Defense Date


Graduation Date

Fall 2013


Immediate Access

Submission Type


Degree Name



Clinical Psychology


McAnulty College and Graduate School of Liberal Arts

Committee Chair

Martin Packer

Committee Member

Jessie Goicoechea

Committee Member

Kevin Smith


Change Process, Constitution, Conversation Analysis, Emotion, Interpretation, Psychotherapy


Psychotherapy is concerned with changing individuals: it is a practice devoted to the constitution of certain kinds of subjects. Although the various therapeutic schools have their own explanations of psychotherapeutic change, more empirical work needs to be dedicated to understanding how this process takes place. In this study, a fine grain research methodology is used to produce an account of the change process that occurred over the course of two psychotherapy sessions. The data consists of naturally occurring video recordings of a single therapist and client dyad. The goal of this research is to examine the relationship of mutual formation between the practice of psychotherapy and the client as it unfolds across time. This process of mutual formation is what Martin Packer (2011) refers to as constitution. A new research method was developed for this study. The methodology is grounded upon Heidegger's (1962) understanding of practical engagement and Foucault's (1983) method of genealogical interpretation. The research procedure combines conversation analysis with de Rivera's (1977) Structural Theory of Emotion, and Wortham's (2001) action based theory of narrative positioning, to form a coherent methodology called Detailed Interaction Analysis<. The study demonstrates how conversation analysis can be augmented in order to better analyze emotion and subject positioning. There were four major findings. First, the study shows how psychotherapy constitutes the client as a deep emotional subject who must understand her emotions in order to be an ethical being. Second, interpretation was shown to be a pragmatic practice that asserts the therapist's subjective perspective into the conversation. This allows the client to respond with her own interpretation. This collaborative process was found to be an important change process in psychotherapy and these findings conform to the more interactional understanding of interpretation (Aron, 1992; Winnicott, 1971). Third, the analysis provides a description of how Foucauldian problematizing occurs through the deployment of conversational actions that shift the location of the therapeutic problem and encourage the client to think about herself as an emotional being. Last, this study demonstrates how the indeterminacy of talk is used as a creative resource for both the therapist and the client during problematizing.