Thursday, February 07, 2008

What dances am i invited into?

" Effective therapy often seems magical."
So begins Kenneth Gergen in unpacking the therapeutic relationship in an article on therapeutic relationships reconsidered. In 'quiet recesses' far removed from the site of turmoil with questions, answers, silences, stories, possibly tears... and then, as if by miraculous intervention, there is change. But what configuration of events brought about change? The problem brought to therapy is transformed, seen as less severe, or dissolved. He then focuses on the relationship generated; that there is something about the nature of the communicative interchange and asks what then might occur that facilitates or blocks or enhances such relationships. How might we be (more, or less) effective?

He then argues the relational character of communication.
In communicating, utterances acquire meaning when others coordinate themselves to the utterance. Talking without a listener, writing without a reader; the potential for meaning is realized through supplementary action. Utterance's of themselves have no meaning, a morpheme only has meaning when others coordinate themselves around the offering. We bring to any exchange, a preparedness to make meaning of the interaction based on prior exchanges. As stated by Gergen,
"In effect, meaningful communication in any given exchange ultimately depends on a protracted array of relationships, not only "right here, right now," but how is it that that you and I are related to a variety of others, and they still to others- and ultimately, one may say, to the, to the relational conditions of society as a whole."

In accepting such a proposition, he argues that there is profound implication: language is constitutive of relationships. While we frequently treat language as if it were describing reality, such a treatment is of itself a relational performance. His focus is on the interchange and its use of words, phrases, language used. He then asks, "What follows in a relationship when self or world is framed in just this way; what dances am I invited into when you use these phrases as opposed to others?"

I intend to take this relational stance on therapeutic communications further within my own study. With the use of computer and communication technologies in the form of text, email and Internet message board posting for counselling purposes, how is the 'dance' performed?

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