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Charney, E.J. (1967). Stream and Structure of Communicational Behavior. Context Analysis of a Psychotherapy Session: By Albert E. Scheflen. Philadelphia: Mental Health Research Foundation, 1965. 203 pp.. Psychoanal Q., 36:113-116.

(1967). Psychoanalytic Quarterly, 36:113-116

Stream and Structure of Communicational Behavior. Context Analysis of a Psychotherapy Session: By Albert E. Scheflen. Philadelphia: Mental Health Research Foundation, 1965. 203 pp.

Review by:
E. Joseph Charney

If communication is central to the theory and practice of psychoanalysis, Scheflen's monograph deserves careful objective review and study by analysts, for it focuses on fundamental theory of human communication and presents a detailed methodology stemming from this theory. In his opening section Scheflen stresses the importance of the search for naturally occurring behavioral patterns; he inveighs against the reductionism, the 'merely counting', of much research in psychotherapy, which, by emphasizing the sorting of preselected isolates, successfully eliminates 'the integration of humanness from the study'. Instead, wedding concepts of general systems theory and the operations of the natural history method, Dr. Scheflen studies communication by 'context analysis', which is a systematic description, level by level, of the structure of communicational behavior. Without statistics, attitude surveys or self-revelations by patient or therapist, he scrupulously avoids fragmentation into isolates and interpretation of unobservable events. The method is exact, explicit, painstaking, and methodical.

The first step is 'general observation', the repeated viewing of a motion picture sound film of a given session hundreds of times, at various speeds or even frame by frame, with and without sound. The second step is the abstraction of the communicative behavior: 'all behaviors are studies; no a priori decision is made about the importance of a given event; if its absence and presence makes a difference in the participants or in the interaction, a behavior is communicative', regardless of any other function it may have. The third step is construction of the diachronic narrative, the sequential record of lexical and postural-kinesic activity coördinated on a common time graph. The fourth step is determination of what units are present and how they are organized. Tests are made to determine if behaviors are 1, interdependent, 2, contrasting, and 3, belong to the same context. 'When each tentative unit at a level has been tested, the structural units that occur together are looked at as possible units of a larger unit at the level above. They are grouped as a tentative unit and the three tests are again applied.

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