Public talk on personal troubles: A study on interaction in radio counselling

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis (compilation)


The dissertation examines how personal troubles are talked about in an encounter with a professional on the public arena of radio broadcasting, where the professional has to meet the challenge of making professional advice not only useful for the person seeking help, but also relevant or interesting for the radio audience. The study explores the dynamic process of shaping an understanding of problematic experiences as it unfolds in the interactions on the radio and with radio listeners.
The dissertation draws upon publicly available recordings of the Swedish programme The Radio Psychologist (Swedish: Radiopsykologen) and radio listeners’ comments on the programme’s web page. In the programme, formatted as a half-hour telephone dialogue between a psychotherapist and a caller, people seek help with personal problems such as anxiety, loneliness or relationship difficulties. The research focus is on (1) how the understanding of personal troubles is negotiated and reached in the turn-by-turn unfolding of radio conversations between the psychotherapist and callers to the programme, and (2) how members of the listening audience are involved in the interpretative work with personal problems on the radio. The interactions in the programme as well as listeners’ comments on the Internet are studied using methods of ethnomethodological conversation analysis, combined with insights from the related research approaches of membership categorisation analysis and discursive psychology.
The thesis includes four sub-studies, findings of which are reported in four empirical papers. The first three papers investigate the process of the radio psychologist and callers cooperatively achieving an understanding of the callers’ problems in their dialogues on the radio. The analyses explicate how the conversation participants grounded their reasoning about callers’ problematic experiences in cultural knowledge about ageing and a (mis)fortunate childhood, and how the radio encounters concluded with an orientation to their counselling and radio objectives. The fourth paper examines how, in their comments on the Internet, members of the audience related their own experiences to what they had heard in the radio programme.
The findings are discussed in the context of the twofold aim and potential of radio counselling to provide personalised help as well as shape public understanding regarding what can be considered a personal problem, and in which way. Besides this, specific features of the interpretative work with personal experiences in The Radio Psychologist are outlined in comparison to everyday interaction and other institutional settings, such as more conventional forms of counselling and psychotherapy. The interactive therapeutic format of the programme is suggested to create an opportunity for sociability and solidarity between listeners and callers. Finally, findings indicate that talk on personal problems has a socio-cultural nature. Both interpretative resources (e.g. age-related expectations) drawn upon in the problem talk and its interactional format (e.g. an encounter with a psychotherapist) reflect the historically and culturally specific understanding of how one can make sense of personal problems.


Research areas and keywords

Subject classification (UKÄ) – MANDATORY

  • Social Sciences
  • Social Work


  • radio counselling, institutional interaction, psychotherapy, troubles talk, media discourse, conversation analysis, ethnomethodology
Translated title of the contributionOffentliga samtal om personliga bekymmer: En studie om interaktion i radiorådgivning
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
Supervisors/Assistant supervisor
Award date2018 May 16
Place of PublicationLund
Print ISBNs978-91-89604-59-9
Publication statusPublished - 2018 Apr 25
Publication categoryResearch

Bibliographic note

Defence details Date: 2018-05-16 Time: 13:00 Place: Eden auditorium, Paradisgatan 5H, Lund External reviewer(s) Name: Nikander, Pirjo Title: Professor Affiliation: University of Tampere, Finland ---

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