Rather than summarizing what has been said in preceding chapters, in the conclusion I wish to bring forward some theoretical and methodological ideas inspired by the data analyses presented in the book. The conclusion is, therefore, fragmentary: a number of themes will be touched upon, all arising from this study, but pointing in various different directions.
Conversation Analysis and Family Systems Theory
The AIDS counselling sessions studied in this book constitute in one respect a new type of data for Conversation Analysis. Unlike the participants in ordinary conversations, and even participants in many forms of institutional talk, the counsellors have a strong theoretical awareness which informs much of their activity. ‘Circular questioning’, ‘live open supervision’ and ‘future-oriented hypothetical questions’ are not spontaneously evolved practices, but the results of conscious theory-building and the development of professional conduct. Therefore, it is important to ask whether Conversation Analysis can say anything about counselling that the professionals have not already said in Family Systems Theory or other theories developed by practitioners.
We can probably distinguish here three types of issue: ‘What’, ‘How’, and ‘Why’ questions (cf. Silverman 1994). The relation of CA with the Family Systems Theory is different with regard to each of these.
‘What’ questions concern the general regularities in interaction: what is done by the participants. Many of the ‘what’ questions are answered by texts generated by Family Systems Theory, where techniques like circular questioning, direct open supervision and hypothetical questions are discussed. To find them in the data does not necessarily add anything to what the counsellors already know.
‘How’ questions concern the techniques of doing what is done in the interaction.