Discourse analysis Eugenie Georgaca & Evrinomy Avdi

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Discourse analysis
Eugenie Georgaca & Evrinomy Avdi
Discourse analysis, as an approach to studying psychological phenomena, developed out of the ‘turn to language’ in social psychology in the 1970s and 1980s and the emergence of social constructionism. Although its main developments have taken place in social psychology, over the last two decades it has been increasingly used in the fields of clinical psychology, counseling psychology and psychotherapy, where it is usually associated with critical approaches.

Discourse analysis is a broad and diverse field, including a variety of approaches to the study of language, which derive from different scientific disciplines and utilize various analytical practices (Wetherell, Taylor, & Yates, 2001ab). In a broad sense, discourses are defined as systems of meaning that are related to the interactional and wider sociocultural context and operate regardless of the speakers’ intentions. Discourse analysis examines language in use, rather than the psychological phenomena, such as attitudes, memory or emotions, which are traditionally presumed to underlie talk and be revealed through it.

In discourse analysis language is examined in terms of construction and function; that is, language is considered a means of constructing, rather than mirroring, reality. Language is also considered a form of social action; people use language to achieve certain interpersonal goals (e.g. attribute responsibility, refute blame etc.) in specific interactional contexts. Discourse analysis, therefore, examines how certain issues are constructed in people’s accounts and the variability in these accounts, and explores the rhetorical aspects and the functions of talk in the context of the ongoing interaction (Potter & Wetherell, 1987). Discourses entail subject positions, which speakers take up when they employ language, and this has fundamental consequences both for the sense of self and experience of the speakers and for the actions they are entitled and expected to perform. Furthermore, there is a mutual relationship between discourses and institutions; discourses are produced and disseminated through institutional practices and they in turn legitimise and maintain these practices. Finally, discourses are wrapped up with power, since they make available certain versions of reality and personhood, whilst marginalising alternative knowledges and associated practices. Discourse analysis examines the ways in which discourses permeate talk and other kinds of texts. Discourse analysis also involves looking at the effects of discourses on, for example, how we experience ourselves and relate to each other. These discourses may reproduce or challenge culturally dominant ways of understanding the world, and, in turn thus reproduce or challenge dominant institutions and the particular kinds of social order (e.g. Parker, 1992).
Historical origins and influences

Discourse analysis is closely linked to the ‘turn to language’ and the emergence of social constructionism. A specifically discursive approach emerged in psychology in the mid 1980s, mainly in the U.K., and since its inception took shape in two distinct yet partly overlapping trends. One approach, which was later termed discursive psychology, drew upon developments in linguistic philosophy, semiology, the sociology of scientific knowledge, ethnomethodology, conversation analysis and rhetorical work in psychology (Wiggins & Potter, 2008). Discursive psychology is primarily concerned with discursive practices, that is to say, with the ways in which speakers in everyday and institutional settings negotiate meaning, reality, identity and responsibility. Another trend, subsequently termed Foucauldian discourse analysis, drew upon post-structuralist theorists, such as Foucault, Barthes and Derrida, cultural studies and social theory and was informed by feminism and Marxism (Arribas-Ayllon & Walkerdine, 2008; Burman & Parker, 1993). Foucauldian discourse analysis focuses on discursive resources and examines the ways in which discourses construct objects and subjects and create, in this way, certain versions of reality, society and identity as well as maintaining certain practices and institutions (Willig, 2008).

Key epistemological assumptions

As already mentioned, discourse analysis is a social constructionist approach. For social constructionism reality and identity are systematically constructed and maintained through systems of meaning and through social practices. In terms of epistemology, many discourse theorists adopt a relativist view; they assume that there exist no objective grounds on which the truth of claims can be proven and propose that the value of knowledge should be evaluated according to other criteria, such as its applicability, usefulness and clarity (Potter, 1996). Others, however, claim that relativism does not allow for a position from which social critique and action can be developed and adopt a critical realist position; they acknowledge that knowledge is always mediated by social processes but propose that underlying enduring structures do exist and that these can be known through their effects (Parker, 2002). These debates are discussed in more detail in chapter 7.

