Research and therapy: generating meaning and feeling gaps

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


I argue that qualitative research and psychotherapy are both projects of making meaning. Qualitative research may provide therapeutic opportunities for participants, which sometimes generate confusion about appropriate boundaries, but psychotherapy does not have a monopoly on the therapeutic. The meanings (or stories) that qualitative research and psychotherapy generate, circulate differently, qualitative research entering the public domain more overtly, while psychotherapeutic meanings circulate primarily through the way lives are lived. Qualitative research does not generally purport to produce faithful representations, but sometimes the gap between personal experience and its narration can be troubling, especially in the case of traumatic experience. Drawing on the psychoanalytic distinction between two-person and three-person relating and its link to symbolisation, I elaborate the concept of the third position, which I use to illuminate this gap between the flow of experience and our narrations of experience. I show how the third position is rooted in loss and how loss is therefore intrinsic to our capacity for curiosity and reflection on our lives.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)9-19
Number of pages11
JournalQualitative Inquiry
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2013


  • Psychoanalysis
  • psychotherapy
  • trauma
  • narration
  • third position
  • meaning-making,
  • loss
  • observer position
  • symbolisation
  • stories
  • representation


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