1 Research Perspectives in Couple Therapy
3 Maria Borcsa Peter Rober Editors Research Perspectives in Couple Therapy Discursive Qualitative Methods
4 Editors Maria Borcsa Institute of Social Medicine Rehabilitation Sciences and Healthcare Research University of Applied Sciences Nordhausen Nordhausen, Germany Peter Rober Institute for Family & Sexuality Studies University of Leuven Leuven, Belgium ISBN DOI / ISBN (ebook) Library of Congress Control Number: Springer Cham Heidelberg New York Dordrecht London Springer International Publishing Switzerland 2016 This work is subject to copyright. All rights are reserved by the Publisher, whether the whole or part of the material is concerned, specifically the rights of translation, reprinting, reuse of illustrations, recitation, broadcasting, reproduction on microfilms or in any other physical way, and transmission or information storage and retrieval, electronic adaptation, computer software, or by similar or dissimilar methodology now known or hereafter developed. The use of general descriptive names, registered names, trademarks, service marks, etc. in this publication does not imply, even in the absence of a specific statement, that such names are exempt from the relevant protective laws and regulations and therefore free for general use. The publisher, the authors and the editors are safe to assume that the advice and information in this book are believed to be true and accurate at the date of publication. Neither the publisher nor the authors or the editors give a warranty, express or implied, with respect to the material contained herein or for any errors or omissions that may have been made. Printed on acid-free paper Springer International Publishing AG Switzerland is part of Springer Science+Business Media (
5 Foreword: An Invitation to Enter a Qualitative Research Dialogue Two young people from different European countries meet, fall in love, and decide to live together. After a while, tensions develop in their relationship. They visit a therapist who specializes in helping couples. Their therapy sessions are recorded on video. Sometime afterwards, with their permission, what was said in each session was transcribed and analyzed by researchers interested in understanding more about how this kind of therapy works. That is what this book is about. How can we begin to make sense of what these researchers have done? I suggest that there are perhaps at least four perspectives that are relevant: personal, esthetic, scientific, and practical. From a personal perspective, anyone reading these chapters already has their own way of making sense of love, living together, cultural difference, and therapy. In the light of this personal knowledge, the central question that can be asked about the analyses offered in this book is: how does this take forward, extend, or deepen my appreciation of these aspects of the world in which I live? It may be useful, therefore, before starting to read this book, to take a few moments to engage in personal reflection on what you already know and believe in respect of these matters, and what you might expect these researchers to find. This process can be facilitated by consulting the brief account of the project provided at the beginning of the second chapter, then pausing, to collect your own thoughts. I believe that the authors would appreciate this kind of thoughtful and reflective approach to their work. It seemed to me, reading their contributions, that none of them are trying to persuade. Rather, they are in the business of offering. Each chapter offers an assemblage of different threads of understanding and experience, based on a brief, clearly articulated statement of a particular theoretical perspective. Each chapter also includes careful selection and highlighting of examples of moments within the therapy that have particular significance. Woven around these segments of interaction is an invitation to make sense of them in a particular way. In engaging with this kind of work, it can be useful to think about art: each chapter as an artwork, editors as curators, the book as an exhibition, readers as visitors. What is on offer is a way of seeing (Berger, 1973). v
6 vi Foreword: An Invitation to Enter a Qualitative Research Dialogue At the same time, the work in this book draws on the concepts and methods of social science and psychology, specifically from within the field of psychotherapy research. Readers who are interested in the technical details of the methodologies that are being applied can consult references that are provided within each chapter. The work that is reported here reinforces the importance of the researcher as bricoleur (Kincheloe, 2005). Faced with the challenge of making sense of the complexity of interactions between client and therapist, these researchers have found it necessary to move beyond standard methodologies, to develop new ways of finding meaning. In the end, research into psychotherapy is always viewed in relation to the degree to which it contributes to practice. The authors whose work is represented in this book are all practicing psychotherapists. The research that they report has emerged out of practice and is closely tied into the continued development of practice. Furthermore, they are practitioner researchers whose ideas and therapy approaches form part of a network. They meet together to learn from each other, at conferences and workshops. The book as a whole can therefore be regarded as comprising a documentation of the lived experience of learning that occurs within a