Experiences of carrying out talking therapy in general practice: a qualitative interview study

Patient Educ Couns. 2008 Aug;72(2):268-75. doi: 10.1016/j.pec.2008.03.020. Epub 2008 May 9.


Objective: To explore GPs' experience of carrying out 'talking therapy'.

Methods: Qualitative study using semi-structured interviews with 11 Danish GPs sampled purposively. The material was analysed by Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis.

Results: The participants expressed difficulty in explaining how they carried out talking therapy. However, from their description of individual therapies their perception of important aspects of methodology could be obtained: (1) their own open receptiveness, e.g. attentive listening, not limited by time; (2) relational factors including trust and empathy developed over time, or more active therapeutic use of the relationship; (3) knowledge of the patient's life story, told or written, used to form a model of the patient's problems, thoughts and feelings. The sessions were not offered if the GPs lacked time.

Conclusion: Participants were mostly self-taught and did not use specific methods systematically despite having learnt them. GPs knew the patients beforehand; talking therapy developed from other treatment, and methodology had to fit into this. Specific methods are possibly not relevant in general practice.

Practice implications: Formulation of a theory of talking therapy based on the views and experience of GPs and including non-specific factors could professionalize the field.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Attitude of Health Personnel*
  • Clinical Competence
  • Communication*
  • Denmark
  • Empathy
  • Female
  • Health Knowledge, Attitudes, Practice
  • Humans
  • Kinesics
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Narration
  • Patient Education as Topic
  • Physician's Role / psychology
  • Physician-Patient Relations*
  • Physicians, Family / education
  • Physicians, Family / organization & administration
  • Physicians, Family / psychology*
  • Practice Patterns, Physicians' / organization & administration
  • Primary Health Care / organization & administration
  • Psychotherapy / education
  • Psychotherapy / organization & administration*
  • Qualitative Research
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Time Factors
  • Trust