Research questions

Given its emphasis on construction and function, discourse analysis neither asks questions about or makes claims about the reality of people’s lives or experiences but examines the ways in which reality and experience are constructed through social and interpersonal processes. In the field of psychotherapy, discourse analytic studies have investigated (a) the transformation of meaning in the course of therapy, (b) the negotiation of agency, responsibility and blame between therapist and clients, (c) the role of the therapist in shaping clients’ accounts (d) power and resistance and (e) the role of hegemonic discourses in shaping clients’ problems and the solutions to them (for a review see Avdi, 2008; Avdi & Georgaca, 2007, 2009; Georgaca & Avdi, 2009). Mental health topics investigated by discourse analytic studies include (a) critical examination of clinical categories through tracing their historical trajectory (e.g. Blackman, 2001; Hepworth, 1999) or deconstructing their underlying assumptions (e.g. Georgaca, 2000; Gillett, 1997), (b) analysing the effects of discourses in shaping experiences and views of service users (e.g. Burns & Gavey, 2004; Swann & Ussher, 1995), (b) examination of the ways in which professionals construct clinical cases and justify their practices (e.g. Griffiths, 2001; Stevens & Harper, 2007), (c) how mental illness is constructed in public texts, including policy, media and cultural texts (e.g. Bilić & Georgaca, 2007; Harper, 2004) (for a review, see Harper, 2006).

Appropriate data

Discourse analysis can be applied to any kind of text, i.e. to anything that has meaning (Parker, 2002), although most studies analyse written or spoken language. Discourse analysis has been used to analyse both naturally occurring and research generated texts. In the field of mental health and psychotherapy, studies published to date have used interviews with individuals with mental health problems, interviews with mental health professionals, transcripts of professional interactions and psychotherapy sessions, newspaper reports, cultural texts and policy documents.

Regarding data sampling and size, discourse analyses often rely on relatively small numbers of participants and/or texts, in part due to the fact that analysis is very labour-intensive and large amounts of data would be prohibitive. The appropriate amount of data depends on the specific research question and the depth of the analysis conducted but as a rule of thumb eight to twenty interviews or four to eight focus group discussions should provide adequate material for a publishable study.
Involvement of research participants and mental health service users

Discourse analysis tends to generally fall short of involving participants in the research process, largely due to its interpretative nature. The simplest level of participation, participant validation, which is used in some forms of qualitative inquiry, is not a process commonly practiced in discourse analytic studies (for a discussion see Harper, 2003). Discourse analysis relies on an assumption that individuals are both positioned by discourses (of which they may not be fully aware) and use them (though not necessarily intentionally). It does not therefore make sense to ask research participants to validate something of which they may not be fully conscious (Coyle, 2000).

On the other hand, other researchers have claimed that discourse analysis can be used to enable research participants to become aware of the ways in which they are positioned through discourse. It has been argued, for example, that through highlighting the role of discourses in shaping experience, subjectivity and practices, discourse analysis could be useful in deconstructing taken for granted assumptions and in increasing the reflexivity of mental health professionals, thus contributing to more competent and empowering professional practices (e.g. Kogan & Brown, 1998). Similarly, Willig (1999) suggests that the process of conducting a discourse analytic study can be used either ‘therapeutically’, as a way of shifting participants’ subjectivities through reflexively examining their positioning, or as a form of consciousness raising, whereby participants explore the ways in which they have been constrained by certain discourses. In this way, discourse analysis can be used by socially oppressed and marginalised groups, including mental health service users, as a tool for empowerment, through exploring the subtle ways in which they have been subjugated by dominant symbolic systems and practices (Willig, 1999). This suggestion moves beyond participant validation to forms of collaborative and/or user-led research (see Faulkner in this volume) which is a direction in which research in mental health and psychotherapy should be moving (Harper, 2008). Nevertheless, the study by Armes (2009) is the only user-led discourse analytic study to date of which we are aware.
Use of the method and example