community of practice (Wenger, 1998). This book highlights the research face of that community. Many other publications, indicated within each chapter, highlight the practical or clinical face. The concept of dialogue comprises a constant thread through the studies that are reported in this volume. What does an authentic dialogue look like, within a therapy session? What are the conditions under which it takes place? How does it help? At another level, the book as a whole is a dialogue, between alternative perspectives on these issues. As readers, we are invited not only to enter this conversation, but also to continue it, in our personal and professional lives. Oslo, Norway John McLeod Department of Psychology University of Oslo References Berger, J. (1973). Ways of seeing. Harmondsworth: Penguin. Kincheloe, J. L. (2005). On to the next level: Continuing the conceptualization of the bricolage. Qualitative Inquiry, 11, Wenger, E. (1998). Communities of practice: Learning, meaning, and identity. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
7 Preface It was at an international seminar at Leuven University in October 2009 when the very first research on the case of Victoria and Alfonso started. Some of us met for three days in an old thirteenth century abbey, watched the videotapes of the four sessions of the therapy, and talked about them. This group did not know at that time where they were going with this investigation, but the conversations were fascinating and all felt inspired, especially through the different views, different observations, different questions, and different interpretations. Everyone was impressed by the myriad of facets of the case and by the touching aliveness of the interactions between both the partners and the therapists. This was the beginning of the idea to search for ways of doing systematic research in which this richness would be respected. Already during this first encounter, it was obvious that this was going to be a challenge because of the complexity of multi-actor dialogues. One year later, the European Family Therapy Research Group (EFTRG) was founded at a meeting at Jyväskylä University (Finland). We were therapists/ researchers from Finland, Portugal, Italy, Germany, Belgium, and Greece. The decision to meet a few times a year in order to support and inspire each other in doing research in the field of marital and family therapy went along with the choice to start our joint work on the case of Victoria and Alfonso. In the following years, EFTRG had meetings in Helsinki (2011), Thessaloniki, Nottingham, and Porto (2012), Istanbul (2013), Copenhagen, Heidelberg, and Crete (2014). We presented papers on our research of Alfonso s and Victoria s therapy at different conferences (1st International Conference on Dialogical Practices Helsinki 2011; QRMH4 Nottingham 2012; SPR Porto 2012; EFTA Conference Istanbul 2013; SPR Copenhagen 2014; 1st European Systemic Research Conference Heidelberg 2014; QRMH5 Crete 2014) and, more and more, the idea took shape that we should accumulate a written report about the different approaches we had developed in doing discursive research on this couple therapy. This book is the result. Our gratitude goes to the clients, who we named Victoria and Alfonso, as well as their therapists. First and foremost, it was them who gave us the opportunity to have a close look at one therapeutic system from different angles. vii
8 viii Preface Furthermore, we thank the organizers as well as the scientific committees of the diverse conferences where we presented, as they encouraged our project by providing us with time and space to discuss the ongoing work with different audiences. We would also like to thank John Shotter and John McLeod for their support and inspiration, Anna Ptitsyna for her valuable English language checks, and Manuela Günther, who meticulously made the editorial corrections. Last, but not least, we thank Jennifer Hadley from Springer International for her patience. Nordhausen, Germany Leuven, Belgium Maria Borcsa Peter Rober
9 Contents 1 The Challenge: Tailoring Qualitative Process Research Methods for the Study of Marital and Family Therapeutic Sessions... 1 Peter Rober and Maria Borcsa 2 The Couple Therapy of Victoria and Alfonso Peter Rober and Maria Borcsa 3 The Development of Dialogical Space in a Couple Therapy Session Peter Rober 4 Introducing Novelties into Therapeutic Dialogue: The Importance of Minor Shifts of the Therapist Aarno Laitila 5 Therapists Responses for Enhancing Change Through Dialogue: Dialogical Investigations of Change Jaakko Seikkula and Mary Olson 6 Fostering Dialogue: Exploring the Therapists Discursive Contributions in a Couple Therapy Evrinomy Avdi 7 Dominant Story, Power, and Positioning Helena Päivinen and Juha Holma 8 Latent Meaning Structures in Couple Relations: Introducing Objective Hermeneutics into Systemic Therapy Research Maria Borcsa 9 Family Semantic Polarities and Positionings: A Semantic Analysis Valeria Ugazio and Lisa Fellin ix
10 x Contents 10 Constructing the Moral Order of a Relationship in Couples Therapy Jarl Wahlström 11 About Complexity, Difference, and Process: Towards Integration and Temporary Closure Maria Borcsa and Peter Rober Index
