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Title: Let the body talk : acknowledging embodiment in a virtual world : a phenomenological enquiry into the meaning of touch for clients in everyday verbal psychotherapy
Author: Uphoff-Chmielnik, Andrea
ISNI:       0000 0004 7971 9439
Awarding Body: University of Wales
Current Institution: Regent's University London
Date of Award: 2018
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This study is a phenomenological enquiry into touch during everyday verbal psychotherapy from a client perspective. Intended as a phenomenology of practice, it focuses on embodied verbal and nonverbal interactions between therapist and client regarding touch. It brings to the fore the way in which such interactions influence the relationship for the client. The study takes a broad perspective drawing on diverse theories and literature, to identify the historical and current controversy about the use of touch in psychotherapy. The study also seeks to place therapist behaviours within the professional and cultural context of psychotherapeutic practice today. By considering studies from social neuroscience, the research opens up a wider context in which to centralise the issue of touch. The research method was qualitative, using in-depth interviews which were developed and transcribed to produce accounts of client experience of psychotherapy. The focus of the interviews was on the clients' perceptions of interactions with their therapist regarding touch. The analysis of interviews used each account to identify themes emerging from the client's story. Some accounts displayed participants' high level of apprehension pre-empting touch in their therapy and possible reasons for this are explicated. The data further suggests that there are a number of complex and subtle interactions taking place within psychotherapeutic relationships that are not addressed. The artifice required of clients in negotiating and maintaining these relationships is highlighted. The findings suggest that therapists appear mostly unaware of the impact of their behaviours and communications on the client, as well as of a client's need to have words put to the process of the relationship. Client processes are complex and include a number of internal and external factors, which are sometimes in harmony and at other times conflicting. Clients were often unaware of the impact of these factors on their therapy, and it was frequently the research process which brought these into conscious awareness. Clients embodied responses to relating their material became apparent during the interviews, involving a full spectrum of bodily responses in the recall. Client experience covered an extensive range of issues and also revealed levels of anxiety and avoidance in addressing the therapeutic relationship. The researcher's original delineation of touch at the start of the research developed through the study to reflect a much more complex picture of the phenomena. A reflective text was subsequently used to bridge singular accounts and suggest that a universality of experience may exist. The study concludes with considerations of the pedagogical implications for practice and research in future. The research implies that future studies and clinical training would be better served by focusing on the complexity of touch, rather than on whether touch should or should not become a part of psychotherapeutic practice. At a time when evidence indicates a renewed interest in embodiment, there are ethical ramifications in failing to address client experience in more qualitative terms, both in the consulting room as well as in the research endeavour.
Supervisor: West, William Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available