A sequential analysis of therapist scaffolding and child concept formation in narrative therapy
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Narrative therapy is a postmodern therapy that takes the position that people create self-narratives to make sense of their experiences. To date, narrative therapy has compiled virtually no quantitative and very little qualitative research, leaving gaps in almost all areas of process and outcome. White (2006a), one of the therapy's founders, has recently utilized Vygotsky's (1934/1987) theories of the zone of proximal development (ZPD) and concept formation to describe the process of change in narrative therapy with children. In collaboration with the child client, the narrative therapist formalizes therapeutic concepts and submits them to increasing levels of generalization to create a ZPD. This study sought to determine whether the child's development proceeds through the stages of concept formation over the course of a session, and whether therapists' utterances scaffold this movement. A sequential analysis was used due to its unique ability to measure dynamic processes in social interactions. Stages of concept formation and scaffolding were coded over time. A hierarchical log-linear analysis was performed on the sequential data to develop a model of therapist scaffolding and child concept development. This was intended to determine what patterns occur and whether the stated intent of narrative therapy matches its actual process. In accordance with narrative therapy theory, the log-linear analysis produced a final model with interactions between therapist and child utterances, and between both therapist and child utterances and time. Specifically, the child and youth participants in therapy tended to respond to therapist scaffolding at the corresponding level of concept formation. Both children and youth and therapists also tended to move away from earlier and toward later stages of White's scaffolding conversations map as the therapy session advanced. These findings provide support for White's contention that narrative therapists promote child development by scaffolding child concept formation in therapy.