you soon. Best wishes Heather ----------------------------------------------------------------------------------Title: Using PCP in practice: working with children and adolescents Word processing - please use WORD - I will probably load it into Scrivener so if you already have that writing programme, you can send a Scrivener file instead of Word.  (Anyone looking for a great writing 166


Using Personal Construct Psychology (PCP) with children and adolescents

programme can get a free trial via the Scrivener site. I find it really helps because you can write a bit at a time. A great iPad app is iThoughts.  Very clever mind mapping which converts to a Word doc if you like and now it is available for Mac). Chapters  - a maximum of 6 pages of A4 Style •

very readable (ideal for a PCP beginner)

easy to understand - you might imagine that you are giving

a talk or having a discussion with a colleague rather than writing for an editorial board •

engaging in content (images, diagrams etc are encouraged but not

essential - diagrams can be hand-drawn/written as long as they are clear) •

references - no references in the text (because it reduces

readability) but you can have numbers to connect to a short reference list at the end of your paper. No references are required - it can be all your own ideas and creativity is encouraged •

I will make a further reading section with the Kelly references -

suggested additional PCP reading (books or papers) would be great. If you'd like to add to this, please make a further reading section after the end of your paper with the references in the Harvard style and I will cut and paste them into the further reading section. Dates - papers need to be emailed to me by 31st August for editing.  You can send it any time before that so if you are speedy please don't wait till August. Community spirit - I have made a Facebook page for us to encourage each other.  Have a look and like it and we can use it to encourage the creative process.  Certainly, I will need some encouragement not to leave it till the last minute so I reckoned there may be others like me!  If you are 167


Using Personal Construct Psychology (PCP) with children and adolescents

not a face booker, don't worry. I will also send out some emails with updates. Editing - I propose that you give it to at least one other person before sending it to me, so that typos, sentence structure and sense is checked.  Please ask a kind colleague or friend to proof read it for you.  It can be hard to see our own errors or lack of clarity when it is so clear in our heads.  As an aside, you may not be aware that Kelly wrote the theory like this - he wrote parts, read them to his post grad students, discussed it with them and modified accordingly.  When I get it, I will focus on whether it fits with the above style and whether it does whatever you say it will do, rather than the grammar and spelling. Publication - If all goes according to plan, everything will be compiled into a book and ready in November.  I will upload it to Amazon (most likely) and iBooks (if I can work that out) as a free book.   As the papers came in, I became a little worried about how it might look. I was surprised to find that people referenced my work and rather concerned that readers would think I had set that up? There were two options, to reject those papers or to tolerate that my intentions might be misinterpreted. I have gone for the latter because to do otherwise would be against the spirit in which they were written. I hope that this explanation of how it happened helps to convince readers who thought it might be self-interest. I have to thank all those people who have tried my Drawing the Ideal Self technique and tell them that I am so delighted that what I did has helped them and the children they worked with. I was no idea that would ever happen - I made it up in a session with a child, mainly because I felt that I had to do something different. I thought the story of that technique might be a hopeful one to a busy professionals, so here is how Drawing the Ideal Self happened. As an educational psychologist, I was working with a large, high achieving secondary school. The child involved was a lad I had I worked with every year for the first three years of secondary schooling. Every year we put in a behaviour programme and he improved but when the programme

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Using Personal Construct Psychology (PCP) with children and adolescents

was removed he reverted to his previous behaviour. His school was frustrated and felt they couldn’t offer the support for the programmes when they had no lasting affect. After Y10 started badly, there was a very serious meeting with the local authority, teachers and parents and it was agreed that I would see him again for four sessions for one last try before they looked at a move to a special school. So, we had a great chats leading nowhere useful and we came to the last session. Then my first Drawing the Ideal Self happened and I don’t really know how! Maybe my motivation was at its highest with my reputation on the line...maybe I had some creative inspiration from somewhere? I had started the PCP advanced course and that certainly inspired me. The lad was dyslexic so I did the writing for him and that process worked nicely. Within an hour, I had a new awareness of issues for him and I could see that he and school were not ideally suited and I could understand why he his behaviour reverted after the end o the behaviour programme. It was so exciting and I felt that this was something different. I took his pictures to the review meeting and explained his construing. The really interesting thing for me was how much that changed people’s views of him and of his behaviour. They reconstrued a number of things: him, their own work and their efforts to help him. This led to a new plan, a key worker (teacher who volunteered himself although he had had many conflicts with this child) and a more relaxed attitude to some of the things they had previously thought he did to challenge their authority. The new plans worked and his behaviour improved so I didn’t see him again. That is always the rather sad part of working like this - I don’t hear the end of the story and get to ‘feel’ it for myself because I am not needed any more Nanny McPhee from the children’s film put it well: “There is something you should understand about the way I work. When you need me but do not want me, then I must stay. When you want me but no longer need me, then I have to go. It's rather sad, really, but there it is.” A couple of years after this piece of work, I had a surprise message at work via a family friend who worked in the same organisation as me. He told

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Using Personal Construct Psychology (PCP) with children and adolescents

them that this had saved his school career and asked her to say hi to me. His review cemented my view: working like this using PCP is not just a quick fix - it has a lasting effect and it can change the course of lives. Its impact is not related to the length of the sessions, the extent of professional involvement: it is related to whether we do things which are meaningful and lead to reconstruction. I showed Drawing the Ideal Self to some other people interested in PCP and I started to refine the technique through using it with various children. I talked about it at a Birmingham PCP meeting and somehow it ended up being passed from psychologist to psychologist. I wrote it up for academic publication when someone I didn’t in another part of the country wanted to use it in CPD they were doing with teaching assistants. I was delighted but the only documentation was the prompt sheet! I thought I had better do something about that so it was published and I started working on the manual. The name had stuck by then - maybe Drawing the Ideal Self is not the snappiest but it does tell you what it is. Going back to the book, I thought if I could make something up in a session, develop it to become a useful technique and then pass it on to other people who also found it worked, then so can other people. I wanted to generate enthusiasm with this book, to get people trying PCP and thinking about what they do in sessions. My view of PCP is that it is accessible at different levels, it is possible to understand the basics and then to use it successfully. In true Kellyan fashion, it is not possible to separate the thinking and the doing - by trying a technique, we might find that we have developed our construing of PCP without realising it. For me, the excitement of doing led me to the theory. I guess I have made this book for my younger self and the other people I know who ask “What do you actually DO in a session?” and for those who think they wouldn’t be able to do it. You will have discovered that there are 11 authors here, after about 30 expressed an interest. There are more authors out there who couldn’t fit their writing into the time frame or had to say no due to more pressing demands on their time. This is a message for them - please think about whether you

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Using Personal Construct Psychology (PCP) with children and adolescents

would like to write something in a further volume and let me know. If you have read this book and now think you could make a contribution to about volume, get in touch. It is also a message to you, the reader... are you feeling inspired enough to help others to learn about PCP? So, in the style of all the best TV documentaries, if you think you have been affected by the contents of this book, Iâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;d love to hear about it! You can email me - drawingtheidealself@me.com

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Using Personal Construct Psychology (PCP) in Practice with Children and Adolescents  

Interested in PCP and want to find out how to use it in your work? Here you will find work from practitioners using Personal Construct Psyc...

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