Mirroring patients – or not: A study of general practitioners and psychiatrists and their interactions with patients with depression.

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal article

For mentalization theorists, implicit mentalization is a key component of
all forms of therapy. However, it has been difficult to grasp and to describe
precisely how implicit mentalization works. It is said to take place partly
by mirroring others in posture, facial expression and vocal tone. Based on
studies of imitative behaviour within linguistics and psychology, we argue
that interactional mirroring is an important aspect of displaying implicit
mentalization. We aimed to explore if, and in that case how, mirroring is
displayed by general practitioners (GPs) and psychiatrists in consultations
with patients with depression. We wanted to see how implicit mentalizing
unfolds in physician–patient interactions. Consultations were videorecorded
and analysed within the framework of conversation analysis. GPs
and psychiatrists differed substantially in their propensity to mirror body
movements and verbal and acoustic features of speech. GPs mirrored their
patients more than psychiatrists in all modalities and were more flexible in
their interactional behaviour. Psychiatrists seemed more static, regardless
of the emotionality displayed by patients. Implicitly mirroring and attuning
to patients could signify enactment of implicit mentalization, according to
how it is described by mentalization theorists. We discuss reasons for the
differences between GPs and psychiatrists, and their implications.
Original languageEnglish
JournalEuropean Journal of Psychotherapy
Volume17
Issue number2
Pages (from-to)162-178
Number of pages17
ISSN1364-2537
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2015

ID: 141094206