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Title: Healing perception : the application of the philosophy of Maurice Merleau-Ponty to the theoretical structures of Gestalt Psychotherapy
Author: Kennedy, Desmond Joseph
ISNI:       0000 0001 3597 1737
Awarding Body: University of Derby
Current Institution: University of Derby
Date of Award: 2002
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This is the first time such an extensive application has been attempted. The thesis argues that Gestalt therapy as a modality of perception, can best come to a recognition of itself in the Phenomenology oj Perception. That Gestalt therapy requires such a support is apparent right from its flawed foundation in the writings of Paul Goodman. Its weak philosophical foundation has diverted its development away from the lived body, impoverished its view of phenomenology, constrained its language so that the articulation of its theoretical structures lacks depth, left it vulnerable to the distortions of post-modem constructivism, rendered unclear the domain proper to it as a psychotherapy, and bequeathed to those who would work to construct a consistent, organic and cohesive theoretical structure, an impossible task. The epistemological foundation of the theoretical structures of Gestalt therapy is to be found in what Merleau-Ponty calls 'primordial contact' or belief. This is that timeless pre-conceptual 'moment', when, without theme or image, a world begins to form itself about me. In this 'moment' I experience myself as 'given' to me in my body. This primordial experience of givenness is henceforth the ever-present anchorage of all subsequent experience. It is this which authenticates the therapist's immediacy to his/her client which constitutes the dialogue between them as healing. The argument in the thesis hinges upon the congeniality between Gestalt therapy and Merleau-Ponty's philosophy: they are both experiential, radically holistic and centred upon the lived body. They both claim to transcend the subject/object, mind/body dualism and view the human being in his/her embodiment as the Gestalt, actualizing being-in-theworld. The thesis demonstrates how, with the application of four key concepts from Merleau-Ponty's philosophy to the theoretical structures of Gestalt therapy-intentionality, anonymity, transcendence and intersubjectivity - there emerge new horizons of understanding for such Gestalt therapy concepts as field theory, immediacy, holism, personal relationship and the body as a carrier of our history. Such an application also reveals to us the 'phenomenal field' as the domain of operation proper to a therapy of bodily presence, awareness and exploration. The thesis concludes that the development of Gestalt therapy theory lies in a more profound development of its phenomenology along the lines of the analysis made by Merleau-Ponty in the Phenomenology of Perception. Such a direction will at once correct its list towards scientism, and the penchant for involvement in distracting philosophical debates. The thesis also points up the need for development at the training level of skills in reflection upon the experiential learning of the Gestalt therapy concepts, the paramount importance of relationship between trainers and trainees based upon an exacting personal authenticity and transparency.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: Phenomenology ; Perception ; Gestalt ; Transcendence ; Merleau-Ponty ; Body ; Motility ; Intentionality