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Knowing – the illusion of understanding or the security of a method – reduces the possibility of seeing and worsens our deafness for the unexpected, for the unsaid and the not yet said. If we always hear and listen to in the same way, we cannot see or hear the different and the unique.(Anderson & Goolishian, 1988)

Collaborative and dialogical practices emerged from systemic family therapy as a new proposal to “talk with” the client. It also looks at the client as an expert in their life, who always brings resources and ideas on their own. 

The authors, Harlene Anderson and Harold Goolishian, recognized the significance of HOW we talk with each other and how a therapeutic relationship is built, rather than the amount and the frequency which we communicate. 

According to this approach, there is no one and only truth or way to go on. Our ways of living life, feeling, and acting are based on conceptions and beliefs that have been socially constructed through our relationships with others or with ourselves. During our day-to-day life, we don´t stop to look at these constructions, we live them as truths, as a “reality” that leads us to feel and act in a certain way without asking ourselves about the impact that has on our wellbeing and our relations.

Our reality is what we tell each other, what we teach and learn from others and finally, what we tell ourselves. These conversations generate conceptions of the world about what is good / bad, correct / incorrect, and normal/ abnormal. According to these conceptions we give meaning to the things and events that happen to us. 

Depending on the meaning we give to something, it can be a problem or an opportunity, it could cause joy or anxiety.

Faced with this dynamic, collaborative and dialogic practices propose a form of generative dialogue, where the consultant and the therapist co-construct new knowledge. The consultant shares their particular situation, and the therapist initiates a process of exploring the situation, which often leads to the transformation of meanings. Change may occur, not because the therapist imposes it, but because collaborative dialogue produces this effect.

When talking differently about a topic, the content takes on a different meaning. Harlene Anderson (1999) said that problems in dialogue are not solved, but dissolve because they acquire a new meaning. The therapeutic relationship not only transforms the consultant’s point of view, but also the therapists´, who learns something new from each conversation as they assume the role of a companion.


Anderson, H. (1999). Conversación, lenguaje y posibilidades. Buenos Aires: Amorrortu editores.