Discourses in Adult-Adolescent Communication in Therapy

UoM administered thesis: Doctor of Counselling Psychology

  • Authors:
  • Keren Nowak


ABSTRACTBackground and aims: Existing literature indicates how the organisation and comprehension of early life is often discourse-based due to the attribution of meaning to people, objects and contexts through verbal communication. In this way our perceptions of the world and relationships are highly contextualised and contingent. The complexity of human experience suggests a dilemma for studies that seek to explain it through quantification, distinction and difference. This is even more poignant for research on adolescent counselling which addresses contexts in which there are numerous levels of personal change. For this reason it was the aim of this research to explore how discourses construct adult-adolescent communication in therapy to gain a deeper knowledge of interactive processes in action. The focus was on personal, social and therapeutic aspects of communication as well as how the therapeutic relationship may be influenced by social understandings of adolescence and adulthood. Methodology and analysis: As the primary means of communication, language is the predominant medium through which meanings and understandings are negotiated and shared. A discourse analysis was thus selected to explore how discourses function and perform in therapy. The research transcript comprised a case study of seven, sixty-minute counselling sessions between a 49-year old female trainee counselling psychologist and a 17-year old female adolescent client. The analysis identified five main interpretative repertoires: 'Adolescence'; 'Making sense of adults', 'Coping with Parents'; 'Adult-adolescent communication during therapy' and 'Professional communication during therapy'. These repertoires situate therapy in the personal and social contexts of experience that give it relevance, purpose and meaning. They also focus on how communication manifests therapeutically with regard to interactions, interventions and thus the relationship itself. Discussion and conclusion: This research offers renewed awareness of what it means to experience adolescence. The discourses construct many experiences of difference and conflict as well as similarity and togetherness in ways that are not specific to particular age groups or based on socially constructed understandings. The repertoires indicate that each person possesses a child, adolescent and adult throughout life and that the interchange between these positions is highly fluid and dynamic. Through its flexibility and responsiveness, pluralistic counselling psychology appears well adapted to adolescent clients due to its capacity to embrace, hold and support different levels of change (personal, adolescent and therapeutic). Through acceptance, empathy and trust the therapeutic relationship appears to create an experience of stability and consistency that many adolescents require to safely explore and communicate their personal difficulties.


Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
Award date1 Aug 2016