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Vittorio Guidano

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Vittorio Filippo Guidano (4 August 1944, Rome, Italy – 31 August 1999, Buenos Aires, Argentina) was an Italian neuropsychiatrist, creator of the cognitive procedural systemic model[1] and contributor to constructivist post-rationalist cognitive therapy.[2] His cognitive post-rationalist model was influenced by attachment theory, evolutionary epistemology, complex systems theory, and the prevalence of abstract mental processes proposed by Friedrich Hayek.[3] Guidano conceived the personal system as a self-organized entity, in constant development.[3]

Among his published writings are the books Complexity of the Self (1987) and The Self in Progress (1991).[4] He was the first president of the Italian Society of Behavioural and Cognitive Therapy (SITCC) and he co-founded the Institute of Post-Rationalist Psychology and Psychotherapy (IPRA).[4][5] Guidano's work has been called "the most important influence" on Jeffrey Young's schema therapy.[6] He also influenced the elaboration of other constructivist psychotherapies such as coherence therapy.[7][8]

Guidano's post-rationalist cognitive therapy[edit]

Guidano's post-rationalist cognitive therapy is an approach to psychotherapy that focuses on understanding the construction of meaning, personal narratives, and emotional regulation in human experience.

Guidano, along with Giovanni Liotti, developed this therapeutic approach, which emphasizes the idea that individuals are complex, autonomous organisms in constant evolution. The therapy aims to help clients explore and modify their personal narratives, fostering greater self-awareness and facilitating therapeutic change.

One of the key concepts in Guidano's post-rationalist cognitive therapy is the "narrative self". This refers to the way individuals construct and make sense of their experiences through personal storytelling. According to Guidano, therapy should focus on helping clients examine and reshape their personal narratives to promote psychological well-being and growth.


Guidano incorporated Humberto Maturana's concept of autopoiesis into his approach to psychotherapy. Autopoiesis, a term coined by Maturana and Francisco Varela, refers to the self-organizing capacity of living systems to maintain their own organization and integrity.

Guidano drew upon Maturana's concept of autopoiesis to highlight the dynamic, self-organizing nature of the human mind and its ongoing construction of meaning and identity. He emphasized that individuals are active agents in creating their own reality, continuously interpreting and attributing meaning to their experiences.

Explicit and tacit levels of human experience[edit]

Vittorio Guidano proposed a model of human experience that involves two interconnected levels: the explicit level and the tacit level.

Explicit level: This level represents the conscious, verbalizable aspects of human experience. It includes thoughts, beliefs, memories, and emotions that individuals are aware of and able to express verbally. The explicit level is characterized by language and cognitive processes such as problem-solving and logical reasoning. It encompasses the narratives and stories that individuals construct to make sense of their experiences and identities.

Tacit level: In contrast, the tacit level represents the unconscious, non-verbal aspects of human experience. It includes underlying assumptions, implicit memories, emotional reactions, and bodily sensations that may not be consciously recognized or articulated by individuals. The tacit level is characterized by automatic, non-conscious processes that influence individuals' perceptions, behaviors, and emotional responses. It encompasses tacit schemas, scripts, and patterns of relating that are formed through early experiences, attachment and social interactions.

Guidano emphasized the dynamic interaction between these two levels of experience. He argued that while individuals may be consciously aware of their explicit thoughts and emotions, their tacit experiences and emotional responses often operate beneath conscious awareness, shaping their perceptions and behaviors in subtle ways.

Guidano's therapeutic approach aimed to help clients explore and integrate both explicit and tacit aspects of their experience, facilitating greater self-awareness, emotional regulation, and personal growth.

Sensory abstraction[edit]

Guidano also drew upon Friedrich Hayek's concept of the "Sensory Order" as a framework for understanding the organization of human experience and cognition. Hayek, a Nobel Prize-winning economist and philosopher, introduced the concept of the Sensory Order in his work on neuroscience and psychology.

The Sensory Order refers to the way in which sensory inputs are organized and processed by the brain to create our subjective experience of the world.

Guidano applied this concept to psychotherapy by highlighting the role of sensory abstraction in shaping individuals' thoughts, emotions, and behaviors. He viewed human experience as a complex, self-organizing system, in which sensory inputs are actively interpreted and attributed meaning by the individual at the tacit level.

Guidano's use of Hayek's concept of the Sensory Order emphasized the importance of exploring the underlying perceptual processes that influence individuals' subjective experience of themselves and their world.

Selected publications[edit]


  1. ^ Fergus, Karen D.; Reid, David W. (January 2002). "Integrating constructivist and systemic metatheory in family therapy". Journal of Constructivist Psychology. 15 (1): 41–63. doi:10.1080/107205302753305719. S2CID 144697314.
  2. ^ Neimeyer, Robert A. (2009). Constructivist psychotherapy: distinctive features. The CBT distinctive features series. Hove, East Sussex; New York: Routledge. p. 79. ISBN 9780415442336. OCLC 237402656.
  3. ^ a b Balbi, Juan (2008). "Epistemological and theoretical foundations of constructivist cognitive therapies: post-rationalist developments" (PDF). Dialogues in Philosophy, Mental and Neuro Sciences. 1 (1): 15–27.
  4. ^ a b Nardi, Bernardo; Pannelli, Giorgio (2001). "A tribute to Vittorio F. Guidano (1944–1999)" (PDF). European Psychotherapy. 2 (1): 18–19.
  5. ^ Arciero, Giampiero; Henriques, Aníbal (May 7, 2012). "After constructivism: Giampiero Arciero interviewed by Aníbal Henriques". ipra.it. Archived from the original on 2013-05-03. Retrieved 2016-03-27.
  6. ^ Edwards, David; Arntz, Arnoud (2012). "Schema therapy in historical perspective" (PDF). In Vreeswijk, Michiel van; Broersen, Jenny; Nardort, Marjon (eds.). The Wiley-Blackwell handbook of schema therapy: theory, research, and practice. Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons. pp. 3–26 [8]. doi:10.1002/9781119962830.ch1. ISBN 9780470975619. OCLC 754105045. However, the most important influence on Young was the work of the Italians Guidano and Liotti (1983), who integrated the developmental concepts of Jean Piaget (1896–1980) with Beck's cognitive therapy and Bowlby's attachment theory and spelled out the implications of this approach for working with patients with such problems as depression, eating disorders, and agoraphobia.
  7. ^ Ecker, Bruce; Hulley, Laurel (1996). Depth-oriented brief therapy: how to be brief when you were trained to be deep—and vice versa. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass. p. 125. ISBN 0787901520. OCLC 32465258.
  8. ^ Ecker, Bruce; Ticic, Robin; Hulley, Laurel (2012). Unlocking the emotional brain: eliminating symptoms at their roots using memory reconsolidation. New York: Routledge. p. 55. ISBN 9780415897167. OCLC 772112300.