|Author(s)||Wyke Stommel, Hedwig te Molder|
|Title||Empathically designed responses as a gateway to advice in Dutch counseling calls|
|Tag(s)||Advice, Conversation Analysis, Counseling, Dutch, Empathy, Helpline, Institutional Interaction|
Previous conversation analytic studies of institutional interaction included analyses of empathy in interaction. These studies revealed that professionals may use empathy displays not only to validate the client’s worry, but also to perform actions oriented to other institutional goals and tasks such as closing off a troubles-telling sequence. In this article, we present an analysis of empathically designed responses in Dutch telephone counseling. The data consist of 36 calls from the Alcohol and Drugs Info Line. In some of the calls, clients’ troubles-telling includes ‘emotion discourse’, that is, descriptions of their feelings/emotions. Counselors may respond to these descriptions using conventional empathy displays like ‘I can imagine that’ and ‘I understand that’ in a range of verbal and prosodic variations. The analysis reveals that these responses open up advice sequences that vary in the extent to which they treat the client’s articulated feelings as valid. Most are affiliating, treating the client’s feelings as the basis for advice, while some are less affiliative, putting the client’s feelings into perspective or implicitly questioning their legitimacy. Hence, empathically designed responses are pivots to advice-giving.