Clients’ Experience of ‘Being Listened to’ in the Psychotherapeutic Context: An Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis

Prof Doc Thesis

Coltea, E. 2018. Clients’ Experience of ‘Being Listened to’ in the Psychotherapeutic Context: An Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis. Prof Doc Thesis University of East London School of Psychology
AuthorsColtea, E.
TypeProf Doc Thesis

The capacity to listen gives a profoundly integrating character to human relating and coexistence. It holds distinct importance within the psychotherapeutic context since therapists’ foremost activity is aimed at attuning to clients’ meanings of experience. Across the psychotherapeutic literature, listening transpires to be the most effective agent for client change and the heart of the therapeutic relationship. However, research on the listening experience per se is scarce, and existing perspectives on listening tend to primarily convey practitioners’ as opposed to clients’ stance and observations. In response to this, the current study explores clients’ experience of ‘being listened to’ in the psychotherapeutic context. Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis of textual data generated via semi-structured interviews with six women in recent or current psychotherapy identified two master themes: ‘Being listened to’: no place to hide and Cues to self: the phenomenology of ‘being listened to’.
The themes capture collectively shared, distinct aspects of the listening phenomenon as it unfolds in the intersubjective client-therapist space. Importantly, clients’ experience of ‘being listened to’ emerges to be a spiralling accumulation of a set of end-products of various combinations between certain key conditions: successful negotiation of deliberate-existential vulnerability; matched client-therapist readiness; sense of connectedness and feeling held; embodied awareness; and experiencing recognition. Through listening, the therapeutic encounter facilitates for clients a transformational experience of ‘being listened to’ potentially leading to a state of ‘no place to hide’ and contributing to the establishment of a distinct experience of self with existential and social legitimacy. The ‘gaze of the other’ (here, the therapist) is re-emphasised as unavoidable and fundamental for accomplishing this transformational potentiality of the ‘being listened to’ spiral.
The findings’ implications for practice, training and theory development as well as the study’s strengths and limitations, and ideas for future research are addressed.

KeywordsListening; client experience; psychotherapeutic context; psychotherapeutic relationship; vulnerability; readiness; self
PublisherUniversity of East London
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PrintJan 2018
Publication process dates
Deposited26 Nov 2019
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