In 2004, when I arrived in Belgium to start my two years of regular 2-week stints as visiting professor at the University of Leuven, I was introduced to Peter Rober, a family therapist well-known there for his entertaining and illuminating books and magazine articles. Peter was trying to finish his doctoral dissertation, and asked to meet with me for a research consultation. He had several scientific articles published already, which he could incorporate into the dissertation, and had just completed data collection on a study using Interpersonal Process Recall (IPR) to study therapists’ moment-to-moment experiences during therapy sessions. Although it was a therapy analogue study using a standard client presenting one of several role-played problems, this was really an extension of Rennie’s ground-breaking study of client in-session experiences. In other words, Peter was trying to do for therapist in-session experiences what Rennie had done for client in-session experiences: establish its basic geography, forms and varieties.
Over a meal in a traditional Belgian restaurant, I laid out for him how he could analyse his data and organize the remaining pieces of his dissertation. As a result, I got asked to be co-supervisor on his dissertation, and ended up collaborating with him on several articles. The second and third of these articles, based on the IPR studied we first talked about almost 4 years ago, have now been published, in Psychotherapy Research and Journal of Marital and Family Therapy, respectively.
The two articles lay out the Grounded Theory Analysis of therapy in-session experiences. The first of these (Rober et al., 2008a), presents the basic category structure, while the second (Robert et al., 2008b) illustrates some key points and further elaborates the clinical implications. It’s nice to see these paper in print, both because they are interesting research interestingly told, but also because they remind me of the fun times Peter and I had working on this research. What’s the point of doing research if it can’t be fun?
Reference: Rober, P., Elliott, R., Buysse, A., Loots, G., & De Corte, K. (2008a). What's on the therapist's mind? A grounded theory analysis of family therapist reflections during individual therapy sessions. Psychotherapy Research, 18, 48-57.
Abstract. The authors used a videotape-assisted recall procedure to study the content of family therapists’ inner conversations during individual sessions with a standardized client. Grounded theory was used to analyze therapists’ reflections, resulting in a taxonomy of 282 different codes in a hierarchical tree structure of six levels, organized into four general domains: attending to client process; processing the client’s story; focusing on therapists’ own experience; and managing the therapeutic process. In addition to providing a descriptive model of therapists’ inner conversation, this research led to an appreciation of the wealth of therapists’ inner conversation. In particular, the authors found that therapists work hard to create an intersubjective space within which to talk by trying to be in tune with their clients and by using clients as a guide.Reference: Rober, P., Elliott, R., Buysse, A., Loots, G., & De Corte, K. (2008b). Positioning in the therapist's inner conversation: A dialogical model based on a grounded theory analysis of therapist reflections. Journal of Marital and Family Therapy, 34, 406-421.
Abstract. In recent years, a dialogical perspective has emerged in the family therapy field in which the therapist’s inner conversation is conceptualized as a dialogical self. In this study, we analyze the data of a grounded theory study of therapist reflections and we portray the therapist’s self as a dynamic multiplicity of inner positions embodied as voices, having dialogical relationships in terms of questions and answers or agreement and disagreement. We propose a descriptive model of the therapist’s inner conversation with four positions. In this model, each of the four positions represents a concern of the therapist: attending to the client’s pro- cess, processing the client’s story, focusing on the therapist’s own experience, and managing the therapeutic process. Detailed analyses of vignettes of therapist reflections illustrate the model, and implications of this model for training and supervision are considered.