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Section 14
Negative Constructs in Grief Process

CEU Question 14 | CEU Test | Table of Contents | Grief
Psychologist CEs, Social Worker CEUs, Counselor CEUs, MFT CEUs

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On the last track we discussed Investing in Solitude.  We described two techniques for investing in solitude, as well as the panic of being alone, and the three ways in which clients may try to avoid self-awareness.  The three ways in which clients may try to avoid self-awareness are busyness, killing time, and noise.

As you may already know the Web Construct encourages the processing of therapeutic issues through the identification of negative constructs that result from internalized emotions.  I have found that this identification allows the client to make connections between negative cognitions and their precipitating events. 

On this track we will discuss The Web Construct as it related to the grief process.  I will describe how The Web Construct works and three goals of the Web Construct.  The three goals related to the grief process are to emphasize individuality, to reestablish equilibrium, and to help reconstruct client’s lives.
How The Web Construct Works
To understand how the Web Construct works related to the grief process, we will explore how The Web Construct was created.  Amber, age 21, entered  counseling with complaints of panic, anxiety, and unresolved grief issues following the death of her mother. During therapy, Amber began a journaling exercise which allowed her to externalize her emotions.  Amber was creative and described many of her emotions in metaphors.

One metaphor she wrote while describing her emotions led to the creation of a Web Construct.  Amber wrote, "Every time I look for a place to start, I can’t find one.  Everything seems so tangled that I can’t find the end of the string."  Amber’s journaling uncovered a repressed incident of acquaintance rape.  Amber’s journaling led to her experiencing suppressed emotions from the rape that became raw and overwhelming.  Suddenly, Amber found that journaling was no longer an adequate technique because she had no words to express her formerly suppressed emotions. 

Due to her frustration, her therapist suggested she maintain her metaphor of ‘tangled emotions’ by trying to name each emotion or string.  At home, Amber quickly jotted down words which she felt exemplified her state of mind.  Some of the words Amber wrote included ‘loss’, ‘pain’, ‘alone’, ‘violated’, and ‘anger’. Because Amber wanted to express the depth of each grief emotion, she wrote each word in colored marker on a blank index card.  Using crayons, Amber drew a visual image of her connotation of each word. 

For example, the bold, black letters of ‘anger’ sat on a background of aggressive black scratches and red swirls.  ‘Alone’ was shadowed and meek in the center of a blue cavern.  A burst of bright red fading into pink and grey clearly illustrated ‘pain’.  After creating each card, Amber wanted to make connections between each emotion.  After several failed attempts at making any linear connections, Amber realized that the connections were more complex than she thought.  Amber began placing the cards on the floor and connecting all other cards which related to the first card. 

For example, Amber linked fear with shame, through the fear that others would learn her secrets.  She then linked fear with alone, through a fear of abandonment.  Finally, Amber linked fear with untrusting, through fear of rejection.  As each card was laid out, Amber’s Web grew.  Amber was awed that she had created a concrete representation of the emotional chaos she had been experiencing.  Amber realized how deeply her sexual assault had affected her when she noticed that the card for ‘violated’ was at the center of her Web. 

Amber stated, "All of my fear, pain, grief, and guilt converged on that one word.  ‘Violated’."  The Web became a powerful technique for Amber to reconstruct the meaning she attached to grief.  Are you treating a client who could benefit from hearing how Amber applied the Web Construct to her emotional grief?

Three Goals of the Web Construct
The three goals of the Web Construct were to emphasize individuality, to reestablish equilibrium, and to help reconstruct Amber’s life. 

--The first goal of the Web Construct is to emphasize individuality.  Essentially, Amber was faced with the necessity to adapt to a changed reality.  Thus a constructivist approach allowed her  to find new ways to view herself in her new world.  Though many clients believe they need to ‘let go’ of the deceased and try to return to their ‘normal life’, many of the clients I have treated find that ‘normal life’ is no longer possible.  These clients must grieve not only the loss of the deceased, but also the loss of previous constructs. 

