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Communication and Medicine

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Patients’ responses to interpretations: A dialogue between conversation analysis and psychoanalytic theory

Anssi Peräkylä
Published Online: 2005-10-13 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/come.2005.2.2.163


The paper reports a conversation analytical study of patients’ responses to interpretations in psychoanalysis. The data come from 27 tape-recorded and transcribed psychoanalytic sessions involving three analyst–patient dyads. The study seeks to facilitate dialogue between conversation analytical (CA) findings and psychoanalytic theory by using CA to describe the practices in and through which the psychoanalytic theory concerning interpretation is realized in actual interactions. Four empirical observations are reported in the paper: (1) The analysts actively pursue a more than minimal response from the patient to their interpretations. (2) A typical extended response to an interpretation involves an elaboration, which is an utterance in which the patient takes up some aspect of the interpretation and continues discussion on that. (3) Even though elaborations convey agreement with the interpretation, they often also involve different degrees of discontinuity with what the interpretation initially aimed at. (4) This discontinuity is sometimes facilitated by the analyst’s own actions. These observations invite some specifications in the picture of interpretations provided by psychoanalytic theory.

About the article

Published Online: 2005-10-13

Published in Print: 2005-10-26

Citation Information: Communication & Medicine, Volume 2, Issue 2, Pages 163–176, ISSN (Print) 1612-1783, DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/come.2005.2.2.163.

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