There is no wide agreement regarding the process of discourse analysis, although several guides to conducting discourse analytic research (Billig, 1997; Potter & Wetherell, 1987; Wiggins & Potter, 2008) and to analysing discourse (Parker, 1992; Potter, 2003) have been published. The steps in conducting a discourse analytic study broadly include devising a research question, gaining access and consent, collecting data, transcribing, reading, coding, analysis, validation, writing and application. In this section we concentrate on the process of analysing discourse, whereby we adopt an overall critical Foucauldian perspective, but for the actual micro-analysis we utilise the analytical tools of discursive psychology (Willig, 2008). Our aim is to introduce the basic notions and illustrate the main analytic practices used in discourse analysis, rather than offer a set of fixed procedures.

Analysis begins with transcription, which necessarily entails a level of interpretation (O’Connell & Kowal, 1995). Following transcription, several close readings and an initial coding is performed, which involves a selection of a corpus of extracts deemed relevant to the research question. This preliminary analysis leads the researcher to immerse herself in the data and begin to develop a sense of the flavour and the functions of the text. Analysis proper follows, which we present in terms of several interrelated levels, as applied to a brief extract from a family therapy session.

The extract presented is drawn from a family therapy session that took place in a Community Mental Health Centre in Greece1 and has been presented in more detail in Avdi (2005). The family (consisting of John, Anne and Tom, age 3.5) visited the service because of concerns regarding Tom’s development; Tom had been previously given a diagnosis of autism, psychosis and learning disability by different professionals. In the following extract, drawn from the beginning of the first session, Anne explains how the parents gradually came to realise that there was a problem.


1 Anne- he started making some movements, that is he started to say ah very intensely aaaah

2 he started to make these movements [makes hand-flapping movements], he started to hop and to

3 clap his hands

4 Therapist - did these remind you of anything?

5 Anne- they didn’t remind us of anything because we didn’t know anything about such matters,

6 but we definitely thought that something was not quite right

7 Therapist- did they remind you of a child younger than Tom? because usually this is the sort of

8 hand clapping that babies do

9 Anne- no it wasn’t that sort of clapping (.) this is the sort of hand-clapping (.) not like the children 10 to whom we say ‘clap your hands’ (.) Tom does it when he is very pleased, that is, he sees a

11 picture and he claps, he does this thing, moves his hands like this (.) he goes round and round

12 sometimes, around himself, it is not the sort of clapping that shows us that he is a child (.) to me it 13 was indication that something was wrong, it is not the clapping of a child (…) we could see

14 Tom did not say anything any more, he didn’t even say hello, nothing, he did nothing, and these 15 things he does they became more intense, that is, he started saying aaah more intensely, the

16 hand-clapping became more intense, he started seeing some pictures, not all pictures, and to hop

17 Therapist- what pictures was it usually?

18 Anne- oh it makes no difference what the picture is, it could be just a line, for example, we had

19 this drawing pad the other day it had a paintbrush and something else on, I cannot remember

20 exactly what, and he liked it a lot and he started hopping around

21 Therapist- did it have colours? Was it a drawing?

22 Tom - eeeeee

23 Therapist- What is his favourite picture?

24 Anne - I cannot say that he has a specific picture, it is a thing of the moment, he may get hold of a 25 magazine and look at it and choose one picture that he likes from the whole magazine and start to 26 hop around (…) I get frustrated in the sense that I don’t know how to react, what I should do,

27 should I take the book off him so that he stops making these movements, I am thinking how to

28 stop these movements he makes, because, that is, I think ‘you go out, they see Tom’, er, your life 29 becomes different afterwards

Level 1: Language as constructive: Discourses

A basic assumption underlying discourse analysis relates to the constructive aspect of language, that is the assumption that texts construct the objects to which they refer, that is to say, they create specific versions of the phenomena and processes they set out to describe. Accordingly, the first step in the analysis is to examine the various ways in which the objects under study are constructed in the specific text. We examine all instances where the object is mentioned or implied and focus on the variability in the constructions.

