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Intersubjectivity in psychotherapy: perspectives of sadomasochism and conversation analysis

Dilekler, İlknur
Sadomasochism as a personality organization is defined in terms of recurrent patterns of compulsion to hurt and to be hurt in interpersonal relationships. The relational and social constructivist views for both personality traits and psychotherapy relationship points out the importance of intersubjectivity. Thus, the literature on the relational manifestations of sadomasochistic properties in psychotherapy from this perspective informs us about the co-construction of some relational dynamics. However, information in the literature relies mainly on case studies or research from positivist paradigm and there is a need for closer examination of qualitative properties of aforementioned dynamics. As a result, this study aims to examine how psychotherapy clients with sadomasochistic features and psychotherapists interact in their therapeutic relationship. In order to answer this question conversation analysis is utilized. It aims to reveal how meanings are constructed in social actions of individuals by analyzing conversationsin terms of recurrent relational patterns and micro dynamics. Twenty four sessions conducted by four therapist-client dyads are analyzed with this method and the analysis suggested that collaboration, uncollaboration, and ambiguity of collaboration were three main patterns of interaction, which varied in different stages of process and among dyads. The findings are discussed from conversation analysis perspective related to psychotherapy research, transference-countertransference, and object relations literature. It is concluded that this study provides support for the intersubjectivity of psychotherapy relationship and explains some facets of how therapists and clients, as equally active agents, construct meanings in this relationship.