The phenomenology of the events of client inhibition and self-disclosure in the therapeutic dialogue

Lockhart, Ian (1994) The phenomenology of the events of client inhibition and self-disclosure in the therapeutic dialogue. Masters thesis, Rhodes University.

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The aim of this study was to provide an account of the power relations that are implicit in the experience of clients who initially withhold but eventually disclose a sensitive issue in the psychotherapeutic dialogue. Mainstream psychotherapeutic literature has maintained that clients who withhold sensitive material implicitly express a psychological powerlessness. The literature review also turned attention to an alternative view, not arising from within the psychotherapeutic literature. Specific reference was made to the work of Foucault who suggests that although clients may appear to be empowered through self-disclosure, they are in fact constrained, since disclosing themselves constitutes. an appropriation of selfunderstanding which forecloses openness to other f0n11S of self-understanding. The tension between these conflicting accounts about the relation of self-disclosure to empowerment was discussed as an issue requiring further exploration through clinical research. A phenomenologically orientated research method was used to describe the experiences of five clients who withheld and subsequently disclosed sensitive issues in psychotherapy. These descriptions yielded a thematically differentiated process of psychological change. The structure of client inhibition and self-disclosure was seen to correspond to the concepts of powerlessness and empowerment outlined in the psychotherapeutic literature. The apparent empowerment of clients during self-disclosure casts doubt on Foucault's perspective. However, on further reflection and through a review of the research method, it became apparent that the lack of support for Foucault's perspective was a consequence of the particular research method used rather than an indication of the non-existence of constraint. Ricoeur's hermeneutic phenomenology was used to develop the above methodological critique. Using this alternative approach the researcher critically evaluated the findings of the phenomenological study. This facilitated a reinterpretation of the clinical material. It emerged that the experience of empowerment represents a particular form of selfunderstanding, and it was shown, in relation to the clinical material, how this can indeed as Foucault suggests (because of its very specificity) constrain the client from understanding him/herself in alternative ways. It was revealed that the experience of empowerment is a necessary but limited component of successful client disclosure. This does not, however, go far enough. It was suggested that ideally, critical reflection on the constraints of self-understanding, rather than self-disclosure per se, should be regarded as the destination of the urge to self-disclosure.

Item Type:Thesis (Masters)
Uncontrolled Keywords:Psychotherapy, Psychotherapeutic dialogue, Client, Disclosure, Sensitive material, Powerlessness, Empowerment, Constraint, Self-understanding, Tension, Critique
Subjects:B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BF Psychology
Divisions:Faculty > Faculty of Humanities > Psychology
Supervisors:Kelly, Kevin
ID Code:3924
Deposited By: Philip Clarke
Deposited On:02 Nov 2012 06:19
Last Modified:02 Nov 2012 06:19
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