Communication in youth mental health clinical encounters: Introducing the agential stance

Clara Bergen, Lisa Bortolotti, Katherine Tallent, Matthew Broome, Michael Larkin, Rachel Temple, Catherine Fadashe, Carmen Lee, Michele C. Lim, Rose McCabe

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


When young people seek support from mental health care practitioners, the encounters may affect the young people’s sense of self, and in particular undermine their sense of agency. For this study, an interdisciplinary team of academics and young people collaboratively analysed video-recorded encounters between young people and mental healthcare practitioners in emergency services. They identified five communication techniques that practitioners can use to avoid undermining the young person’s sense of agency in the clinical encounter. They conceptualise the use of those techniques as the adoption of an agential stance towards the young person. The agential stance consists of: (a) validating the young person’s experiences, (b) legitimising the young person’s choice to seek help, (c) refraining from objectifying the young person, (d) affirming the young person’s capacity to contribute to positive change, and (e) involving the young person in the decision-making process.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)667-690
JournalTheory & Psychology
Issue number5
Early online date22 Jun 2022
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2022

Bibliographical note

© The Author(s) 2022. This article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License ( which permits any use, reproduction and distribution of the work without further permission provided the original work is attributed as specified on the SAGE and Open Access page (


  • History and Philosophy of Science
  • General Psychology


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