The Language of Structuralism by Mark Hayward

This video explores the effects that structuralist thought has had on Western psychology, its dominance in cultural ideas about mental health and the different historical events that have contributed to this. It’s essentially a deconstruction of some of the ideas; a deconstruction that shows the foundations to be invented, not discovered, and exposes the limitations to our thinking when we accord these ideas truth status. Structuralism is an interesting and sometimes helpful theory and metaphor but only one of many possible ideas for understanding people and relationships.



Mark Hayward has worked as a Family Therapist in the UK for 30 years and retains a keen interest in unpacking ideas that can masquerade as truth or reality.

Published on 1 June 2018.

This Post Has 21 Comments

  1. Sarah Wakholi

    Hi Mark,
    I found your ideas very enlightening and I am so glad to have listened to it. It opened my mind up to possibilities and ways of thinking more specifically when working in the helping profession.
    Thank you.

  2. Divya

    Thank you for the very thought provoking talk. The idea of Neoliberalism and its impact on us really stood out for me. It gave words to an abstract idea and feeling I’ve held for a long time. And this helped me make sense of it and give me the language for it as well. Thank you!

  3. Danita

    Hi Mark,
    I found your presentation very thought provoking. As an non-structuralist Aboriginal woman, I now understand why I struggle with fitting into a work environment that has so many structures, and trying to conform when I don’t clearly think this way. It’s very disempowering to my identity as a cultural woman. The balancing of working in an education system and supporting our Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander community and students is like walking in 2 worlds. It brings a lot of challenges and I see sometimes our cultural identity suffers for it. I find bringing more of our cultural language and communication into this space provides an avenue for our voices. So thank you for this insightful conversation.

  4. peter charleston

    thanks for your clear and concise explanation of structuralism. Im glad you reminded me of how much we have made up in our helping professions

  5. Olive

    That example of talking with your colleague who claimed to know your internal world was so useful – for your statement of forgetting what projection means more than anything – thank you! It gives me a bit of respite from feeling bad at forgetting, not knowing, or mixing up the DSM criteria for various diagnoses….. which can make it difficult to hold onto credibility or sense of agency as a psychologist in the highly professionalised (and medicalised, structuralist) context in which I work.

  6. Pam Howells

    Loved your account of Structuralist language and its use in modern psychological theory. I have been familiar with these ideas for many years but it has been very refreshing to hear them again.Thank you for presenting the ideas so succinctly.

  7. KeXiou

    Love your presentation! You made it so concise and easy to understand the concept. Thank you very much.

  8. Mark Byrne

    Fantastic awareness expanding talk. Thanks Mark

  9. Andrew

    Thank you for your fascinating presentation (it was my first time watching a Friday afternoon talk). I am hungry for more. Please let me know if you do a part 2 or update it.

  10. Fiona

    Thank you, this talk has been absolutely brilliant. It has given me insight and has helped me to understand structuralism and its affects.

  11. Natalia Jerzmanowska

    I trained with you a few years back and how you de-constructed the concept of “needs” always stayed with me. I came back here specifically to find it and am not disappointed. Thank you for the work you do.

  12. kerry

    Very interesting how what is happening in society changes how we view ourselves and our reality. illustrates to me the importance of seeking to understand the client’s frame of reference and where that comes from as each person’s perception is their own.
    thanks for a great talk

  13. Carolyn

    Just watched your video as part of my WK1|SEM2 homework for a Bachelor of Counselling. Brillantly thought provoking. Thank you 🙂

  14. Limor Ast

    Thank you Mark for explaining and clearly presenting some of the foundational values of narrative practices. Always appreciate learning from you!

  15. Dorit Tomandl

    Mark, this talk was freeing to me. I don’t measure up with society’s norms and have been feeling like a loser. Now I am starting to see that as soon as I find my own truth, there is no need to adapt or live up to something. I am an ok person right now!!!

  16. Valerie Liske

    Thank YOU Mark…this talk really resonated with me and the angst I’ve felt in performing social work duties throughout my career…it always felt just a little bit smug of me to suppose that I could understand, ‘help’, guide or problem-solve with clients. I also felt that the more direct the service work I did the more ability I had to be able to really have a glimpse of the other person’s reality and view…and how they coped with their realities. Wonder if this could be taught in social work, medical, therapy and nursing course work to remind us what the ‘helpers’ bring in their ‘tool kit’?

  17. Amy Murray

    Hi Mark

    Thanks for an interesting talk. Don’t you think we’d fall apart without structuralism?! I was intrigued by your reference to ‘onion theory’ whilst referencing the peeling of an orange. is this significant? I ask this, as the structural nature of onions and oranges is clearly quite different.


    1. Mark Hayward

      Sorry for the slow reply – I’ve been away. Some communities have never embraced structuralism but seem to manage ok. But maybe some people think they’d fall apart without it? The references to onions and the peeling of an orange is meant to reflect a layer metaphor.

      1. Amy Murray

        Thank you for your helpful response Mark. I understand about the onion and the orange layer metaphor. So long as I don’t get them confused in cooking 😉

  18. kane

    Excellent & innovative thinking.

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