Therapists’ Techniques for Responding to Unsolicited Contributions by Family Members Charlotte M. Jones and Wayne A. Beach
Therapists' techniques for managing and regulating multi-party conversations are central to the interactional work involved in organizing family therapy sessions. Although clients' freedom of expression and voluntary comments are routinely encouraged in family therapy sessions, therapists must direct and constrain clients' contributions in ways deemed relevant and meaningful to constructive and healthy therapeutic environments. This joint (and at times, seemingly contradictory) task of "opening up/closing down" is routinely tailored by therapists as responsive to ways family members attempt to actively structure the session in progress. For example, it is not uncommon for family members to produce overlapping talk when responding to therapists' queries and therapists may impose structure by selecting a particular member to speak next; a family member may interject and attempt to "speak for another," prompting therapists to request cooperation in letting individuals speak for themselves; and/or family members may begin talking to themselves, creating a "schism" from what the therapist is attempting to address with others, and is subsequently treated as a distraction to be eliminated before returning to what therapists orient to as the "main business" at any given moment in the session.