Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Accessing the Transcendent in Therapy: A Phenomenological Inquiry into How Therapists do Healing

Johannes Benedikt Schmidt, Fielding's School of Human & Organizational Development

This explorative inquiry examined the enaction of the transcendent in dyadic therapeutic encounters by analyzing therapists’ descriptions of what they identified as transcendent aspects of therapy. The transcendent is conceptualized as an otherness bearing its own ontic reality in contrast to the psychological, solipsistic concept of immanence based solely on a psychodynamic understanding of humans. A hermeneutic-phenomenological approach provided the methodological orientation for data collection in 10 therapeutic sessions. As researcher-client, I only videotaped sessions where therapists claimed to have integrated transcendent elements into their practice. Applying the method of stimulated-recall, I reviewed with therapists the video record of what had transpired during the session. Transcriptions of these discussions provided the foundational data for subsequent analysis.
All therapists reported the transcendent aspect of therapeutic enactions as a felt-sense, something that could not be fully captured and expressed through verbalized or written accounts. The therapeutic enaction of the transcendent will surface through varying shifts in being and an experience of being touched. While states of non-intentionality, receptivity, and double attention were enabling conditions for participating in the transcendent, the felt-sense conveyed a sense of spaciousness and the presence of a field. Being in this field has a transformative and healing effect on clients and therapists alike. The holding quality of the field alleviates the onerous sense of responsibility on the part of therapists, for whom the holding functions as a preserve against burn-out. Therapists described themselves as becoming conduits for other-directedness, with emergent intimacy and communion that instilled joy, lightness, creativity, and unanticipated solutions to problems and issues that clients brought into therapy.

Key Words: Transcendence, Transcendent Enaction, Therapeutic Spirituality, Ontology, Intimacy, Psychotherapy

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