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CREST Seminar: The power of pursuit: Dialogue as a continually unfolding, p...

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Ponsonby Room

Whitelands College, University of Roehampton

Holybourne Avenue

London

SW15 4JD

United Kingdom

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The power of pursuit: Dialogue as a continually unfolding, practical dilemma in pluralistic therapy

Presented by Dr Sarah Cantwell

Dialogical ways of talking embrace and explore the possibilities of multiple understandings and are ideally conducted in a tentative fashion, with space and encouragement for the other to disagree or add material (Cooper & McLeod, 2011). My paper will conceptualize dialogue as a continually unfolding, practical dilemma in therapy sessions and will consider some implications for what might be glossed as power in the therapeutic relationship. Specifically, I conceptualize dialogue as a continuum of positions, including those which I have identified as liberal (explicitly inviting and validating the client's ideas), mutual (therapist sharing their views) and pursuing (working to elicit a response and/or a particular type of answer from the client).

To evidence this conceptualization, I will draw on findings from my PhD research, in which I sampled audio recordings of 42 pluralistic therapy sessions and analysed extracts on a moment-by-moment basis, using the inductive methodology of Conversation Analysis. This analysis culminated in a collection of therapists' questions, illustrating how therapists endeavour to create opportunities for dialogue and the practical dilemmas they face in doing so. For example, findings demonstrate how therapists can variously design their questions to create different types of response spaces for clients and how therapists can work to pursue responses from clients.

The particular finding I will reflect upon in detail is how prolonged pursuit by therapists can include features of apparent tentativeness, while still nonetheless being interactionally coercive. From this, I will suggest some practical implications for engaging in dialogue, including how power might be practically constituted in the therapeutic relationship.


Having previously studied philosophy and psychology, Sarah was a bursary-funded PhD student at the University of Roehampton, 2013-2017. In January 2018, she successfully defended her PhD thesis. This was entitled “ Talk about what might be helpful: Relating meta-therapeutic dialogue to concrete interactions and exploring the relevance for therapeutic practice”. In this project, she used Conversation Analysis to investigate how therapists and clients in pluralistic therapy create opportunities to collaboratively discuss what might be helpful in pluralistic therapy. Alongside her research, Sarah is a BACP Accredited, humanistic counsellor and is currently undertaking training as a High Intensity CBT Therapist at King’s College London. She is finding it interesting to use and reflect on CBT approaches to collaboration in therapy sessions.

If you have any questions about the CREST Seminar Series, please contact Dr Edith Steffen at Edith.Steffen@roehampton.ac.uk.

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Ponsonby Room

Whitelands College, University of Roehampton

Holybourne Avenue

London

SW15 4JD

United Kingdom

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