Janice DeFehr


Transforming Encounters and Interactions: A Dialogical Inquiry Into the Influence of Collaborative Therapy in the Lives of its Practitioner, 2008

This dissertation extends my longstanding interest in reciprocity and mutual influence in social work and counseling/psychotherapy practice. In this project, fourteen Collaborative practitioners from six countries utilize ‘in person’ conversation and an extended period of journal writing to respond to our project’s central question: How can you describe your practice as generative and transforming for yourself?

Each participant offers multiple, partial, open-ended descriptions as we interact with our project question from diverse and fleeting vantage points within our respective practices. As a fellow practitioner, I respond in writing to each spoken and textual utterance, thereby extending our dialogic inquiry, keeping it in-play, always working within the emerging interactive present moment rather than closing the interchange in order to analyze or interpret it retrospectively from positions over or outside of it. Beyond co-creating a multi-voiced, multi-textual, bi-lingual event, participants in this project generate the quality of dialogic understanding familiar to us in our professional practices—a practical, embodied, heightened awareness of the inquiry topic achieved through spontaneous, mutually responsive engagement within it over a period of time. 

As the inquiry unfolds, it reflexively studies its own developmental process, the result of three converging influences:

  1. The everyday unsystematic methods of dialogic shared inquiry crucially important to the Collaborative practitioner-participants in this project
  2. The dynamic relational context surrounding and sustaining our inquiry with its own possibilities, constraints, and requirements
  3. An expansive repository of literature—in particular, the work of Harlene Anderson, Mikhail Bakhtin, John Shotter, and Ludwig Wittgenstein.

Noting significant departures from traditional qualitative research, this project draws attention to twelve features of our practitioner-driven inquiry approach, outlining their special relevance to future dialogic, participatory action social inquiry.