“As it’s our last exchange next time…”. The closure initiation in email counseling
This paper reports from an interpersonal pragmatics perspective on the negotiation of closure of the counseling process in five naturally occurring email counseling exchanges between one counselor and five different clients. I focus on three aspects: who initiates closure, in what form, and in which interpersonal context. A mixed methodology consisting of a discourse-analytic approach combined with a participant interview serves to examine the closure initiation from multiple perspectives. Results show that extensive collaborative work (e. g. relational strategies such as showing empathy or praising) is carried out to create a “closure-relevant” environment in which the initiation of closure can occur. The counselor, who initiates all five closures, tailors the initiation according to clients’ progress so far and elicits specific relational work (e. g. self-praise) from clients that aims to position them as active self-helpers. It is the collaborative work by counselor and clients that facilitates the closure initiation of the counseling process. The analysis of the collaborative work from an interpersonal pragmatics perspective provides further empirical evidence of the link between relational work and identity construction.