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"What is the problem that brought you to therapy?" Client accounts, accountability and therapeutic authority
Unformatted Document Text:  36 remembers what she was told. In (13), Gibson uses help twice: as something she wants to do and as to qualify her suggestion as helpful. She also describes what could (perhaps more accurately) be seen as her own goal as a therapist as our goal. This could mean both her and the therapeutic team, including the supervisor who is behind the mirror listening, or herself as a therapist whose goal is to be helpful to both mother and daughter, or both. Both interpretations of the pronoun convey the desire – and ability – to mobilize forces for her clients. Step 1 to 3 show that when the therapist begins to actively participate and to take over the account she is able to avail herself of the client-introduced instability and give role reversal a stable meaning. It becomes a symptom: of a depressed adolescent, of a family problem, of lack of communication, and all other explanations that fit the therapeutic plan. As a symptom, it becomes something only a therapist can understand and help with, and the therapist promises to do just that. Conclusion Recent studies of psychotherapeutic interaction as talk that is constrained by the therapist (e.g. Jones & Beach, 1995), and invalidating for the client (Ferrara, 1999), and, more generally, of expert-non-expert interaction, (Mehan, 1996), have taken a close look at a relatively little examined conversational dynamic, raising questions as to the implications of its asymmetric nature. While thousands of clients are helped by psychotherapeutic interaction, my own work examines whether this help comes at a cost. My particular interest is to examine the therapeutic relationship in terms of a different situation of accountability for therapist and client, which often results in the clients’ loss of the ability to account for themselves, and an encroachment of therapeutic discourse on client accounts. In presenting the conversational material in this paper, I expand on the critical literature on psychotherapy and offer a situated, relational grounding for this critique, as well as a conversational understanding of therapeutic authority, showing how both therapists and clients participate in its performance. References Agar, M., & Hobbs, J. R. Interpreting discourse: Coherence and the analysis of ethnographic interviews. Discourse Processes, 5: 1-32.

Authors: Bartesaghi, Mariaelena.
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36
remembers what she was told. In (13), Gibson uses help twice: as something she wants to do and as to
qualify her suggestion as helpful. She also describes what could (perhaps more accurately) be seen as her
own goal as a therapist as our goal. This could mean both her and the therapeutic team, including the
supervisor who is behind the mirror listening, or herself as a therapist whose goal is to be helpful to both
mother and daughter, or both. Both interpretations of the pronoun convey the desire – and ability – to
mobilize forces for her clients.
Step 1 to 3 show that when the therapist begins to actively participate and to take over the account
she is able to avail herself of the client-introduced instability and give role reversal a stable meaning. It
becomes a symptom: of a depressed adolescent, of a family problem, of lack of communication, and all other
explanations that fit the therapeutic plan. As a symptom, it becomes something only a therapist can
understand and help with, and the therapist promises to do just that.
Conclusion
Recent studies of psychotherapeutic interaction as talk that is constrained by the therapist (e.g. Jones &
Beach, 1995), and invalidating for the client (Ferrara, 1999), and, more generally, of expert-non-expert
interaction, (Mehan, 1996), have taken a close look at a relatively little examined conversational dynamic,
raising questions as to the implications of its asymmetric nature. While thousands of clients are helped by
psychotherapeutic interaction, my own work examines whether this help comes at a cost. My particular
interest is to examine the therapeutic relationship in terms of a different situation of accountability for
therapist and client, which often results in the clients’ loss of the ability to account for themselves, and an
encroachment of therapeutic discourse on client accounts.
In presenting the conversational material in this paper, I expand on the critical literature on
psychotherapy and offer a situated, relational grounding for this critique, as well as a conversational
understanding of therapeutic authority, showing how both therapists and clients participate in its
performance.
References
Agar, M., & Hobbs, J. R. Interpreting discourse: Coherence and the analysis of ethnographic interviews.
Discourse Processes, 5: 1-32.


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