When I use the Web Construct, I find it important to help clients evaluate the assumptions that were challenged by the loss.  Would you agree that this moves the client toward a new framework of meaning about life and the loss?   I have found that no singular emotion really exists among grieving clients.  Rather, like Amber, my clients experience a tangle of emotions.  Grieving clients that I have treated tended to ignore certain emotions while allowing themselves to feel other emotions which may have been expected of them. 

For example, clients may feel it is unacceptable to express feelings of anger and resentment.  These same grieving clients may feel it is acceptable to express sadness or even depression.  Some clients may even try to impose a time limit for their emotions.  I have found that the Web Construct emphasizes individuality of grief and therefore allows clients to experience each emotion. 

--The second goal of the Web Construct is to reestablish equilibrium.  As you know, clients experience disequilibria when faced with new and unfamiliar circumstances.  This disequilibria becomes the catalyst for the process of constructing meaning. I have found that grieving clients experience disequilibria as a response to the rapid alteration of constructs that occur from a significant loss. For clients experiencing grief, making meaning of the trauma that caused grief can help reestablish equilibrium.  I have found that this meaning can be found in some cases by using the Web Construct. 

-- The third goal of the Web Construct is to help reconstruct client’s lives.  The Web Construct provides a dynamic conceptualization of the grieving process as well as a method to help reconstruct client’s lives.  As healing continues clients may feel freed from their emotions and begin to construct new emotions as they reconstruct their lives. 

For example, Amber continued to work with her Web as she healed.  Eventually, words like ‘shame’ and ‘regret’ were replaced by ‘peace’ and ‘courage’.  Amber realized that though life experiences are permanent, the emotions associated with them are not.  Amber successfully reframed her experiences using the Web Construct.  Think of your Amber.  Could she or he benefit from using the Web Construct?

On this track, we discussed The Web Construct.  I described how The Web Construct works and three goals of the constructivist approach.  The three goals are to emphasize individuality, to reestablish equilibrium, and to help reconstruct client’s lives.

Peer-Reviewed Journal Article References:
Bargh, J. A., & Tota, M. E. (1988). Context-dependent automatic processing in depression: Accessibility of negative constructs with regard to self but not others. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 54(6), 925–939.

Jordan, A. H., & Litz, B. T. (2014). Prolonged grief disorder: Diagnostic, assessment, and treatment considerations. Professional Psychology: Research and Practice, 45(3), 180–187.

Smith, K. V., & Ehlers, A. (2020). Cognitive predictors of grief trajectories in the first months of loss: A latent growth mixture model. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 88(2), 93–105.

Taylor, S. (2020). Transformation through loss and grief: A study of personal transformation following bereavement. The Humanistic Psychologist. Advance online publication. 

Tignor, S. M., & Colvin, C. R. (2019). The meaning of guilt: Reconciling the past to inform the future. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 116(6), 989–1010.

Online Continuing Education QUESTION 14
What are three goals of the Web Construct? To select and enter your answer go to CEU Test.

This CD set has covered such topics as: Feelings of Isolation, the Relationship Inventory, Feelings of Guilt, Shattering Assumptions, Secondary Wounding, Healing Self-Statements, Physiology and Mind Sets of Grief, The Positive Side of Grief, The Three D’s of Grief, Replacement Children, Success, Solitude, and The Web Construct.

I hope you have found the information to be both practical and beneficial. We appreciate that you've chosen the Healthcare Training Institute at homestudycredit.com as a means for receiving your continuing education credit.

Other Home Study Courses we offer include: Treating Teen Self Mutilation; Treating Post Holiday Let-Down and Depression; Living with Secrets: Treating Childhood Sexual Trauma; Interventions for Anxiety Disorders with Children and Adults; and Balancing the Power Dynamic in the Therapeutic Relationship.

I wish you the best of luck in your practice.  Thank you.  Consider us for future home study needs at mentalhealthce.com.

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