The object under study in the example concerns the negotiation of the problem that takes place in the clinical dialogue. We will briefly examine the mother’s and the therapist’s constructions in turn. Anne produces a list of Tom’s behaviours that includes vocalisations, movements with a compulsive quality, general apathy and lack of speech. These behaviours are represented as typical of Tom, unusual (lines 9-10), bizarre and inexplicable (lines 9-16, 24-29), an indication that something is wrong (lines 12-13) and something to be managed, stopped and concealed from others (lines 26-29). The therapist’s questions introduce a different interpretative frame regarding the problematic behaviours; her first question implies that the behaviours could be understood in the context of Anne’s previous experience, a construction further developed in her second utterance (lines 7-8), where she normalises Tom’s handclapping as part of a developmental course. Moreover, through her next questions (lines 17, 23), the therapist elaborates the notion that there may be a pattern, and therefore a meaning, in Tom’s seemingly bizarre behaviours, thus constructing the problem as meaningful action rather than a meaningless symptom.

After establishing the different modes of the object’s construction, we broaden our focus to locate these constructions within culturally available systems of meaning, that is to say, discourses. This is the first step towards linking interaction with ideology.

In this brief extract one can begin to discern the systems of meaning from which the parents and the therapist draw in their talk. Anne lists Tom’s behaviours without associating them with Tom’s inner world or interactional context (lines 1-3, 9-16, 24-26) and therefore these behaviours take on, we would argue, the quality of symptoms. In Anne’s talk, therefore, the problem and Tom’s identity can be seen to be primarily constructed in terms of a medical discourse. One of the features of the medical discourse is that it implicates the existence of a specific, diagnosable condition, clearly located inside the person (in this case the child), which has a given (presumably organic) aetiology, prognosis and treatment. As we have already argued, language creates the objects it refers to and constructions are associated with sets of meanings as well as institutions and practices. Given the family’s previous contact with professionals, it is not surprising that the behaviours (or symptoms) they use in describing their child are commonly associated with contemporary definitions of autism. Moreover, in comparing (lines 9-17) Tom’s clapping with ‘that sort of handclapping’, Anne discursively creates a ‘normal’ type of handclapping, which the therapist is supposed to recognise, and which forms the basis with which comparisons are made. The notion that a normal range of children’s behaviours can be defined is associated with a discourse of normal development. This discourse is associated with specific bodies of knowledge, such as developmental psychology, and with healthcare and educational practices that define what a normal child is expected to be able to do, when and how, assess these behaviours and treat children that deviate. In this framework, difference is generally framed in terms of deficiency or abnormality (Urwin, 1985). The discourse of normal development has been criticised for abstracting, reifying and privileging the notion of a prototypical genderless child, beyond context and culture (Burman, 2008) and for incorporating the assumption that parents, and particularly mothers, are responsible for promoting the emotional and intellectual health of their infant (Urwin, 1985). In the last part of the extract Anne expresses her concerns about managing Tom’s differentness (lines 27-29). Anne’s concern regarding Tom looking different in conjunction with comparisons of Tom with ‘normal children’ (lines 9-16) can all be seen to be associated with a disability discourse. This discourse has associations of deficiency, locates the disabled person as Other and raises issues concerning the management of differentness, deviance and stigma (e.g. Avdi, Griffin, & Brough, 2000). The therapist, on the other hand, through her questions that seek to associate Tom’s behaviours with some meaningful internal state or treat them as meaningful responses within a certain context is arguably deploying a psychological/interpretative discourse, which asserts that behaviour is always meaningful, even though this meaning may not be immediately apparent.
Level 2: Language as functional: Rhetorical strategies

