Setting goals in psychotherapy: A phenomenological study of conflicts in the position of therapist

Jakob Emiliussen, Brady Wagoner

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articleResearchpeer-review


The present study is concerned with the ethical dilemmas of setting goals in therapy. The main questions that it aims to answer are: who is to set the goals for therapy and who is to decide when they have been reached? The study is based on four semi-­‐structured, phenomenological interviews with psychologists, which were analyzed using the framework of the Interpretative
Phenomenological Analysis (IPA), with minor changes to the procedure of categorization. Using Harré’s (2002, 2012) Positioning Theory, it is shown that
determining goals and deciding if they have been reached are processes that are
based on asymmetric collaboration between the therapist and the client. Determining goals and deciding when they are reached are not “sterile” procedures, as both the client and the therapist might have different agendas when working therapeutically. The psychologists that participated in this study
are seemingly not fully aware of the power that is inherent in their positions as
Original languageEnglish
JournalPsychology & Society
Issue number1
Pages (from-to)16-36
Number of pages21
Publication statusPublished - 2013

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