Interviewing the internalized other: attending to voices of the “other”

Mark Haydon-Laurelut, Clare Wilson

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This paper investigates a new application of the Internalized-Other Interview (Tomm, 1999). Internalized-Other Interviews have been used for increasing empathy (Burnham, 2000), for creating dialogue (Lysack, 2002), as a way of entering the culture of a person (Pare, 2001) and from within an object-relations framework (Hurley, 2006). This paper explores the use of the Internalized-Other Interview for conversations where the referred person is not present. Such people may be at risk of being understood by family members, staff, and others in the community in narrow, monological and problem-saturated ways. Such people may include those with severe intellectual disabilities (ID); those with challenging behaviors; and those with high communicative support needs. The paper discusses an illustrative vignette based on using the Internalized-Other Interview with residential staff supporting people with ID. We have found that the Internalized-Other Interview can be powerful in supporting people, family members, support staff, professionals, and others in a person's network to help them into the experience of a person who they might otherwise be struggling to understand. Internalized-other interviews invite attention to the voices of, and positions occupied by, people at risk of being either unheard or understood only in superficial, clinical, problem-saturated and “othered” ways. The Internalized-Other Interview is particularly useful when working with referrals for individuals where proxies may be required to provide communication support.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)24-37
Number of pages14
JournalJournal of Systemic Therapies
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2011


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