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Dialectical Analysis of a Couple Counseling Session. Thomas W. Blume, Ph.D. Department of Counseling Oakland University. ABSTRACT.

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Dialectical Analysis of a Couple Counseling Session

Thomas W. Blume, Ph.D.

Department of Counseling

Oakland University


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ABSTRACT

  • Couples in counseling attempt to coordinate their changing and interconnected identities. This poster explores the dialectical process of identity coordination by analyzing a single session to identify the identity themes underlying the manifest content.


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PURPOSE OF THIS STUDY

  • Previous projects have developed a theoretical model of Identity Renegotiation Counseling (IRC).

  • Studies using Dialectical Analysis have identified identity change conversations in non-clinical interviews.

  • This pilot study is a first step in using Dialectical Analysis to study identity change conversations in couple counseling.


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IDENTITY RENEGOTIATION

  • Identities are not: internal constructions, unitary and fixed.

  • Identities are: collaborative projects, multiple and fluid.

  • Identity change is constant; identities and relationships change together.

  • Counseling can help people negotiate and coordinate the changes in their lives.



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DIALECTICS

  • Dialectical theory presumes that narratives and conversations are organized around themes.

  • Dialectical themes represent tensions (unresolved differences) that are connected to multiple discourses.

  • Dialectical counseling (e.g. Ivey, 1986) helps clients to shift from conflict to synthesis.


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IDENTITY DIALECTICS

  • Identity dialectics focuses on themes that have special meaning for a relationship.

  • Relational identity themes are global and abstract but are hidden in discussions of specific conflicts.

  • Working through specific conflicts leads to resolution of general themes.


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DISCOURSE COMMUNITIES

  • Discourses make meaning and define reality.

  • To the extent that something can be described in a discourse, it exists.

  • Every person is multiply influenced by different discourses.

  • When opposing discourses cannot be resolved, intrapersonal and interpersonal tensions result.


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DIALECTICAL ANALYSIS

  • Conversations and narratives are dismantled into units of meaning (words and phrases).

  • Units of meaning are reorganized to juxtapose conflicting views and highlight contrasts.

  • Contrasts are grouped to identify recurring themes.


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THE COUPLE

  • Max and Martha met as a gender-stereotyped couple: an aggressive, insensitive male paired with a compliant, relationally focused female.

  • After 15 years, a changing economy, and two children, Max has found that bravado has its problems and Martha seeks validation for her strength and vision.


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THE SESSION

  • Martha initiated counseling 3 months ago, threatening divorce.

  • Max first resisted change, then began to meet some of Martha’s demands.

  • In the 8th session, Max is contrasting the “old me” with the “new me” while Martha is seeing “same old Max.”


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DIALECTICAL THEME #1Individuality vs. Connectedness

  • You don’t want to be married, you’re a loner

  • I think you don’t need me.

  • I’ve wanted to share things with you but you’re only interested in yourself.

  • I have been trying to more things with you.


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DIALECTICAL THEME #2Uniqueness vs. Similarity

  • We just don’t want the same things

  • We are both stubborn.

  • I don’t see how we can share anything because we’re so different.

  • It seemed so easy at the beginning, it seemed like we both liked all the same things.


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DIALECTICAL THEME #3Stability vs. Change

  • People don’t change that much. I don’t care what you say, I know you. You’re a bully.

  • I’ve changed; I not the same woman you married.

  • I really heard what you said about the bully thing, and I realize it’s stuff I’ve heard from other women too.


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DIALECTICAL THEME #4Choice vs. Determinism

  • You can’t just go off and be someone different.

  • I was brought up to think women were, like, happy to have a strong guy.

  • I’m willing to do whatever it takes.


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DIALECTICAL COUPLE WORK

  • Ivey (1986) calls for helping clients resolve the dialectical tensions in their lives.

  • Couple relationships multiply the tensions—a single resolution may not work for both partners.

  • The counselor is challenged to hear and to emphasize the dialectical themes that lie underneath the overt content.


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REFERENCES

  • Conville, R. L. (1998). Telling stories: Dialectics of relational transition. In B. M. Montgomery & L. A. Baxter (Eds.), Dialectical approaches to studying personal relationships (pp. 17-40). Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum.

  • Fishbane, M. D. (1998). I, thou, and we: A dialogical approach to couples therapy. Journal of Marital and Family Therapy, 24, 41-58.

  • Ivey, A. E. (1986) Developmental therapy. North Amherst, MA: Microtraining Associates.


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