On the use of formulations in person-centred, solution-focused short-term psychotherapy


  • Pamela Elizabeth Fitzgerald University of Manchester
  • Ivan Leudar The University of Manchester




conversation analysis, formulations, nondirective, psychotherapy, reflecting back


According to Carl Rogers, therapy must be nondirective in order to be effective. This means that the therapist needs to be trained to work within the clients’ frame of reference and do so in their practice. Conversation analytic research, however, suggests that therapists who claim to practise non-directive, non-authoritarian therapy nevertheless exercise subtle means of influencing their clients (e.g. through active listening, see Fitzgerald and Leudar 2010). The questions are: what in practice counts as being non-directive and how (relatively) nondirective psychotherapy is accomplished in practice. The present paper focuses on formulations which are one of the therapist’s most useful tools and we demonstrate how these are used to guide clients to think along lines conducive to change.

Author Biographies

Pamela Elizabeth Fitzgerald, University of Manchester

Pamela Fitzgerald works as a person-centred, solution-focused psychotherapist in Dublin and Frankfurt. She draws on humanist principles in her therapy but also adopts a solution-focused listening style. She works as part of an affiliate network for Employee Assistant Programmes in the UK, Ireland and Germany where solution-focused approaches are adopted. She completed her PhD at the University of Manchester. Her topic was entitled ‘Influencing Change in Person-Centred, Solution-Focused Psychotherapy’.

Ivan Leudar, The University of Manchester

Ivan Leudar is Professor Emeritus of historical and analytical psychology at the School of Psychological Sciences, The University of Manchester, but his work is grounded in ethnomethodology and he is currently one of the editors of Ethnographic Studies. His main interest is in historical and comparative analyses of human experiences. He recently collaborated on the following edited volumes: Against Theory of Mind (2009, Palgrave) and Conversation Analysis and Psychotherapy (2008, Cambridge University Press).



How to Cite

Fitzgerald, P. E., & Leudar, I. (2013). On the use of formulations in person-centred, solution-focused short-term psychotherapy. Communication and Medicine, 9(1), 13–22. https://doi.org/10.1558/cam.v9i1.13