Conversation analysis of the two-chair self-soothing task in emotion-focused therapy

Olga Sutherland, Anssi Peräkylä, Robert Elliott

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

26 Citations (Scopus)
438 Downloads (Pure)


Despite an increasing recognition of the relevance and significance of self-compassion processes, little research has explored interventions that seek to enhance these in therapy. In this study, we used conversation analysis to examine the compassionate self-soothing task of emotion-focused therapy involving two-chair work, with seven clients. The analysis yielded a detailed description of interactional practices and processes involved in the accomplishment of self-soothing, drawing on Goffman’s concept of the participation frame. In this article we show how therapists and clients collaborate to move from the ordinary frame of therapeutic conversation to a self-soothing frame and back again. Furthermore, we show that in this movement between the frames, they make use of a number interactional practices: therapists' instructions to clients, specific ways of sequencing actions in interaction, explanations and justification of the importance of the self-soothing task, pronouns as a way to distinguish among addressees (e.g., clients versus soothing agents), corrections of clients’ talk, and response tokens (hm mm, yeah, good). These practices are used to help clients accomplish self-soothing in the form of self-praise, disclosing caring, and offering of helpful advice.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)738-751
Number of pages14
JournalPsychotherapy Research
Issue number6
Early online date27 Feb 2014
Publication statusPublished - 2014


  • self-compassion
  • two-chair intervention
  • emotion-focused therapy
  • conversation analysis
  • self-kindness
  • self-soothing


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