The power of subtle interpersonal hostility in psychodynamic psychotherapy: A speech acts analysis

Timothy Anderson*, Lynne M. Knobloch-Fedders, William B. Stiles, Tatiana Ordoñez, Bernadette D. Heckman

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Scopus citations


This study compared participants' speech acts in low-hostile versus moderate-hostile interpersonal episodes in time-limited psychodynamic psychotherapy. Sixty-two cases from the Vanderbilt II psychotherapy project were categorized as low or moderate in interpersonal hostility based on ratings of interpersonal process using Structural Analysis of Social Behavior (Benjamin, 1996). Representative episodes were coded using a taxonomy of speech acts (Stiles, 1992), and speech acts were compared across low- and moderate-hostile episodes. Therapists in moderate-hostility episodes used more interpretations and edifications, and fewer questions and reflections. Patients in moderate-hostility episodes used more disclosures and fewer edifications. Content coding showed that therapist interpretations with a self/intrapsychic self focus were more characteristic of moderate-hostility than low-hostility episodes, whereas the two types of episodes contained similar levels of interpretations focused on the patient's interpersonal relationships and the therapeutic relationship.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)348-362
Number of pages15
JournalPsychotherapy Research
Issue number3
StatePublished - May 2012


  • brief psychotherapy
  • emotion in therapy
  • process research
  • psychoanalytic/psychodynamic therapy

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Clinical Psychology


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