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Title: Therapy as power? : an exploration of how therapist and client notions of one another construct power and powerlessness through discourse
Author: Ahmad, Nahid S.
Awarding Body: University of Wolverhampton
Current Institution: University of Wolverhampton
Date of Award: 2006
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The research presented in this thesis takes the form of three studies, which explored from a critical perspective, the ways in which therapists and clients construct notions of one another in an evaluative manner. Of particular interest to this research was the ways in which these notions impact upon constructions of client and therapist power and powerlessness. Study one involved two focus group interviews with trainee therapists. Findings indicated that therapists constructed notions of clients in a positive and negative manner, drawing heavily on therapeutic discourse. Key constructions 'feelings', 'thoughts', 'relationships' and 'characteristics' provided an avenue into the exploration of therapist notions. These discursive constructions aided the deconstruction of therapeutic discourse (including psychological and scientific/medical discourses), as well as the identification of a 'worker' and a 'democratic' discourse. A 'distancing strategy' was also identified in this study, which is a rhetorical device serving the function of legitimising therapist notions of clients. Study two reported the findings from six in-depth one-to-one interviews with therapists. Here therapist notions were deconstructed in greater depth, with findings from study I being developed further. The 'worker' discourse was redeveloped into the 'professional' discourse, thereby explaining therapist power more effectively. The 'distancing strategy' was also explored further, in an exploration of the meanings therapists gave to their own notions of clients, (notions as isolated from clients, and notions as 'wrong'I'natural'). The distancing strategy was also observed as functioning in the construction of clients as 'therapeutic work', and as 'multiple'. In tracing the functions of therapist notions of clients, findings supported a 'theory of conflict', which suggests that therapists differentiated between clients in an evaluative manner in order to resolve conflict between objectivity and subjectivity. Study three complemented the first two studies through providing client data, taken from six in-depth one-to-one interviews with participants who had previously received therapy. Here findings indicated, that clients too constructed notions of therapists in an evaluative manner, which impacted again on constructions of power and powerlessness. The data taken from this study showed clients discursively constructing therapists in six different ways (therapist as 'stranger', 'confidante/trustee', 'worker', 'adviserlhelper', 'medical expert', and 'listener'). Client notions of therapists were evidenced as functioning in response to power shifts between therapist and client, as a reassertion of their own power, and as a defence from powerlessness.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available