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Abstract

This paper reviews research that utilises language-based analyses (narrative analysis, discourse analysis and conversation analysis) to examine aspects of subjectivity in the context of psychotherapy. The studies reviewed fall broadly into two main groups. On the one hand, studies which share a view of subjectivity as the sum of internal ‘voices’ in dialogue adopt a narrative approach, examine subjectivity in terms of organisation, coherence and self-reflection, and consider psychotherapy a process of restoring an organised polyphony. On the other hand, studies which conceptualise subjectivity in terms of ‘subject positions’ adopt a discursive approach, emphasise the availability of subject positions and flexibility in adopting them and examine psychotherapy as a process of facilitating the flexible adoption by the client of a variety of subject positions. Theoretical, epistemological and methodological issues regarding each of the two approaches are discussed, along with representative studies. We finally examine the implications of these two approaches for understanding psychotherapeutic practice and for theorising and researching subjectivity.