Developing multiple perspectives by eliding agreement: a conversation analysis of Open Dialogue reflections

Ben Ong*, Scott Barnes, Niels Buus

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Citations (Scopus)
110 Downloads (Pure)


Open Dialogue is an approach to working with mental health problems that emphasises promoting dialogue between multiple perspectives within an individual person and between all the people present, including the therapists. Therapists’ own perspectives are often introduced during conversations called reflections, which present a potential source of different perspectives. Using conversation analysis we analysed 14 hours of video-recorded Open Dialogue sessions with a focus on therapists’ reflections. We noticed that therapists did not display explicit agreement with each other’s reflections. This absence of explicit agreement was displayed through a variety of verbal and non-verbal forms. Eliding agreement facilitated deference to the epistemic authority of the client, assertion of epistemic rights from second position, emphasis of a positive perspective or to voice multiple perspectives. Therapists avoided consensus and thus presented multiple perspectives to the family while also attending to issues of contingency. The implications of epistemic primacy and asymmetry connected to sequential structures in talk pose a challenge to the generation of collaborative reflective dialogues.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)47–64
Number of pages18
JournalDiscourse Studies
Issue number1
Early online date13 Aug 2021
Publication statusPublished - 1 Feb 2022


  • conversation analysis
  • disagreement
  • Open Dialogue
  • psychotherapy


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