Boulter, A. and Locke, Abigail (2007) Discursive management of identity in chronic pain patients. In: 2007 Division of Health Psychology Annual Conference, 12th - 14th September 2007, University of Nottingham.

This study aimed to explore identities in chronic pain patients from a discursive psychological approach. From this standpoint identities are seen as discursive products that are negotiated in the context of conversations and accounts, for specific interactional purposes (Horton-Salway 2001).

Naturally occurring data was used from sessions between chronic pain patients and a clinical psychologist, within a NHS pain management clinic. These consisted of 24 referral appointments. Sessions were audio recorded for the purpose of the research and transcribed. The resulting transcripts were analysed using discourse analysis (Potter & Wetherall 1987; Edwards & Potter 1997).

Analysis demonstrated that patients work up an identity in their talk as individuals for whom chronic pain constitutes a loss and therefore defends against any potential claims that their illness could be self-serving. Identity work performed by the patients counter any possible negative attributions towards the cause or longevity of their pain, for example malingering. These findings are consistent with previous discursive research findings on illness talk in ME (Horton-Salway 2001).

Discursive psychology’s fine grained analysis of how patients make use of discursive resources can provide a better understanding of the dynamics of communication within a healthcare setting.

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