One of the core tasks of systemic therapy is to facilitate change which is largely considered to occur in an affiliative and non-interventionist manner. In this thesis I examine the role of an under-reported practice in the pursuit of 'change' in systemic therapy encounters, by focusing on a therapist's attempts to facilitate change in the client's perspective through persuasive argumentation.
An interactional account of argumentation is offered through the means of conversation analysis which is the primary methodological framework for the research. The data consists of 13 hours of recorded and faithfully transcribed interaction between a person living with HIV and a systemic psychotherapist.
I report three persuasion mechanisms that the therapist mobilises in the attempt to induce change. In the first,-subsequently to a display by the client of a negative stance the therapist solicits the client's grounds (or strongest grounds) in support of this stance. Pragmatically the move invites a defeasible account which the therapist then challenges or rebuts. In the second, the therapist launches a series of questions which progressively uncover a contradiction in the client's understanding of her lived experience. In the third, the therapist delivers a concession to which she attaches an account or elaboration which in fact opposes the client's trajectory and which renders the concession a tactical one.
Based on the findings, I discuss some core characteristics of argumentation in therapy interaction. I also discuss the role of epistemic accessibility in the accomplishment of opposition in systemic therapy practice. Finally, I argue that argumentation in the data arises from the use of habitual systemic therapy techniques which reveals their argumentative potential and the under-theorised role of argumentation in facilitating psychotherapeutic change.
A Doctoral Thesis. Submitted in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the award of Doctor of Philosophy of Loughborough University.