Kelly did not begin his career with the intention of developing personal construct theory. In fact, his initial training was not even in the field of personality psychology. Kelly's original specialty in graduate school was physiological psychology, and his dissertation was concerned with the areas of speech and reading disabilities. Having received his degree around the time of the Great Depression, however, Kelly came to the conclusion that the principles and concepts contained within his areas of specialization offered little solace to those who were emotionally and financially devastated in the aftermath of the Depression. He turned to clinical psychology, with an initial emphasis on the psychoanalytic approach. He noted that concepts such as the id and the libido seemed of no use in dealing with victims of the Depression.
Kelly's initial academic position was at Fort Hays State College in Kansas. While at Fort Hays, he developed a series of traveling psychological clinics designed to treat the emotional and behavioral problems of students. This experience was crucial in the eventual formulation of personal construct theory. Kelly tried numerous forms of treatment with the students and determined that the optimal technique varied across cases. This led him to conclude that any clinical technique that is successful should be retained, while techniques that result in repeated treatment failure should be discarded. This flexibility, reflected in his later theoretical claims regarding constructive alternativism and his fundamental postulate, has made Kelly unique among personality theorists. His willingness to respect subjective reality as determined by each human being is reflective of his unwillingness to commit himself totally to any one theoretical perspective. Although Kelly was influenced by many theorists, he clearly traveled his own path in the development of his psychology of personal constructs.
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