A Conversation Analysis of Initial Counseling Sessions

  • Yih-hsing Liu Duquesne University
  • Melissa Luke Syracuse University
Keywords: Conversation Analysis, Initial Session, Counselor-in-Training, Talk and Interactions, Counseling Discourse


This study used conversation analysis to explore the microlinguistic processes of talk and interactions of five initial sessions between counselors-in-training and clients. The researchers used naturally occurring data to explore how the sessions were developed, relationships were formed, and session depth was produced in the sequence of interactions. Four conversational themes, casual interactions, direct invitations, recapitulations, and repairs emerged in the data. The analytic themes suggest that (a) casual interactions reflect a style of rapport, which helps to relieve the intensity of the initial encounters and convey an understanding of the presenting issues; (b) maintaining therapeutic relationships and conducting in-depth discussions, insight building, and immediacy are not mutually exclusive in the context of the initial session; (c) repair signifies relational utterances in a context of task-oriented dialogues; and (d) an initial session is a microcosm of the entire therapeutic course, and thereby requires a diverse method of inquiry.

Author Biographies

Yih-hsing Liu, Duquesne University

Yih-hsing Liu is a clinical assistant professor at the Department of Counseling, Psychology, and Special Education (DCPSE) at Duquesne University 

Melissa Luke, Syracuse University
Melissa Luke is a professor at the Department of Counseling and Human Services at Syracuse University