What are the principles of phenomenology and how are these applied to the practice of psychotherapy

What are the principles of phenomenology and how are these applied to the practice of psychotherapy, with reference to Carl Rogers?

This essay aims to introduce the key principles of phenomenology and reflect how these principles inform and influence psychotherapy. The first three steps of the phenomenological method, epoche, description and horizontalisation will first be presented, followed by how each of these steps impact on the therapist and client relationship. Deepening the comparison between phenomenology and psychotherapy, the tensions between the phenomenological method and the approach of Carl Rogers, founder of the humanist movement, will be explored to sharpen an understanding of the key steps of phenomenology. Finally, the exploration of the relationship between phenomenology and psychotherapy will raise some challenging questions about the profession of psychotherapy as a whole.

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Phenomenology was founded by Edmund Husserl (1859-1938). It was one of several strong philosophical movements of the time and first announced at the turn of the twentieth century. It went on to see many other original practitioners of phenomenology, significantly Martin Heidegger (1889-1976) join the movement, each evolving their own developments on the phenomenological method. Heidegger notably said; ‘”…there is no such thing as the one phenomenology”‘ (Moran, 2000, p.3). Phenomenology was a new, radical approach to philosophy;

‘… which emphasises the attempt to get to the truth of matters, to describe phenomena, in the broadest sense as whatever appears in the manner in which it appears, that is as it manifests itself to consciousness, to the experiencer.’ (Moran, 2000, p.4).

The phenomenological method consists of three key principles, epoche, description and horizontalisation. Combined, they aim to exclude all judgements, assumptions, bias and theory on an experience in order that an experience can be illuminated in its rawest form (Spinelli, 2005).

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