Deconstructing Therapy: Performing the Common Sense User


  • Morten Nissen Danish School of Education
  • Katrine Barington
  • Morten Halberg HelsingUng



performativity, deconstruction, transformative users, common sense, qualitative research


In this article, we analyze non-mainstream social work in Denmark. We focus on how what we call a performative approach in both social work and research can expand the understanding of deconstruction. We argue that critical performance exceeds the negative moment of deconstruction, where we only know that we are non-clients, non-psychologists, non-directive. In performance, the potential Other with its complexity is formulated positively. This, we argue, provides a basis for what we call transformative users—users that participate in the production of the standards from which they let their lives be directed. We show that transformation is not only a matter of giving space for the subject, but equally a matter of giving space and attention to the collectives from where standards arise. In the final part of the article we turn the gaze toward ourselves, examining our collaboration in the research and the writing of this text, as a performative process.


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Author Biographies

Morten Nissen, Danish School of Education

Morten NISSEN, PhD, Dr. Psych., is professor at the Department of Education, Aarhus University. His main work has been to articulate social youth work and drug counseling practices with theories of subjectivity and collectivity, and vice versa, focusing recently on standards and motivation. In 2012, he published "The Subjectivity of Participation" on Palgrave.

Katrine Barington

Katrine BARINGTON defended her Master's thesis in psychology at Copenhagen University in the summer of 2015. She specializes in the area of theoretical psychology, with a specific focus on HEGEL's concept of recognition. Her thesis, "Liquid Standards in Social Work—When Recognition Turns into a Black Hole," is a critical analysis of the use of solution-focused brief therapy in social work. She is currently working on her specialization to become a psychologist in child and family therapy.

Morten Halberg, HelsingUng

Morten HALBERG is clinical psychologist in HelsingUng. He has been working in the area of psychotherapy and family treatment for more than ten years, and has a solid background in systemic, narrative and solution focused ideas. The work includes therapeutic practice as well as training and education of other professionals. For the past seven years he has been working in HelsingUng, a drug counseling facility for young people.




How to Cite

Nissen, M., Barington, K., & Halberg, M. (2019). Deconstructing Therapy: Performing the Common Sense User. Forum Qualitative Sozialforschung Forum: Qualitative Social Research, 20(1).



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