Item Details

Kids, counsellors and troubles-telling: Morality-in-action in talk on an Australian children’s helpline

Issue: Vol 9 No. 2 (2012) Morality in Professional Practice

Journal: Journal of Applied Linguistics and Professional Practice

Subject Areas: Writing and Composition Linguistics

DOI: 10.1558/japl.v9i2.25733


This article begins with the premise that morality is an intrinsic, although often invisible, aspect of everyday social action. Drawn from a corpus of fifty audio-recorded telephone calls to Kids Helpline, an Australian helpline for children and young people, we examine one call to show how the young caller and counsellor co-construct ‘morality-in-action’. Ethnomethodological understandings and, in particular, Sacks’ (1992) description of ‘Class 2’ rules and infractions show how an adolescent caller and counsellor collaboratively assemble moral versions of the caller. In puzzling out possible motives, the caller and counsellor can be seen to be attending to the implications of different moral versions of the caller. This attribution of motives is moral work in action, with motives contingently assembled, displayed and evaluated, with such work understood as displays of moral reasoning. The counselling call makes visible the counsellor’s interactional work to support and empower the client. Analysis such as this offers counsellors ways of understanding and making visible their interactional and moral work within helpline call interactions.

Author: Susan Danby, Michael Emmison

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