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Voices and silences in therapy: Examining the unsaid in family therapy Evrinomy Avdi Aristotelion University of Thessaloniki.

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Presentation on theme: "Voices and silences in therapy: Examining the unsaid in family therapy Evrinomy Avdi Aristotelion University of Thessaloniki."— Presentation transcript:

1 Voices and silences in therapy: Examining the unsaid in family therapy Evrinomy Avdi Aristotelion University of Thessaloniki

2 Voices and silences in therapy Silence … 'troubles the notion of voice as an indicator of authenticity, immediacy, or narrative authority in qualitative inquiry (McLure et al., 2010).

3 Silence in therapy: Theoretical considerations The majority of theoretical and empirical work on silence in therapy examines the client's silence. Theoretically, understanding influenced by the traditional psychodynamic view of silence as resistance or defense. Information-processing and cognitive theorists: silence as result of processing required for and preceding cognitive change/ shifts in schemas.

4 Silence in therapy: Theoretical considerations Qualitative literature on silence in therapy: Most studies define silence in relation to pauses (generally 1min) in client's talk Some studies approach silence as that which is not articulated, the absent word, the unsaid.

5 Studying silence: Researching pauses Pauses in narration linked to transitions in the plot (e.g. Gee, 1989). Pausing in therapy associated with high levels of processing, e.g. schema shifts (e.g. Toukmainian, 1992). But pauses/ silence treated as a homogeneous phenomenon.

6 Studying silence: Researching pauses Levitt (2001a, 2001b, 2002): Grounded theory of responses, based on the Interpersonal Process Recall paradigm. Categorization system for client pauses Need to differentiate between type of pause/ silence. Type of pause linked to outcome.

7 Studying silence: Researching pauses Productive emotional (in touch with intense feeling) expressive(looking for the right words) reflective Obstructive disengaged (withdrawing) interactional (e.g. safeguarding alliance) Neutral mnemonic (attempts at recall) associational (shift in topic)

8 Studying silence: Researching the unsaid Studying the unsaid implicitly. Drawing on narrative theory, linking psychological difficulties with silencing of vital aspects of experience and subjectivity (e.g. effects of dominant discourses, silence as linked to power and resistance)

9 Studying silence: Researching the unsaid Studying the unsaid explicitly Rogers et al (1999): languages of the unsayable; four languages on a continuum of knowledge and consciousness Language of negation. Note points where something is recognized through its negation, repeatedly denied or negatively constructed

10 Studying silence: Researching the unsaid Language of revision. Note self-correcting details of events, explicitly contradicting or denying something previously uttered Language of smokescreen/ evasion. Note hesitations, stumbling, avoiding questions, consistently short answers to specific questions, diversions – what is being avoided?

11 Studying silence: Researching the unsaid Language of silence. Note missing information, unresolved puzzles, contradictions that leave reader confused, gaps in knowledge or understanding.

12 Studying silence: Conclusions and implications Silence is undoubtedly problematic and troubling for qualitative research. Need to be aware of the risk of overlooking the meanings of what is absent in language. Challenges in studying silence Issues of authorship, the grounding of interpretations and power.

13 Conclusions and implications Studying what is absent expands the notion of text and reframes issues of validity and the grounding of interpretations. A helpful practice is to use an interpretative community

14 Conclusions and implications On a theoretical level, studying the unsaid often relies on some notion of an unconscious mind. This is not necessarily incommensurate with social constructionist views but requires further theoretical elaboration.

15 Thank you


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