Therapeutic preliminaries: Conversational context and process in psychotherapy

Mark Peyrot

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    7 Scopus citations


    Competent psychotherapists are necessarily skilled users of conversation. They must use conversation to carry out the interpersonal activities which comprise the essence of psychotherapy. This paper explores the relationship between conversational and therapeutic processes, examining transcripts of psychotherapy sessions taken from a variety of sources. Psychotherapy alternates between exchanges in which therapists elicit narrative statements by clients of their situation or problem and intervention exchanges in which therapists attempt to induce client statements reflecting insight. The paper focuses on preliminaries to therapeutic interventions which serve as transitions between these two types of exchanges, linking forthcoming interventions to the contexts which inspired them. One phenomenon examined is the use of topic maintenance and topic shift in conjunctive and disjunctive techniques for embedding interventions in the ongoing flow of interaction. Another activity is the structuring of confrontive and nonconfrontive intervention contexts. Confrontive interventions often involve disagreement and therapists may maneuver the interaction to be able to deliver these interventions in disagreement contexts. This paper demonstrates that for psychotherapists, conversational organization represents both their major technical constraint and their primary instrumental resource. Therapists use conversational organization to influence client participation, while at the same time resisting attempts by clients to influence their participation.

    Original languageEnglish (US)
    Pages (from-to)311-329
    Number of pages19
    JournalQualitative Sociology
    Issue number3
    StatePublished - Sep 1 1995

    ASJC Scopus subject areas

    • Sociology and Political Science


    Dive into the research topics of 'Therapeutic preliminaries: Conversational context and process in psychotherapy'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

    Cite this