Research Topic

Qualitative research on therapist-client interaction in psychotherapy

About this Research Topic

In psychotherapy, therapists use verbal or non-verbal resources to deal with clients’ mental health issues. In most cases, psychotherapists mainly use spoken conversation to communicate with their clients although some other forms of communication may also be used, such as written words, body movements and facial expressions. Practitioners and researchers alike have attached importance to therapist-client interaction in psychotherapy since the beginning of the 20th century. In the 1950s, the line of research began to be changed from case report to social scientific and language analysis. Therapist-client interaction is indeed the key activity in psychotherapy, which is considered as the dominant activity occurring in therapy sessions. Talk is central to psychotherapy because it is by talk that therapists demonstrate empathic understanding of clients, establish a therapeutic alliance with their clients, and understand the inner worlds of their clients and themselves. It has been reported that therapists’ good conversation skills are key to successful therapies because they could facilitate honest communication, develop trust, and enhance clients’ willingness to disclose their problematic experiences. As psychotherapy continues to become more widely available, it is vital that we develop our understanding of how psychotherapy is achieved by therapist-client interaction.

This Research Topic aims to explore the ways in which talk is used by either therapists or clients to accomplish the institutional goals in psychotherapy and establish a good therapeutic relationship. More specifically, research exploring the role of talk in psychotherapy as well as in dealing with the client’s mental health is encouraged. Research on therapist-client interactions using qualitative research methods (e.g., conversation analysis; discourse analysis; pragmatics; interactional linguistics; content analysis/theme analysis) is also particularly encouraged. We welcome original articles and reviews including, but not limited to, the following topics:
- Turn-taking in therapist-client interactions.
- Empathy in therapist-client interactions in psychotherapy.
- The therapeutic functions of talk in psychotherapy.
- The ways in which the therapist’s talk can influence the practice of psychotherapy.
- The ways in which therapists respond to their client's troubles talk or feelings talk during different moments within and throughout the therapeutic work.


Keywords: Psychotherapy, Talk, Therapist-client interaction, Qualitative research methods


Important Note: All contributions to this Research Topic must be within the scope of the section and journal to which they are submitted, as defined in their mission statements. Frontiers reserves the right to guide an out-of-scope manuscript to a more suitable section or journal at any stage of peer review.

In psychotherapy, therapists use verbal or non-verbal resources to deal with clients’ mental health issues. In most cases, psychotherapists mainly use spoken conversation to communicate with their clients although some other forms of communication may also be used, such as written words, body movements and facial expressions. Practitioners and researchers alike have attached importance to therapist-client interaction in psychotherapy since the beginning of the 20th century. In the 1950s, the line of research began to be changed from case report to social scientific and language analysis. Therapist-client interaction is indeed the key activity in psychotherapy, which is considered as the dominant activity occurring in therapy sessions. Talk is central to psychotherapy because it is by talk that therapists demonstrate empathic understanding of clients, establish a therapeutic alliance with their clients, and understand the inner worlds of their clients and themselves. It has been reported that therapists’ good conversation skills are key to successful therapies because they could facilitate honest communication, develop trust, and enhance clients’ willingness to disclose their problematic experiences. As psychotherapy continues to become more widely available, it is vital that we develop our understanding of how psychotherapy is achieved by therapist-client interaction.

This Research Topic aims to explore the ways in which talk is used by either therapists or clients to accomplish the institutional goals in psychotherapy and establish a good therapeutic relationship. More specifically, research exploring the role of talk in psychotherapy as well as in dealing with the client’s mental health is encouraged. Research on therapist-client interactions using qualitative research methods (e.g., conversation analysis; discourse analysis; pragmatics; interactional linguistics; content analysis/theme analysis) is also particularly encouraged. We welcome original articles and reviews including, but not limited to, the following topics:
- Turn-taking in therapist-client interactions.
- Empathy in therapist-client interactions in psychotherapy.
- The therapeutic functions of talk in psychotherapy.
- The ways in which the therapist’s talk can influence the practice of psychotherapy.
- The ways in which therapists respond to their client's troubles talk or feelings talk during different moments within and throughout the therapeutic work.


Keywords: Psychotherapy, Talk, Therapist-client interaction, Qualitative research methods


Important Note: All contributions to this Research Topic must be within the scope of the section and journal to which they are submitted, as defined in their mission statements. Frontiers reserves the right to guide an out-of-scope manuscript to a more suitable section or journal at any stage of peer review.

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Submission Deadlines

09 October 2021 Manuscript

Participating Journals

Manuscripts can be submitted to this Research Topic via the following journals:

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Topic Editors

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Submission Deadlines

09 October 2021 Manuscript

Participating Journals

Manuscripts can be submitted to this Research Topic via the following journals:

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