Power and dialogue: A review of discursive research

Ben Ong, Eleftheria Tseliou, Tom Strong, Niels Buus

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review


Collaborative-dialogic approaches to family therapy advise therapists to take a position of client-as-expert and promote an equality of multiple perspectives. This has led to debates about how to conceptualize power in dialogical therapies with scholars theorizing and researching power as social and negotiated through interaction. We aimed to understand power in dialogical therapy through reviewing discursive research on therapeutic conversations. We performed a systematic search of bibliographical databases PsycINFO, PubMed, and CINAHL. We reviewed the findings from 18 studies utilizing discursive analyses of collaborative-dialogical therapy sessions and examined their findings in relation to power within interactions. We found a strong focus on the practices of the therapist rather than on those of the client. The therapist was presented as a catalyst of dialogue using minimal and active responses to promote dialogical conversations. Therapists also utilized power in response to broader institutional and social demands that may not be consistent with some interpretations of dialogical therapy. We consider practice implications where the exercise of power to direct a session facilitates dialogical interactions.

Original languageEnglish
Number of pages17
JournalFamily Process
Publication statusPublished - 2023


  • dialogue
  • discursive research
  • open dialogue
  • power
  • review

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