So, you think your counselling practices are collaborative?

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Anne Hollingworth, PsyD, Clinical and Forensic Psychologist, Private Practice, New South Wales



The concept of collaboration in mental health service delivery currently has wide currency among policy makers and practitioners alike. The professional’s speaking practices are recognised to be an important part of establishing and maintaining a collaborative relationship with their clients. Textbooks on counselling and interviewing techniques extol reflective listening as a speaking practice, and typically provide exemplars of therapeutic discourse in which the counsellor sums up the client’s prior utterance with a paraphrase introduced by ‘So’. This paper examines whether or not this way of talking can fairly be called collaborative, using insights from linguistics to illuminate various aspects of the question. The conclusion is that through this widespread speaking practice the practitioner who intends to work collaboratively may unwittingly erect barriers to empowerment by usurping the client’s right to investigate, reflect upon and proclaim the meaning of their own lived experience in therapeutic conversations.


Keywords: Collaborative therapy, Conversation analysis, Discourse analysis, Narrative therapy, prosody, therapeutic conversations


Address for correspondence:
Dr. Anne Hollingworth
Email: randah@ozemail.com.au