Accomplishing a continuing relationship in psychotherapy: Updates and the role of time references

Shannon Clark, Johanna Rendle-Short

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Citations (Scopus)


This paper examines how participants in psychotherapy reconnect at the beginning of psychotherapy sessions through 'updates', and the role of time references in managing this activity stage. Drawing on 18 sessions from a corpus of 123 audio-recorded sessions between one client and her therapist over the course of two years and utilizing principles of conversation analysis, we show how the client updates the therapist near the beginning of sessions, producing new or newly relevant tellings about aspects of herself and her life, for example, events and happenings, developments in personal relationships, and changes in her feelings and personal state. These aspects are thereby made available for joint therapeutic focus. Time references, for example, '10 days', 'last week' and 'Thursday', are used by participants to manage coherence and relevance across multiple individual tellings within the update, as well as locating the current session as one-in-a-series of sessions. Through updates, participants orient to and manage their therapeutic relationship as ongoing, incremental and accumulative. Given the central role of the therapeutic relationship to psychotherapy, the analysis shows how time references are employed as a central organizing feature of interactional activities that are constitutive of fundamental psychotherapy work.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)239-256
Number of pages18
JournalAustralian Journal of Linguistics
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2 Apr 2016
Externally publishedYes


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