Academic journal article Psychologische Beiträge

Empirical Phenomenological Research in Psychotherapy: Duquesne Dissertations

Academic journal article Psychologische Beiträge

Empirical Phenomenological Research in Psychotherapy: Duquesne Dissertations

Article excerpt

This chapter illustrates the broad range of psychotherapy phenomena that are amenable to an empirical phenomenological research approach. It does so by characterizing highlights of 20 psychotherapy dissertations completed in the Psychology Department of Duquesne University between the years 1973-1993. Before presenting these highlights, in separate sections we will briefly introduce human-science psychology, philosophical phenomenology, and the basic features of an empirical-phenomenological research method. As prelude, let us say that phenomenology is the rigorous study of (ology) phenomena (what appears to humans), and of what appearances can tell us about the general nature of being human and of our human ways of understanding. The term 'empirical' implies both that we are concerned with actual, existential, persons in concrete situations, and that our research addresses recorded data that are available for examination. Addressing persons as existential involves attending to their personally being influenced by, along with their influencing, their worlds through action and meaning.

Human-Science Psychology

Psychology's traditional theoretical concepts and research methods, although appropriate for many purposes, are not suitable for describing what it is like to participate in a situation, such as psychotherapy, or any other situation, such as that of being anxious, awaiting the results of biopsy, and so on. The term 'human science' is meant to contrast with 'natural science', in particular with the latter's content areas, methods, and in psychology, with the philosophical positions of materialism, realism, and positivism. Psychology as a human science is a rigorous, empirically based study of the human realm as human. This approach takes into account human characteristics that include but that go beyond those of the objects, materials, and processes that are addressed by the natural sciences. These human characteristics include our acting in accordance with meanings, such as anticipated futures, pasts that are alive in the present, and the world that we relate to personally. The human/natural science distinction is historically related to Dilthey's (1894/1977) distinction between Geisteswissenschaften and Naturwissenschaften, the former being studies of philosophy, spiritual matters, and the mind, and the latter being studies of nature. A thorough-going humanscience psychology would seek to integrate the biological and the psychological realms, but thus far its advocates have emphasized development of human science foundations and consonant qualitative research methods and applied practices.

Philosophical Phenomenology

Edmund Husserl (1859-1938) was the foundational philosopher of phenomenology, followed by Martin Heidegger (1889-1976) who developed his own somewhat more existential version of it. Husserl initiated a resolution to the artificial distinction between mind and matter (going back at least three centuries to Descartes). Husserl's most influential books are Ideas: General Introduction to Pure Phenomenology (1913/1962) and The Crisis of European Sciences and Transcendental Phenomenology (1935-37/1970). We quote Fischer (1998) extensively below from an explication written for psychologists.

In a very significant sense, Husserl unseparated mind and material. In contrast to Descartes' method of systematically doubting the existence of objects until ultimate certainty was discovered in the I who thinks and doubts', Husserl's method was to return respectfully to things in the world, considering them in their own right. By 'thing' he meant any things of which we are conscious - phenomena. Experience thereby was expanded beyond sense perception, another shift of importance for psychology. Moreover, Husserl contended that consciousness is not isolated, separate from the world; consciousness is always of something, and that 'something' is necessarily laden with meaning. The term 'intentionality' in philosophy often refers not to purposiveness but to this inevitable attending to, intending toward, of consciousness. …

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