Kelly’s stationary paper technique: what it is and how is it used in therapy

Often times when we have a problem or are in pain for some reason, looking at things from another perspective can help us find a solution. This is what George Kelly thought when he created the stationary paper technique, Framed in the theory of personal constructions and based on a constructivist approach to reality.

Constructivism postulates that reality is not a single, immutable thing, but that it is constructed; there are as many realities as there are people in the world. Each person will create their own reality and give it their own personal meaning. The nuances are endless.

In the following lines, we will see the foundations of constructivist psychology raised by G. Kelly.

    Kelly and the beginning of constructivism

    George Kelly was an American psychologist who proposed the theory of personal constructions. According to this theory, people build the world on the basis of personal constructionsIn other words, in order to make sense of the experiences.

    Thus, each person attributes to the experience a certain meaning, the result of these constructions.

    In order to know more and more about the world around us and to anticipate the consequences of what is happening around us, we must gradually adjust and modify our system of constructions. this this will change with time and with the experiences we gain.

    Origin of the fixed paper technique

    The fixed paper technique, also known as fixed role therapy, was first proposed by Kelly in 1955, although he began using it earlier, in the 1930s.

    This technique is considered the most representative of the theory of personal constructions, And is a useful tool for achieving therapeutic change.

    Using this technique, the therapist constructs patient-specific fictitious personality roles, And this should represent those roles for about 2 weeks. Through this implementation of new roles, the patient experiences new constructs that will help him achieve the change.

    It is important that the technique is acceptable to the patient so that the therapist and the patient can work together.

      Phases of this therapeutic process

      Let’s look in more detail at the phases that make up the technique.

      First, self-characterization is developed (which is also an evaluation technique proposed by Kelly, in 1955). At this stage the therapist asks the patient to write a description of himself (This is usually a few pages in the third person); this is what Kelly calls a “character sketch”.

      The therapist then constructs another description, called “stationary paper research”. The patient will have to represent the new role or character for a period of time (usually 2 weeks).

      So the patient will be faced with playing a role in solving the challenges, challenges and issues in your life, But from a different perspective. The fictitious personality (new role) will have a different name so that the patient can represent himself without losing his identity or compromising it.

      The technique also includes homework, which in this case will involve the exercise of the fixed role in work or academic situations (outside of therapy).

      At the final stage of the fixed role technique, the patient and the therapist they carry out an outcome evaluation, And the patient decides whether or not to keep some of the characteristics represented.

      In addition, in this last phase, a farewell letter is usually written to the character in the fixed role. This strategy makes it possible to prepare for the end of the therapeutic intervention

      Characteristics of the technique

      During therapy sessions, the patient will have to implement the new role (in addition to homework).

      On the other hand, one way the therapist can model the new role of the patient and the patient can see a specific situation from another’s point of view is to: use role reversal, With which the roles of therapist and patient are reversed. Thus, the patient plays the role of the therapist and vice versa; it allows the patient to explore reality from another point of view. Attitudes of exploration and experimentation will facilitate change.

      The aim of the fixed paper technique is for the patient try in practice what it would be like to live without the problem you have (Also called a dilemma), with the security and peace of mind of not asking you to delete it. That way, if you think the change is too threatening, you can go back to your normal mode of operation.

      Finally, the patient is expected to be able to reorganize his old system of constructions, to modify his personal constructions and to develop new ones, this time more functional.

      Bibliographical references:

      • Cloninger, S. (2002). Personality theories. Mexico: Pearson Education
      • Senra, J., Feixas, G. and Fernandes, E. (2005). Handbook for Intervention in Implicit Dilemmas. Journal of Psychotherapy, 16 (63/64), 179-201.

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