Empathic ‘my side tellings’: Three therapist strategies that ‘argue understanding’ in open dialogue reflections

Karen Nissen Schriver*, Ben Ong, Camilla Blach Rossen, Niels Buus

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journal/Conference contribution in journal/Contribution to newspaperJournal articleResearchpeer-review


Through conversation analysis, we explore how open dialogue practitioners in a Danish mental health hospital articulate their own experiences as indicative of a client's inner states, an interactional practice defined here broadly as empathic ‘my side tellings’. We argue that there are three types of my side tellings employed by the practitioners for proving an understanding of the clients’ experiences. These are either based on one's bodily sensation; on one's imagination of the other person's experience; or on one's personal experience or role. They all function to support how a practitioner can understand. We suggest that empathic my side tellings are interactional strategies that claim empathy through laying out one's personal source or arguments for understanding. It is proposed that communication of empathy can be at odds with the clients’ own assessment of their situation and feelings, while nevertheless being an integral part of doing psychotherapy.

Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of Pragmatics
Pages (from-to)44-53
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2022


  • Conversation analysis
  • Empathy
  • Mental health
  • My side tellings
  • Open dialogue
  • Psychiatry
  • Psychotherapy


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