A second level of analysis examines the dynamics of interaction, that is the ways in which the participants’ use of language and management of the interaction serve interpersonal functions (e.g. renouncement of an unwanted identity, attribution of responsibility, allocation of blame etc). Here we examine how accounts are organised and the rhetorical strategies speakers use in order to present their version as credible and themselves as objective, reliable and rational. In terms of examining the function of talk, we examine a speaker’s utterance in relation to the discursive context in which it is produced, that is what came before and what follows. We also examine the function that the deployment of specific discourses has on the unfolding interaction. As already mentioned, variability is a key feature of discourse use, as different discourses are used by the same speaker in different contexts, in order to serve varied discursive functions. A concept relevant here is the notion of the participants’ discursive agenda, a notion that refers to the effects each participant’s talk has on the overall interaction. The agenda of each participant can be deduced only after the detailed analysis of the function of his/her talk.

We will briefly outline some hypotheses regarding action orientation, that is the possible functions of the speakers’ utterances in the context of the particular interaction, by examining the first part of the extract. In her description of the problem, Anne uses various strategies that render her account credible and objective; for example, she provides a vivid and detailed description of Tom’s symptoms and her account is structured so as to suggest that what is being described is a true and accurate version of reality, objectively represented by an unbiased and disinterested narrator (lines 1-3, 9-16, 18-21) (Potter, 1996). The therapist, in asking ‘did these remind you of anything?’, asks for Anne’s associations regarding Tom’s behaviours, inviting her to attribute meaning to them; this intervention can be seen to subtly subvert the medical discourse, by challenging the view that the behaviours Anne describes have a single, fixed meaning, shared by the speakers. Anne does not accept this invitation and her next utterance (lines 5-6) can be read as furthering her aim to prove that that there is indeed an objective problem: she claims that initially they (here she includes her husband, thus increasing the persuasive power of her account) did not see Tom’s behaviours for what they truly were (i.e. symptoms of autism), as they were naïve non-experts, although they could still see that something was wrong. Thus, Tom’s difficulties are constructed as observable and objective facts, clearly obvious even to non-experts. Given that this exchange takes place during the family’s first contact with the service, it could be argued that the parents are advocating for their child and attempting to convince professionals that there is a problem serious enough to warrant access to services. Next, the therapist introduces the notion that Tom’s behaviours are like the actions of a young baby; this is an interesting intervention, as it both accepts the parents’ view (i.e. that something is wrong) and reframes it as something that Tom can grow out of. This intervention is fairly typical in postmodern therapies, whereby restricting meanings are relativised without, however, rendering the therapist’s account as the only valid perspective (e.g. Kogan & Gale, 1997).

The participants’ agendas cannot be inferred from such a brief extract, although some indications of their overall effect on the interaction can be discerned. Anne’s talk could be described as an attempt to convince experts of the reality of the problem, so that the family gains access to services, whilst refuting any possible accusations of blame, given that parents who attend services for their children may feel that they will be held responsible for their child’s problems by professionals. Correspondingly, the therapist’s discursive agenda seems to be that of destabilising the dominance of the diagnostic discourse; the therapist’s persistent attempts to attribute meaning to Tom’s actions could be interpreted as an example of this.

Level 3: Positioning

Another important notion in the analysis is that of subject positions, that is the identities made relevant through specific ways of talking (Davies & Harré, 1990). It is a notion that can be approached analytically on two levels, namely in relation to the specifics of the interaction and to wider discourses. Firstly, in a particular interaction when participants speak, are addressed to or are spoken about, they are positioned in specific ways. Questions we raise at this level of analysis are: Who speaks? In whose name do they speak? Who do they address? Who do they speak for? Different positions entail differing degrees of accountability and can have a variety of functions, e.g. to distance the speaker from what is being said, to endow what is being said with authority etc. Secondly, discourses entail specific subject positions and, when participants draw upon certain discourses, they are positioned and call upon others to be positioned accordingly. The diagnostic discourse employed, for example, determines a pathological subject position for Tom. His actions are represented as conveying little meaning and being outside his control. Agency is attributed to the symptoms, represented as the manifestation of an underlying condition, abstracted from Tom and the context of his life, yet projected within him. Tom is positioned as someone fundamentally different from normal children, hovering somewhere between subjectivity and objectivity and he thus becomes the object of others’ talk rather than a subject. This positioning is evident in the actual interaction, where Tom is talked about but not talked to, and when he participates in the conversation (line 23) he is not further involved in it.

