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Title: An exploration of the experience of psychotherapists working with clients presenting with bodily symptoms : a heuristic inquiry
Author: Haghighat-Khah, Bahareh
ISNI:       0000 0004 5921 955X
Awarding Body: Roehampton University
Current Institution: University of Roehampton
Date of Award: 2015
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The aim of this inquiry is to explore psychotherapists’ experience of working with clients who present with bodily symptoms. The research explores how psychotherapists understand and address these presentations, and how theoretical constructions of the body are utilised, or not, to enable them and their clients to make sense of their experience. Heuristic inquiry is used as the method to analyse the data, through semi-structured interviews with eight psychotherapists. A review of the existing literature highlights two schools of thought. Firstly, there is a consideration of the psychoanalytic and psychosomatic approach to understanding bodily symptoms, beginning with Freud’s (1905) earlier notions of conversion disorder and hysteria. Secondly, there is an exploration of the notion of the body through phenomenology and the work of Merleau-Ponty (1962) who uses the terms embodiment and the lived body, as a primary site of knowing and being with the world. Findings from the study highlight themes that suggest, for some, theory and dualistic explanations play a part in how the body is understood. While others work with bodily presentations through lived description, expressing how it’s through the world that the body can be understood. A critical consideration of the research method implicates the problem of using heuristics, where the method moves from a post-modern free flowing approach to a more rigorous and modern stance. Also there is a review of the experience of conducting this research and the choice of the research question. Suggestions for further research include an exploration and understanding of the body through “unknowing”, where therapists can be encouraged to hold a space of openness and uncertainty, as an attempt to deny theoretical constructs and dualistic explanations, as well as a suggestion for using poetry and poetic language to best describe the experience of the body, in keeping with a phenomenological practice.
Supervisor: Cayne, Julia Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Psych.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available