UBC Theses and Dissertations

UBC Theses Logo

UBC Theses and Dissertations

Comprehensive discourse analysis of symbolic externalization Wiebe, Katharine


The purpose of this study was to discover how therapist and clients co-create relational novelty using symbolic externalization intervention in successful Experiential Systemic Therapy (ExST) for marital treatment of alcohol dependence through a single case study design. A comprehensive discourse analysis method was used to study the therapeutic conversation within a 15 minute therapy episode in which therapist and clients externalized the problem of alcohol. The therapy episode was video-taped, audio-taped, transcribed and then analyzed according to the procedures of comprehensive discourse analysis. The analysis of the clients' and therapist's discourse revealed eight themes that contributed to co-creating relational novelty at the intrapersonal, interpersonal and symptomatic system levels. The themes co-constructed by the therapist and clients to attain relational novelty included: (a) creating and maintaining a collaborative atmosphere; (b) challenging propositions and competence; (c) refraining alcohol as a seducer; (d) moving from an individual to a relational understanding of the role of alcohol in the couple’s relationship; (e) re-defining and accenting the couple’s commonalities; (f) diffusing tension and defensiveness; (g) regulating the intensity of experiences; and (h) deepening contrasting experiences. The therapeutic process involved movement away from the old, restrictive story or meaning of the alcohol dependence toward a new perspective while simultaneously moderating the atmosphere and character of the therapy. The outcome, the proximal in-session relational novelty, that the therapist and clients co-created using the symbolic externalization intervention demonstrated that therapeutic change is a dynamic, interactive, and context dependent process.

Item Media

Item Citations and Data


For non-commercial purposes only, such as research, private study and education. Additional conditions apply, see Terms of Use https://open.library.ubc.ca/terms_of_use.