PCP is unusual in that it was written by George Kelly as one complete two volume work . The Psychology of Personal Constructs is over 1500 pages long. The first volume is the theory and the second volume is how the theory can be applied in a clinical context: The Psychology of Personal Constructs was first published in 1955 and republished in 1991).


The Psychology

A psychology sets out to describe how each of us functions. Indeed when Kelly was asked to describe his theory he said that all he had done was to produce a way of describing the understandings that people were using in their everyday lives.


Of Personal

Each of us understand the world in our own way. What is beautiful to me may be ugly to you, what is stingy to you may be reasonable to me. When you tell me that I am stingy I have to understand what stingy means to you... your personal meaning



Constructs are the frameworks we use to understand the world.

Ugly vs. Beautiful is a construct, as is
Stingy vs. Reasonable.

Once have a clear idea of what constructs you use I can begin to understand how you function in your world.
Kelly was always very clear that he had written a psychology, not a therapy: the therapy comes from within the psychology.

If I understand how I construe normally, then my difficulties can be understood as ways of construing which are not working for me. Although Kelly himself only elaborated his work in psychotherapy PCP is applicable to every setting that people function within.

It has therefore been used to understand issues in health, education, organisations, forensics, counselling, coaching, architecture, advertising, and many other settings.

PCP is written in a very formal language and this is often quite off-putting at first experience. PCP comes alive when it allows you to understand yourself better. Many of Kelly’s ideas took everyday words and used them in a more psychological way. A good example of this is his definition of GUILT:

“Guilt is the awareness of dislodgment from one’s core role structure.”

So if I am guilty I am experiencing some form of loss of my core role. I have done something which clashes with my central sense of self (my core role). I have choices.. I can change my behaviour ( I stop stealing ) or I can change my core role (there is nothing wrong with me stealing)

So we always have a choice,, a key Kellian idea. We make that choice with some anticipation of what the likely consequences will be. PCP is a psychology of Anticipation, at its heart is the metaphor of people formulating their ways of meaning making, both verbal and non verbal (i.e. their constructs) which govern their future behaviour.

So PCP interventions are always aimed at understanding why the person is struggling to anticipate, what is not working in their construing system. The client is seen as a co creator of their own well being.