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Title: Researching the usefulness, if any, of the concept of embodiment to counselling psychologists working with individuals diagnosed with anorexia nervosa
Author: Baillie, Claire
ISNI:       0000 0004 2723 6136
Awarding Body: University of Roehampton
Current Institution: University of Roehampton
Date of Award: 2012
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This inquiry adopts the non-dualist stance of Merleau-Ponty regarding embodiment, where the “body” is considered to be a socially embedded lived experience (Merleau-Ponty, 1945/1962), and considers whether this concept is useful to counselling psychologists who work with individuals with a diagnosis of anorexia nervosa. The study adopts a horizonal structure arising from understandings of Gadamer’s (1960) hermeneutics, which requires an awareness of the limitations afforded by different perspectives. Semi-structured interviews are conducted with eight practitioners of psychotherapy, who have experience with individuals diagnosed with anorexia nervosa. They are invited to speak about their experience of practice with these individuals, then to respond to a Merleau-Ponty quote regarding embodiment and to consider its usefulness in their work. Interview transcripts are thematically analysed (Braun & Clarke, 2006). Initial themes conceptualise anorexia nervosa as emotional control and denial of needs; where it is helpful to have a model of understanding; understand weight issues but don’t’ talk about food and weight, be aware of power-relations and avoid control battles, overemphasising weight gain and refeeding; and to understand ambivalence and work motivationally. The findings suggest practitioners use knowledge, in the form of theories, to provide structure and a familiar language with which to explore clients’ unfamiliar worlds. Embodied views are found to open up conceptualisations regarding ontology and embeddedness, where “anorexia” becomes an ontological split, with controlling minds punishing bodies, where words aren’t enough and the symptoms are a paradoxical solution to problems of power and agency. The study finds engaging with embodied views highlights the embedded nature of being, opens up ambiguity, challenges dichotomies and acknowledges non-psychological aspects of existence and practice. It is suggested this supports the humanistic value base of counselling psychology practice by raising awareness of the ways in which the use of theory iii can help and hinder intersubjective contact with clients and the importance of embodying hermeneutic openness.
Supervisor: Loewenthal, Derek ; Cayne, Julia Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: embodiment ; counselling psychologists ; anorexia nervosa