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Legs in Jeans


Ph.D. Research

Moving Forward: Therapy With an Adolescent and His Family

Doctorial Dissertation by Shari J. Couture, Ph.D. 

University of Calgary

Winner: Best Dissertation in Counselling Psychology

Canadian Psychological Association 2005



Studies of actual conversational behaviours used to generate positive change in family therapy are relatively rare. In the present study I examined such conversational details as they occurred in a single session of family therapy. From passages identified by family members as helpful, I used discursive methods of analysis (conversation analysis and critical discourse analysis) to examine an actual conversation between a renowned family therapist (Dr. Karl Tomm) and a family formerly at a conversational impasse. I suggest an impasse arose from differences in cultural discourses used by, or the discursive positions of, family members; what Lyotard has called, differends. The analyses showed the therapist and family members use of particular conversational practices from those sustaining an initial differend, through those used in trying to develop more promising lines of talk, to those which ultimately show the family and therapist initiating talk from a shared position. I conclude these analyses with an integration of the conversational practices and sequences in talk used by the therapist and family members to bridge differences in their ways of conversing and relating. Family members retrospective comments regarding their participation in the conversation analysed were also incorporated into the analyses. Implications for the practice of family therapy, and for further research of therapeutic conversations, are derived from the analyses.

Dissertation Publications

Strong, T., Sutherland, O., Couture, S.J., Godard, G., & Hope, T. (2008). Karl Tomm’s collaborative approaches to counseling. Canadian Journal of Counselling, 42(3), p. 174-191.


Busch, R., Strong, T., & Couture, S. J. (2008). Conversational Evidence in

therapeutic dialogue. Journal of Marital and Family Therapy, 34(3), p. 388-405.


Sutherland, O., & Couture, S. J. (2007). The discursive performance of the alliance in family therapy: A conversation analytic perspective. Australian and New Zealand Journal of Family Therapy, 28(4), p. 210-216.


Couture, S. J. (2007).  Multiparty talk in family therapy: Complexity breeds opportunity. Journal of Systemic Therapies, 26 (1). p. 63.


Couture, S. J. (2006).  Transcending a Differend:  Studying Therapeutic Processes Conversationally.  Journal of Contemporary Family Therapy, 28(3), p. 285-303.


Couture, S.J., & Sutherland, O. (2006). Giving advice on advice giving: A conversation analysis of Karl Tomm’s practice.  Journal of Marital and Family Therapy, 32(3), p. 329-345.


Couture, S. J., & Sutherland, O. (2005).  Investigating change: Compatible research and practice.  Journal of Systemic Therapies, 23(2), p. 3-17.


Couture, S. J., & Strong, T. (2004).  Turning differences into possibilities: Using discourse analysis to investigate change in therapy with adolescents and their families.  Counselling and Psychotherapy Research, 4(1), 90-101.

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