While the notion of a “conversation” serves to guide the approach of practitioners in the Conversational Model (CM), linguistic investigation demonstrates the ways in which what goes between therapist and patients is both like and unlike other genres of language exchange. One implication of such findings is that therapists respond to the unique conditions of their context with a professional technique which sets them apart from ‘ordinary conversationalists’.
On the other hand, language in therapeutic interaction reflects certain regularities and semantic ‘rhythms’ which build the inter-subjectivity that we do associate with our most valued human relationships.
In this discussion, we review the findings, to date, of a collaboration between practitioners of the Conversational Model and linguists (working in Systemic Functional Linguistics). We present these findings scale by scale, setting out from the global character of the sessions (as 50 minute units of interaction) and moving down to the details of language choices that pass beneath the threshold of attention. Such linguistic consistencies might be thought of as the “latent patterning” of psychotherapeutic technique in the discourse.
We also relate linguistic findings to central concepts in the CM: for example, to particular strategies (viz. coupling, and resonance) as well as to fundamental ideas (the Jamesian notion of the “dual self”).