Paraverbal Communication in Psychotherapy: Beyond the Words

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By James M. Donovan, Kristin Osborn, & Susan Rice

The universe of dynamic psychotherapy has undergone slow, but ultimately dramatic change, since the 1970s. Now a new psychotherapist has taken up residence in the office. This book tells the story of what we found when we studied that new therapist directly, by watching her work, on videotape or through extended case excerpts. Here we learn that today’s counselor’s thoughts, words and behaviors sharply set her in contrast to her counterparts of just twenty-five years earlier.

The videotape, for the first time, reveals to us the verbatim spoken exchanges, but also the bodily messages: the tones of voice – the facial expressions – the gestures of patient and therapist as they choreograph their interaction. When we begin to examine the therapy participants as embodied speakers, at this moment we find ourselves on the outskirts of mostly untrodden territory. We sense an evolutionary advance perhaps about to take place on the screen, because we can now choose to study all the extra-verbal information, as well as the verbal, in the therapy interchange.

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