Cookies on this website

We use cookies to ensure that we give you the best experience on our website. If you click 'Accept all cookies' we'll assume that you are happy to receive all cookies and you won't see this message again. If you click 'Reject all non-essential cookies' only necessary cookies providing core functionality such as security, network management, and accessibility will be enabled. Click 'Find out more' for information on how to change your cookie settings.

Conversation analysts have noted that, in psychotherapy, formulations of the client's talk can be a vehicle for offering a psychological interpretation of the client's circumstances. But we notice that not all formulations in psychotherapy offer interpretations. We offer an analysis of formulations (both of the gist of the client's words and of their implications) that are diagnostic: that is. used by the professional to sharpen, clarify or refine the client's account and make it better able to provide what the professional needs to know about the client's history and symptoms. In doing so, these formulations also have the effect of shepherding the client's account towards subsequent therapeutic interpretation. In a coda, we notice that sometimes the formulations are designed discreetly. We examine one such discreet formulation in detail, and show how its very ambiguity can lead to its failure as a diagnostic probe. Copyright © 2005 SAGE Publications.

Original publication




Journal article


Discourse Studies

Publication Date





627 - 647