In summarising the above, analysis relies on the notions of discourse, action orientation and subject positioning, and these levels are often performed simultaneously and in conjunction. The following two levels examine the effects that discourse choice has on action and subjectivity, link the text with the wider social context and should follow the exhaustive micro-analysis of the text.
Level 4: Practices, institutions and power

There is a close mutual relationship between discourses and practices; dominant discourses, which become taken for granted, support and enable social and institutional practices, which in turn maintain them. The analytical questions here concern the role of the specific discourses used in maintaining or challenging dominant institutions and practices. This brings forth considerations of power, often considered in terms of the dominance of certain discourses, and resistance, which can take the form of clandestine use of discourses, refusal to take up the positions implied by dominant discourses or development and use of counter-discourses. With regards to this level of analysis, in the extract presented one could examine the effects of dominant discourses on the way in which the family’s problems have been constituted as well as on the suggested ways of managing or resolving the problems. It would also be possible to investigate the interplay of power and resistance that takes place between therapist and parents in the clinical dialogue.

Level 5: Subjectivity

This last level of analysis concerns the effects of discourse on subjectivity. The adoption of the subject positions entailed in specific discourses has repercussions for the way individuals think, feel and experience themselves. Here we attempt to reconstitute what it means to be a person located in particular discourses. This level of analysis could explore the effects of positioning Tom in terms of the discourse of autism on his subjectivity and relationships.

Quality criteria

With the recent proliferation of discourse analysis in the social sciences, several sets of fairly diverse quality criteria specific to discourse analysis have been published (Antaki, Billig, Edwards, & Potter, 2004; Burman, 2004; Potter & Wetherell, 1987). Chapter 16 includes generic criteria which could be used but, as a number of authors have suggested that qualitative researchers should identify evaluative criteria that are consistent with their epistemological assumptions and method, we note here those which we consider most useful and relevant for discourse analysts. (a) Internal coherence refers to the crafting of a consistent account of the data. (b) Rigour is achieved through attention to inconsistency and diversity, analysing deviant cases in order to delimit the applicability of data and providing richness of detail. (c) The presentation of the research process should be transparent and situated, through the detailed explication of all the stages of the research process and the grounding of the analysis in extracts, so that the reader can judge both the quality of the findings and the relationship between the findings and the context of their generation. (d) Reflexivity is the overarching principle of constructionist studies; researchers should be attentive both to their role in the generation of research data and to the nature of the knowledge produced through the research and should discuss these in the published study. (e) A final criterion for the quality of discourse analytic studies is their usefulness both theoretically, in terms of providing new insights, enhancing existing research and generating new questions, and in terms of their real world application.


Discourse analysis has had a double impact: (a) it has shifted the focus from psychological phenomena to interpersonal processes and sociocultural systems of meaning, and (b) it has been used to deconstruct dominant categories in psychology, by showing their historically located and socially constructed nature, and therefore to open spaces for alternative understandings (Coyle, 2000; Willig, 1999).

In the field of psychotherapy, discourse analyses have underscored its interactional nature and the active role of the therapist, and this can potentially promote therapist reflexivity. Discourse analytic studies of psychotherapy range from demonstrating the interactional processes through which psychotherapy is implemented, thus enhancing clinical work, to demonstrating how psychotherapy operates as an institution for the regulation of subjectivity, thus operating to deconstruct dominant psychotherapeutic assumptions and challenge psychotherapeutic practices (Avdi & Georgaca, 2007). In the field of mental health, studies attempt to deconstruct dominant categories and practices, by rendering visible the historical and cultural processes which have produced them, highlight the constraining effects dominant discourses have for people subjected to them and open the way for alternative, more empowering concepts and practices (Harper, 1995; Parker, Georgaca, Harper, McLaughlin, & Stowell-Smith, 1995).

