From Philosophy to Practice: A Hermeneutic Analysis of Existential-Phenomenological Psychotherapy

Dissertation, Duquesne University (2004)

A hermeneutic analysis utilizing interpersonal process recall was employed to clarify how two existential-phenomenological psychotherapists apply the philosophies upon which their work is based. Two sessions of therapists and clients engaged in existential-phenomenological psychotherapy in a private practice setting were the focus of the study. Therapist and patient retrospective accounts and the researcher's observations regarding both sessions were analyzed via a hermeneutic method that entailed explicating contextual information regarding the researcher and the sessions; interpreting the therapists' intentions and actions as well as the clients' understandings of the sessions, and integrating these results into a situated account of each session. Each situated account sought to articulate existential and phenomenological themes apparent in the sessions. Results indicated differences and similarities in the psychotherapeutic application of existential-phenomenological philosophies. Differences showed a distinction in terms of emphasis between existential-phenomenological and phenomenological-existential psychotherapy. Similarities suggested common elements across both approaches. Therapists were found to articulate similar existential and phenomenological philosophical concepts such as choice, freedom, responsibility, meaning, and finitude. Furthermore recall and in-session evidence indicated that these concepts were applied in such practices as the use of metaphor, addressing the client holistically, and facilitating the multidimensionality of the clients' experience. Findings also indicated that the therapeutic effects of both sessions upon clients were similar in that clients became aware of and made connections between contrasting experiences, clients developed their understandings of the relationship between the physical and psychological, and clients found they had the freedom to make choices. The findings are compared to prior theoretical literature and quantitative process research, and discussed in terms of session content and therapeutic process
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