Narrative means to research ends: Learning about therapy from clients' descriptions

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Marriage and Family Therapy


Linda Stone Fish


Learning, Therapy, Clients' descriptions, Narrative therapy, Interpersonal process recall

Subject Categories

Marriage and Family Therapy and Counseling | Psychoanalysis and Psychotherapy


The author constructed a research project that was congruent with his narrative therapy world-view. His rationale for the study was based on the intersection of his personal and professional experience and knowledge. The purpose of the study was to introduce clients' perspectives into professional accounts of therapy; to introduce research as an accountability practice; and to generate research results that were meaningful for practitioners and researchers.

The study documents three couples' experiences of therapy with reflecting teams. To account for the couples' experiences, the author combined Interpersonal Process Recall interviews and a variation of the constant comparison process within grounded theory methodology. Letters were constructed to document the couples' descriptions of their therapy experiences. The therapists and team members then reviewed and reflected on the letters that described the couples' experiences. The therapists and team members' reflections of the letters were included in the results.

The implications of this study pointed to the positive therapy effects associated with inviting clients to be "research consultants." Participation in this study also seemed to benefit the therapists who participated by offering them new and rich information about their clients that was not evident in therapy. In addition, the author introduced new and alternative therapy practices based on the findings.

The author concluded the research might be meaningful to many practitioners because the study was consistent with a therapeutic world-view. He also argued the study was valuable because it demonstrated a hermeneutic relationship between therapists, researchers, and clients. In addition, the author suggested the descriptive rather than explanatory results provide rich and generative material for ongoing therapy dialogues. These dialogues may be particularly meaning-full because they, hopefully, place clients' experiences at the center of those conversations.


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