When 'listeners can't talk' : comparing active listening in opening sequences of telephone and online counselling
Danby, Susan J., Butler, Carly, & Emmison, Michael (2009) When 'listeners can't talk' : comparing active listening in opening sequences of telephone and online counselling. Australian Journal of Communication, 36(3).
While there is growing use of online counselling, little is known about its interactional organisation and how it compares to telephone counselling. This is despite past research suggesting that both counsellors and clients report the impact of the different modalities on the presentation and management of the counselling interaction. This paper compares the interactional affordances of telephone and online web counselling in opening sequences on Kids Help Line, a 24-hour Australian counselling service for children and young people up to the age of 25. We examine two ways that counsellors show active listening through response tokens and formulations. The analysis describes how counsellors’ use of minimal response tokens facilitate the clients’ problem presentation and are used in the management of turn taking and sequence organisation. For example, counsellors use the response token Mm hm to show that they understand that the client’s unit of talk to is not yet complete, and to affirm or invite the client to continue speaking. Formulations in phone and web counselling are another way that counsellors display active listening to re-present stretches of the clients’ preceding talk. In phone and web counselling, however, the respective modalities can complicate matters of turn transition and sequence organisation. By examining actual phone and online counselling sessions, this paper offers empirical demonstrations of the interactional affordances of phone and online counselling, and shows how the institutional practice of active listening is accomplished across different counselling modalities
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