11 About the Contributors Evrinomy Avdi, Ph.D. is Assistant Professor of Clinical Psychology at the School of Psychology of the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki, Greece. She is a clinical psychologist, dramatherapist, and psychodynamic psychotherapist. Her research interests lie in applying discursive and narrative research to the study of therapy process, as well as the experience of serious illness. She is particularly interested in exploring the links between deconstructive research and actual clinical practice. Maria Borcsa, Ph.D. is Professor of Clinical Psychology at the University of Applied Sciences Nordhausen, Germany. She is an accredited psychological psychotherapist, family and systemic therapist, supervisor, and trainer. She is a founding member and member of the executive committee of the Institute of Social Medicine, Rehabilitation Sciences and Healthcare Research at UAS Nordhausen. For many years, she has served as a board member of the German Systemic Society (Systemische Gesellschaft) as well as of the European Family Therapy Association (EFTA). Currently, she holds the position as the President of EFTA. Lisa Fellin, Ph.D. is Senior Lecturer in Psychology at the University of East London, UK. She holds a PhD in Clinical Psychology and is an accredited systemic psychotherapist. She is currently the Research Director for the Professional Doctorate in Counselling Psychology and the Module coordinator for Family & Systemic Therapies on the MSc in Clinical & Community Psychology, as well as a trainer at the European Institute of Systemic-relational Therapies in Milan, Italy. She is a member of the European Family Therapy Association (EFTA) and of the UK Association of Family Therapy and Systemic Practice (AFT). Juha Holma, Ph.D. is Lecturer at the Department of Psychology, University of Jyväskylä, Finland. He is an accredited psychotherapist, family therapist, supervisor, and trainer. He has worked as a group facilitator in the treatment groups for men who have battered their partners, and he is the responsible researcher in a project on group treatment for batterers and on couple treatment in intimate partner violence. xi
12 xii About the Contributors Aarno Laitila is Professor of Psychology at University of Eastern Finland, Joensuu, Finland. He is an accredited psychologist, psychotherapist, and psychotherapy trainer as well as supervisor, specialized in family therapy. He is one of the founding members of Central Finland Association of Family Therapy Trainers and a present member of the Finnish National Consortium of Universities for Psychotherapist Training. Mary Olson, Ph.D. is Assistant Professor of Psychiatry at the University of Massachusetts Medical School and Adjunct Professor at the Smith College School for Social Work. A teacher, researcher, and practitioner, she founded a training facility, the Institute for Dialogic Practice, in Haydenville, Massachusetts (USA) and has specialized in developing new training methods for dialogic practice: a post-systems approach. Dr. Olson was a Senior Fulbright Scholar ( ) to Finland in the Department of Clinical Psychology at the University of Jyväskylä. A member of the American Academy of Family Therapists, she maintains a private practice and treats and consults with individuals, couples, and families on a variety of clinical issues. Helena Päivinen, M.A. is a doctoral student at the Department of Psychology, University of Jyväskylä, Finland. Her dissertation concerns positioning as a discursive phenomenon and a tool in psychotherapy. She is a clinical psychologist specialized in intimate partner violence issues. Peter Rober, Ph.D. is a clinical psychologist, family therapist, and family therapy trainer at Context -Center for marital and family therapy (UPC KU Leuven, Belgium). He is Professor of Family Therapy at the Institute for Family and Sexuality Studies (Medical School of K.U. Leuven, Belgium). His research interests focus on what is said and not said in families and in family therapy. He has a special interest in the process in family therapy, in particular in the use the therapist s self and in the therapist s inner conversation. Jaakko Seikkula, Ph.D. is Professor of Psychotherapy at University of Jyväskylä, Finland. He is a psychotherapy trainer and has been involved in developing Open Dialogue approach in most severe psychiatric crises and in conducting several studies of the outcome and dialogical processes of the Open Dialogue approach in psychosis and couple therapy for depression. He is one of the founding members of the International Network in Treatment of Psychosis and the European Family Therapy Research Group. Valeria Ugazio, Ph.D. is Professor of Clinical Psychology at University of Bergamo, Italy. She is an accredited systemic psychotherapist, supervisor, and trainer. She is the founder and scientific director of the European Institute of Systemic-relational Therapies in Milano, where she runs 4-year training courses in systemic family, couple, and individual psychotherapy for psychologists and medical doctors and practices psychotherapy.
13 About the Contributors xiii Jarl Wahlström, Ph.D. is Professor of Clinical Psychology and Psychotherapy and director of the Psychotherapy Training and Research Centre at the Department of Psychology, University of Jyväskylä, Finland. He is head of the national integrative postgraduate specialization program in psychotherapy for psychologists, organized by the Finnish University Network in Psychology, Psykonet. He has an advanced training in family and systems therapy and more than 30 years experience as a clinical psychologist, family therapist, trainer and consultant, and university teacher. His main research interest lies in psychotherapy discourse, a topic on which he has published in several international journals and books. He is the supervisor of several doctoral dissertations.