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Words And Symbols
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Main description:

  • What lies behind the language we use as counsellors and psychotherapists?
  • How does language fit into a therapeutic context?
  • Can we truly say what we mean, and hear what is said, in the consulting room?
This book takes apart, lays out and repositions the most basic of therapeutic tools – the language used to communicate between therapist and client. It begins with a summary of the different schools of thought on language acquisition from infancy onwards. It addresses ways in which philosophical and social contexts may impact on the thoughts and words available for speech. Following this it focuses on the detail of the words spoken in a consulting room, and considers dialogue in the arts therapies, where speech may not be the primary tool for understanding. The book also examines what happens when words fail, how symbols are essential for communication, and whether the emphasis on words in the talking therapies has limited the range of communication in the consulting room. An example of this limitation is offered in an extended discussion of gender and language.

The book addresses counsellors and psychotherapists from all major theoretical orientations, from psychodynamic therapies through to humanistic and existential approaches, maintaining an overview that is relevant to an integrative position.

Written for students of counselling and psychotherapy as well as practitioners who want to develop their skills and awareness, Words and Symbols engages the reader in understanding the essence of therapeutic communication.


Prologue – or before the word
Learning language: Historical and contemporary perspectives
The words that make us: Influences on the development of therapeutic language
Language in therapy: Words and symbols across theoretical frameworks.
Communication without words: Another language?
Being with the other: Language and the therapeutic process
Agendered language: Does language have a gender – and an agenda – of its own?
Epilogue – or after the word


ISBN-13: 9780335229505
Publisher: McGraw-Hill (Open University Press)
Publication date: December, 2006
Pages: 128

Subcategories: Psychotherapy


Nicola Barden is Head of Counselling at Portsmouth University. She has worked as a therapist and supervisor for over twenty years, in the fields of youth counselling and addiction prior to the Higher Education sector. Previous publications have been in the areas of supervision and gender identity. She is the Chair of the British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy.

Tina K. Williams is Chief Executive of The Laura Centre, a specialist bereavement service based in Leicester working with bereaved families and children. She has been working as a therapist, supervisor and trainer for over twelve years in various settings including addictions, victim support and palliative care. She is both a registered therapist with the United Kingdom Council of Psychotherapy (UKCP) and a qualified supervisor.