Communication & Medicine, Vol 16, No 1 (2019)

Formulating another’s report of troubles in peer support

Christopher Pudlinski
Issued Date: 15 Sep 2020


This study stems from an interest in peer support talk, an underexplored area of research, and in how supportive actions such as formulated summaries function in comparison to more professional healthcare settings. Using conversation analysis, this study explores 35 instances of formulations within 65 calls to four different ‘warm lines’, a term for peer-to-peer telephone support within the community mental health system in the United States. Formulations can be characterized across two related axes: client versus professional perspective, and directive versus nondirective. The findings show that formulations within peer support were overwhelmingly nondirective, in terms of meeting institutional agendas to let callers talk. However, formulations ranged from client-oriented ones that highlight or repeat caller reports to those which transform caller reports through integrating past caller experiences or implicit caller emotions. These tactics are found to have similarities to how formulations function in professional healthcare settings.

Download Media


DOI: 10.1558/cam.41613


Antaki, Charles (2007) Mental-health practitioners’ use of idiomatic expressions in summarizing clients’ accounts. Journal of Pragmatics 39 (3): 527–541.

Antaki, Charles (2008) Formulations in psych­otherapy. In Anssi Peräkylä, Charles Antaki, Sanna Vehvilainen and Ivan Leudar (eds) Conversation Analysis and Psychotherapy, 26–42. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Antaki, Charles (2012) Affiliative and disaffiliative candidate understandings. Discourse Studies 14 (5): 531–547.

Antaki, Charles, Rebecca Barnes and Ivan Leudar (2005) Diagnostic formulations in psychotherapy. Discourse Studies 7 (6): 627–647.

Barnes, Rebecca (2007) Formulations and the facilitation of common agreement in meetings talk. Text & Talk 27 (3): 273–296.

Beach, Wayne and Christie N. Dixson (2001) Reveal­ing moments: Formulating understandings of adverse experiences in a health appraisal interview. Social Science and Medicine 52 (1): 25–44.

Bercelli, Fabrizio, Federico Rossano and Maurizio Viaro (2008) Clients’ responses to therapists’ re-interpretations. In Anssi Peräkylä, Charles Antaki, Sanna Vehvilainen and Ivan Leudar (eds) Conversation Analysis and Psychotherapy, 43–62. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Deppermann. Arnulf and Thomas Spranz-Fogasy (2011) Doctors’ questions as displays of under­standing. Communication & Medicine 8 (2): 111–122.

Drew, Paul (2003) Comparative analysis of talk-in-interaction in different institutional settings: A sketch. In Phillip J. Glenn, Curtis D. LeBaron and Jenny Mandelbaum (eds) Studies in Language and Social Interaction: In Honor of Robert Hopper, 293–307. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum.

Fitzgerald, Pamela and Ivan Leudar (2012) On the use of formulations in person-centered, solution-focused short-term psychotherapy. Com­munication & Medicine 9 (1): 13–22.

Garfinkel, Harold and Harvey Sacks (1970) On formal structures of practical actions. In John C. McKinney and Edward A. Tiryakian (eds) Theoretical Sociology: Perspectives and Developments, 337–366. New York: Appleton-Century-Crofts.

Hak, Tony and Fijgie de Boer (1996) Formulations in first encounters. Journal of Pragmatics 25 (1): 83–99.

Heritage, John C. (1985) Analyzing news interviews: Aspects of the production of talk for an overhearing audience. In Teun A. van Dijk (ed.) Handbook of Discourse Analysis, Volume 3, 95–119. London: Academic Press.

Heritage, John C. (2015) Well-prefaced turns in English conversation: A conversation analytic perspective. Journal of Pragmatics 88: 88–104.

Heritage, John C. and D. Rod Watson (1979) Form­ulations as conversational objects. In George Psathas (ed.) Everyday Language: Studies in Ethnomethodology, 123–162. New York: Irvington Press.

Heritage, John C. and D. Rod Watson (1980) Aspects of the properties of formulations in natural conversations: Some instances analyzed. Semiotica 30 (3–4): 245–262.

Hutchby, Ian (2005) ‘Active listening’: Formulations and the elicitation of feelings-talk in child counseling. Research on Language & Social Inter­action 38 (3): 303–329.

Jefferson, Gail (2004) Glossary of transcript symbols with an introduction. In Gene Lerner (ed.) Conversation Analysis: Studies from the First Generation, 14–31. Amsterdam: John Benjamins.

Landmark, Anne Marie Dalby, Jan Svennevig and Pal Gulbrandsen (2016) Negotiating treatment preferences: Physicians’ formulations of patients’ stance. Social Science & Medicine 149 (1): 26–36.

Pomerantz, Anita and Barbara J. Fehr (1997) Con­versation analysis: An approach to the study of social action as sense making practices. In Teun A. van Dijk (ed.) Discourse as Social Interaction: Discourse Studies 2 – A Multidisciplinary Intro­duction, 64–91. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.

Pudlinski, Christopher (2003) The multiplicity of response options in social support situations. Qualitative Research Reports in Communication 4: 23–30.

Pudlinski, Christopher (2012) The pursuit of advice on US peer telephone helplines: Sequential and functional aspects. In Holger Limberg and Miriam A. Locher (eds) Advice in Discourse, 233–252. Amsterdam: John Benjamins.

Stommel, Wyke and Fleur Van der Houwen (2013) Formulations in ‘trouble’ chat sessions. Language@ Internet 10 (3). Available online:

ten Have, Paul (2007) Doing Conversation Analysis: A Practical Guide. London: Sage.

Tiitinen, Sanni and Johanna Ruusuvuori (2014) Using formulations and gaze to encourage parents to talk about their and their children’s health and well-being. Research on Language & Social Interaction 47 (1): 49–68.

Weiste, Elina (2016) Formulations in occupational therapy: Managing talk about psychiatric out­patients’ emotional states. Journal of Pragmatics 105 (1): 59–73.

Weiste, Elina and Anssi Peräkylä (2013) A comparative conversation analytic study of formulations in psychoanalysis and cognitive psychotherapy. Research on Language & Social Interaction 46 (4): 299–321.

Weiste, Elina, Liisa Voutilainen and Anssi Peräkylä (٢٠١٦) Epistemic asymmetries in psychotherapy interaction: Therapists’ practices for displaying access to clients’ inner experiences. Sociology of Health & Illness 38 (4): 645–661.


  • There are currently no refbacks.

Equinox Publishing Ltd - 415 The Workstation 15 Paternoster Row, Sheffield, S1 2BX United Kingdom
Telephone: +44 (0)114 221-0285 - Email:

Privacy Policy