Conversation analysis and interpretive quantitative research on psychotherapy process and problematic interpersonal behavior

Michael A. Westerman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


In this article, I examine conversation analysis, a fruitful area of qualitative research, in order to extend my prior explorations of the idea that quantitative methods can and should be part of the repertoire of interpretive approaches employed by investigators committed to treating psychological phenomena as irreducibly meaningful. My examination includes considering several lines of research by investigators who are not practitioners of conversation analysis in which quantitative methods were employed to study patient behavior in psychotherapy and defensive behavior more generally. These lines of inquiry show that (a) quantitative research methods have a good deal to offer practitioners of conversation analysis as they endeavor to advance our understanding of the organization of interactions, and (b) we can employ quantitative methods and continue to embrace a commitment to interpretive inquiry. I also offer a critique of fundamental methodological precepts associated with conversation analysis, which differ notably from the precepts guiding most qualitative research efforts in psychology. In a fascinating twist, these precepts, which include discomfort with interpretive research procedures, have resulted in limitations in very recent attempts by some practitioners of conversation analysis to employ quantitative methods in their investigations.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)155-178
Number of pages24
JournalTheory & Psychology
Issue number2
StatePublished - Apr 2011


  • conversation analysis
  • dyselaboration
  • interpersonal defense
  • interpretation
  • patient coordination
  • qualitative research
  • quantitative methods

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Psychology
  • History and Philosophy of Science


Dive into the research topics of 'Conversation analysis and interpretive quantitative research on psychotherapy process and problematic interpersonal behavior'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this