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Locating Relationships at the Heart of Commending Practices

Published Online:https://doi.org/10.1521/jsyt.2008.27.4.90

Commendations, a family intervention distinguished as an essential component of the Illness Beliefs Model, as developed by Wright, Watson, and Bell at the University of Calgary, Alberta, Canada, was the focus of this doctoral qualitative study. Commending refers to the act of drawing forward and highlighting previously unobserved, forgotten, or unspoken strengths, competencies, and resources.

This article is explicated through many voices: the voice of the researcher as touched by the family; the voice of the literature and legacy that surrounds the topic of commendations; and the voice of the interpretations of the research that represent a “fusion of horizons” (Gadamer, 1989). The experiences in this article are of one family, who were part of a larger study. The participants included a family and therapist who engaged in therapeutic conversations focused on the chronic and life-threatening nature of leukemia. Videotapes of clinical interviews, clinical documentation, and research interviews comprised the data analyzed. Interpretations were shaped and guided by the tradition of Hans-Georg Gadamer's (1989) philosophical hermeneutics.

It was within the context of one family's suffering, and the intricate complexities of the therapeutic relationship, where the eventful nature of commending practices was opened to examination. The value and power of these seemingly “simple” clinical moves in alleviating suffering, and the moral and ethical threads of the goodness inherent in this artful practice, were revealed in the textual analysis. This research challenges the slide of pedagogical practices toward routinizing and ritualizing such delicate contextual conversational events, and labeling these practices as “interventions.”