A discourse analysis of professional accounts of electroconvulsive therapy
Electro convulsive therapy (ECT) is amongst the most controversial treatments used within the National Health Service. While advocates have described it as one of the safest and most effective treatments available to psychiatrists, critics have censured it as barbaric, harmful and ineffective. In this thesis I present the results of a discourse analysis of accounts about ECT that were generated during semi-structured interviews I conducted with four psychiatrists, two nurses and two anaesthetists. I begin by describing the procedure and profiling its use in the United Kingdom – I illustrate the dualistic way in which ECT has been represented in the professional literature and critically assess previous attempts to investigate the accounts of those who are professionally involved with the procedure. After detailing theoretical and procedural issues associated with a discourse analytic approach, I describe and illustrate a variety of rhetorical features that appear in the accounts of the professionals I interviewed on the subject of ECT. I pay close attention to the wider professional literature and propose that the availability of descriptions used by participants may have certain effects, which I describe. I conclude by contextualising these findings, by discussing how they might be usefully applied and by offering a reflexive critical review of the research.