In sum, although discourse analytic findings do not lead to direct implementation, they can inform novel interventions, especially those that oppose dominant understandings and practices (Harper, 2006).


Over the last two decades much discourse analytic work has been carried out in the field of psychotherapy but it has been more limited in the fields of psychopathology and serious mental distress. This may be due to the fact that these studies of psychotherapy are linked with the recent emergence of postmodern trends in psychotherapeutic practice, (McNamee & Gergen, 1992; Parker, 1999) – trends which are much less evident in mental health research as a result of the continued dominance of the medical model and the ensuing conservatism of this field.

Discourse analytic work has shifted the attention of psychological research to the interpersonal and social domains and has examined (a) the interactional nature of professional practices, such as psychotherapy, diagnosis, case conferences, (b) the contingent, historically situated nature of dominant concepts and categories, and (c) the impact of these categories and associated practices on individuals who are subjected to them. In this sense, discourse analysts, more than other researchers in mental health, have been on the critical edge, politically engaged and committed to critique and social change. Although we recognise that the more critical, deconstructive discourse analytic studies may be experienced as too far removed from the concerns clinicians face in their everyday work, we would still argue that critical work is the distinctive mark and the most important contribution that discourse analysis can make to mental health research (Avdi & Georgaca, 2007). Pursuing critical discourse analytic work with an aim of making a difference in the field would require (a) emphasis on the links between research, implementation and interventions, (b) alliances of discourse researchers with mental health service users and critical professionals, and (c) tactical use of the findings through using multiple forms of dissemination and consultation (see also Harper, 2006).

Box: Further readings
General introductions to discourse analysis

Wetherell, M., Taylor, S., & Yates, S. J. (Eds.) (2001a). Discourse theory and practice: A reader. London: Sage. (advanced overview of theories and approaches to discourse)

Wetherell, M., Taylor, S. & Yates, S. J. (Eds.) (2001b). Discourse as data: A guide for analysis. London: Sage. (advanced but very clear overview of different approaches to discourse analyzing data)

Willig, C. (2008). Introducing qualitative research in psychology: Adventures in theory and method, second edition. Maidenhead: Open University Press. (very clear introductory chapters on the two main trends of discourse analysis)

Overviews of discourse analysis in psychotherapy and mental health

Avdi, E. & Georgaca, E. (2007). Discourse analysis and psychotherapy: A critical review. European Journal of Psychotherapy & Counselling, 9(2), 157-176.

Harper, D. (2006). Discourse analysis. In M. Slade & S. Priebe (Eds.), Choosing methods in mental health research: Mental health research from theory to practice (pp. 47-67). London: Routledge.

Antaki, C., Billig, M., Edwards, D., & Potter, J. (2003). Discourse analysis means doing analysis: A critique of six analytic shortcomings. Discourse Analysis Online. http://www.shu.ac.uk/daol/articles/v1/n1/a1/antaki2002002-paper.html.

Armes, D. G. (2009). Mission informed discursive tactics of British mental health service-user/survivor movement (BSUSM) resistance to formalization pressures accompanying contractual relationships with purchasing authorities. Journal of Mental Health, 18(4), 344-352.

Arribas-Ayllon, M. & Walkerdine, W. (2008). Foucauldian discourse analysis. In C. Willig & W. Stainton-Rogers (Eds.), The Sage handbook of qualitative research in psychology (pp. 91-108). London: Sage.

Avdi, E. (2005). Discursively negotiating a pathological identity in the clinical dialogue: Discourse analysis of a family therapy. Psychology & Psychotherapy: Theory, Research and Practice, 78, 493-511.

Avdi, E. (2008). Analysing talk in the talking cure: Conversation, discourse and narrative analyses of psychoanalytic psychotherapy. European Psychotherapy, 8, 69-88.

Avdi, E. & Georgaca, E. (2007). Discourse analysis and psychotherapy: A critical review. European Journal of Psychotherapy & Counselling, 9(2), 157-176.

