Verbal Response Modes and Psychotherapeutic Technique

Client-centered therapy, Gestalt psychotherapy, PsychoanalysisResearch methodologyEnglish
Journal Article - Paid access


A Verbal Response Mode is a category of language that implies a particular interpersonal intention. For example, a “self-disclosure” expresses attitudes, feelings or opinions to another person; a “question” asks another person for information or suggestions; “advice” recommends a course of action or thought to another person. “Each mode descrihes a microrelationship between communicator and recipient. A summary of the modes a person uses in an encounter with another describes the relationship of that person to the other during the encounter. Verbal response modes are attractive for research on the process of counseling and psychotherapy because they characterize the therapeutic relationship while remaining independent of the content of the communication; any mode can be used in a discussion of any topic. Verbal behaviors are a larger part of psychotherapy than of many other human relationships (cf. the motherinfant relationship) because many therapists systematically restrict their nonverbal contributions. This paper presents a taxonomy of verbal response modes and applies that taxonomy to the verbal behavior of psychotherapists of three contrasting schools: client-centered, gestalt, and psychoanalytic. The taxonomy consists of a theoretically based set of classificatory principles that define a mutually exclusive and exhaustive set of modes. Its purpose is to describe dyadic verbal interaction comprehensively and quantitatively. Such description is a necessary first step in investigating the therapeutic effectiveness of different interaction styles.

APA citation

Stiles, W. B. (1979). Verbal Response Modes and Psychotherapeutic Technique. Psychiatry, 42(1), 49-62.