Collaborative therapy: performing reflective and dialogical relationships

Sue Levin and Saliha Bava

in Discursive Perspectives in Therapeutic Practice

Published on behalf of Oxford University Press

Published in print April 2012 | ISBN: 9780199592753
Published online February 2013 | e-ISBN: 9780191754715 | DOI:

Series: International Perspectives in Philosophy & Psychiatry

Collaborative therapy: performing reflective and dialogical relationships

Show Summary Details


In this chapter we have talked about collaborative therapy as a social-constructionist, relational approach to mental health practice. Taking a reflective position we have looked at our history and the field of mental health and the notion of collaboration. One of the ways in which we have expanded our practice is to understand it as a performance. From this perspective we view clients and therapists as human beings performing in conversations and relationships around issues of concern. These performances are on a continuum of ordinary, everyday conversations about hopes and concerns to extraordinary and unspoken conversations about issues such as suicide.

We use the stories of clients who are (or have been) suicidal to illustrate the ways in which collaboration offers powerful possibilities that keep clients and therapists connected towards the design of new lives. The collaborative process gives the client and therapist permission to talk in ways that are not familiar (Andersen 1991). The not-knowing stance keeps the therapist from grabbing onto the right protocol, a medication solution, or a stop-suicide intervention. Though not-knowing is risky, as there may end up being a death when someone decides they want to die, honouring that possibility and exploring it also offers genuine respect, concern, and interest in the client's reality and current experience. Such a conversation is difficult to have because as therapists we are also human; we care about our clients, have values and are challenged by uncertainties.

Being human allows us to feel the depth of the concern and respect and not stay distant in our ‘professionalism.’ As active participants in collaboration we bring our fears, concerns, and values into the interplay of our relationship. This bi-directional connection, human being to human being and therapist to client, in conversation offers hope and possibilities.

Chapter.  8496 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Psychiatry

Full text: subscription required

How to subscribe Recommend to my Librarian

Buy this work at Oxford University Press »

Users without a subscription are not able to see the full content. Please, subscribe or login to access all content.