Avdi, E. & Georgaca, E. (2009). Narrative and discursive approaches to the analysis of subjectivity in psychotherapy. Social & Personality Psychology Compass, 3(5), 654-670.

Avdi, E., Griffin, C., & Brough, S. (2000). Parents’ constructions of professional knowledge, expertise and authority during assessment and diagnosis of their child for an autistic spectrum disorder. British Journal of Medical Psychology, 73, 327-338.

Bilić, B., & Georgaca, E. (2007). Representations of “mental illness” in Serbian newspapers: A critical discourse analysis. Qualitative Research in Psychology, 4, 167-186.

Billig, M. (1997). Rhetorical and discursive analysis: How families talk about the Royal Family. In N. Hayes (Ed.), Doing qualitative analysis in psychology (pp. 39-54). Hove: Psychology Press.

Blackman, L. (2001). Hearing voices: Embodiment and experience. London: Free Association Books.

Burman, E. (2004). Discourse analysis means analysing discourse: Some comments on Antaki, Billig, Edwards & Potter ‘Discourse analysis means doing analysis: A critique of six analytic shortcomings’. Discourse Analysis Online. http://www.shu.ac.uk/daol/articles/open/2003/003/burman2003003-t.html

Burman, E. (2008). Deconstructing developmental psychology (2nd ed.). London: Routledge.

Burman, E. & Parker, I (Eds.) (1993). Discourse analytic research, London: Routledge.

Burns, M. & Gavey, N. (2004). ‘Healthy weight’ at what cost? ‘Bulimia’ and a discourse of weight control. Journal of Health Psychology, 9(4), 549-565.

Coyle, A. (2000). Discourse analysis. In G. M. Breakwell, S. Hammond & C. Fife-Schaw (Eds.), Research methods in psychology (2nd edition) (pp. 251-268). London: Sage.

Davies, B., & Harré, R. (1990). ‘Positioning’: The discursive production of selves. Journal for the Theory of Social Behaviour, 20, 43-63.

Georgaca, E. (2000). Reality and discourse: A critical analysis of the category of ‘delusions’. British Journal of Medical Psychology, 73, 227-242.

Georgaca, E. & Avdi, E. (2009). Evaluating the talking cure: The contribution of narrative, discourse and conversation analysis to psychotherapy assessment. Qualitative Research in Psychology, 6, 233-247.

Gillett, G. (1997). A discursive account of multiple personality disorder. Philosophy, Psychiatry & Psychology, 4, 213-222.

Griffiths, L. (2001). Categorising to exclude: The discursive construction of cases in community mental health teams. Sociology of Health & Illness, 23, 678-700.

Harper, D. J. (1995). Discourse analysis and ‘mental health’. Journal of Mental Health, 4, 347-357.

Harper, D. (2003). Developing a critically reflexive position using discourse analysis. In L. Finlay & B. Gough (Eds.), Reflexivity: A practical guide for researchers in health and social sciences (pp. 78-92). Oxford: Blackwell.

Harper, D. J. (2004). Storying policy: Constructions of risk in proposals to reform UK mental health legislation. In B. Hurwitz, V. Skultans & T. Greenhalgh (Eds.), Narrative research in health and illness (pp. 397-413). London: BMA Books.

Harper, D. (2006). Discourse analysis. In M. Slade & S. Priebe (Eds.), Choosing methods in mental health research: Mental health research from theory to practice (pp. 47-67). London: Routledge.

Harper, D. (2008). Clinical psychology. In C. Willig & W. Stainton-Rogers (Eds.), The Sage handbook of qualitative research in psychology (pp.430-454). London: Sage.

Hepworth, J. (1999). The social construction of anorexia. London: Sage.

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1 In line with the Centre’s usual practice, all family therapy sessions were audio-recorded and consent was obtained from the family for the use of transcribed material for research and teaching purposes. All names used here are pseudonyms.

2 Transcription notation: underlining = added emphasis; (.) = brief pause; (...) = part of the text omitted

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