Conversation Analysis and Psychotherapy: Building Bridges between Social Science and Clinical Theory
Department of Sociology University of Helsinki Helsinki, Finland
The paper will discuss the ways in which conversation analytical research on psychotherapy can contribute to clinical theories of psychotherapy, and the ways in which clinical theories can, on the other hand, inform conversation analytical research. Research examples are drawn from an ongoing study on the interaction between psychoanalysts and their patients, using 58 audio recorded psychoanalytic sessions as data.
Conversation analysis can contribute to clinical theory by explicating a substratum of interactional practices upon which the conduct of psychotherapy is dependent. In a string of studies, Sanna Vehviläinen and I have shown number of practices through which the delivery and reception of psychoanalytic interpretations is accomplished. The paper will review some of these practices having to do with preparation for an interpretation, designing the interpretative utterance, patients? responses to interpretations, and the psychanalysts? ways of dealing with the patients? responses.
Thorough knowledge of relevant clinical theories is essential for CA research in this field. Issues in which different clinical theories offer conflicting understandings may be particularly useful for CA researcher. Interpretation in psychoanalysis is such an issue. While the classical psychoanalytic theory considers interpretation as the most importante vehicle for therapeutic change in the patient, various more recent theories suggest that emotional interaction, rather than interpretation, is the curative factor in psychotherapy. This theoretical debate can sentitize conversation analyst to attend to the ways in which interpretion and emotional interaction are related to each oher in the actual psychotherapeutic practice. In psychoanalysis, it appears that the analysts? third position utterances following the patients? responses to interpretations are one locus where the interpretative work and the emotional work merge.