Theory at all Points: A Methodological Quest for Psychotherapy Research

  • Florian Dreyer International Psychoanalytic University (IPU)


There is the common believe that data and theory are two distinct poles on the same scientific continuum. This notion is enriched with ideas from the fields of psychoanalysis, sociology and conversation analysis. The description of conversational reality in accordance with the knowledge of psychotherapeutic theory is exemplified through the analysis of a therapy transcript. A special spotlight is shed on the dyads’ use of the recipient signal “mhmh” and its various functions within the talk. Most prominently, the therapist uses this token to reinforce the patient as long as she follows his idea of how she might get better. This small insertion therefore functions as a conversational marker of handling a therapeutic theory. Conversation analysts think of talk as a subject not pre-determined by theoretical believes of the participants. This changes in the analysis of therapeutic talk, which is pre-structured, at least by the professional theories of the therapist. For a proper analysis of the conversation two systems should be taken into account. On the one hand Harvey Sacks’ idea of ‘Order at all points’ and on the other hand the methodological idea of ‘Theory at all points’. This combination leads to a description of conversational reality while taking theories into account.


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How to Cite
Dreyer, F. (2017). Theory at all Points: A Methodological Quest for Psychotherapy Research. Language and Psychoanalysis, 5(2), 27-45.
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