Theories of self in psychotherapeutic narratives

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter (peer-reviewed)peer-review


Drawing on video recorded interactions of group psychotherapy meetings, the study explores the connection between narrative understanding of self on the life path and situated enactments of discursive identities. In a community for ex-heroin addicts, where the observations took place, the local understanding of the healing path is framed in terms of a narrative template with particular versions of self as characters in the plot. It is proposed that individuals connect to this time-stretched healing narrative during therapy hours via the adoption of a specific community register whereby engagement with the community is ritually performed. Through the analysis of a conflict started by one patient over the authenticity of “community talk” and of the adjustment in participation framework and interactional norms ensued by the attack, it can be shown that successful enactment of situated identities vis-à-vis the relevant social group is central to the survival of narratively construed ideologies. Problematic issues related to co-participation in both informal and institutional interaction, a feature typical of residential communities, are discussed. The analysis is ultimately directed to illustrate how a notion of self is emergent in interaction,enacted through performances that need social ratification. This does not entail a view of self as volatile or liquid but rather as the object of substantial socialization efforts by societal institutions and groups, and territory of conflict between individuals and subcultures.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationSelves and identities in narrative and discourse
EditorsMichael Bamberg, Anna De Fina, Deborah Schiffrin
Place of PublicationAmsterdam
PublisherJohn Benjamins Publishing Company
ISBN (Print)9789027226495
Publication statusPublished - 2007


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