University of Jyväskylä

Dissertation: 10.12.2016. M.A.(Psych) Helena Päivinen (Faculty of Social Sciences, Psychology)

Start date: Dec 10, 2016 12:00 PM

End date: Dec 10, 2016 03:00 PM

Location: Seminaarinmäki, S212, Vanha juhlasali / Old festival hall

Helena PäivinenM.A.(Psych) Helena Päivinen defends her doctoral dissertation in Psychology "Gendered positioning: Addressing gendered power and cultural discourses in therapeutic conversations”. Opponent Professor Arlene Vetere (VID Specialized University Oslo, Norway) and custos Professor Juha Holma (University of Jyväskylä). The doctoral dissertation is held in English.



This research examined gendered positioning in therapeutic conversations, especially in treatment of intimate partner violence (IPV). A feminist-informed reading combined with a discursive psychological approach was applied in three studies on positioning in therapeutic conversations. This reading focused on gendered positioning, gendered power and cultural discourses. Thus, the aim of this research was to examine how gender is constructed in therapeutic conversations that deal with couple relationship issues, and how the power distribution this entails is addressed in these conversations. The data consisted of videotaped and transcribed couple therapy sessions and group treatment sessions for men who have been violent in their intimate relationship. Language-based analyses drawing on discourse analysis, discursive psychology and a narrative approach were conducted. Study I focused on gendered positioning of the female therapist in an IPV treatment program. Study II analyzed the construction of dominant stories in couple therapy and focused on the mutual positioning and distribution of power in these dominant stories. Study III looked at blaming micro narratives in couple therapy for IPV and participants’ responses, particularly to identity blaming. The findings of this research foreground the gendered basis of intimate relationships and how couple distress is linked to the distribution of power manifested in the gendered positioning of the partners. The discursive analysis showed how the participants in the therapy session, including the therapists draw on gendered cultural discourses when positioning each another. Thus, it is argued that the therapist needs skill in discursive deconstruction to be able not only to address the client’s situation as an individual experience but also to locate it in the wider social and cultural context. Attention to positioning is one such clinical tool of potential value in therapeutic conversations. 

Keywords: positioning, gender, power, discourse, narrative, couple therapy, group treatment, intimate partner violence

More information

Helena Päivinen
040 805 3980