Phenomenology is a notoriously rigorous discipline in which therapists set aside their judgements, pre-conceptions and interpretations to gain access to the full, human experience of their clients. Within this context, clients are encouraged to EXPRESS their struggles, EXPLORE their feelings and understanding, and TRANSFORM their experiences in a manner that resonates with who they are.
EXPRESS. What is going on and how is it for you?
Guiding the client to EXPRESS their lived experience allows the therapist to gain a picture of the client’s reality, and also often illuminates aspects of an issue that the client perhaps had not yet realized or had forgotten. Once the reality of the situation has been established, the therapist asks the client what it is they feel, what their spontaneous reaction is to what they’ve just expressed. Do they feel like running away? Do they feel like exploding? This reaction gives insight into the client’s raw, visceral feelings and indicates a general direction in which they wish to go.
EXPLORE. Why is this?
The aim of EXPLORATION is to take the reality and emotions that emerged in the EXPRESSION and place them into a broader context of the client’s experience. Together, the therapist and the client attempt to understand the emotions and explore what is not understood. These questions are aimed at allowing the client to decide how this sits with them—honestly, deeply, truly—and what they really want.
TRANSFORM. How do I change?
Depending on the answers or decisions made by the client in their EXPLORATION, together with the therapist, the client works out how to go about resolving, changing, or letting a situation be. Developing an action plan, practicing a confrontation, and considering the potential implications allow the client to prepare themselves for their TRANSFORMATION and deal with any consequences.
Having EXPRESSED the depth of their feelings, fully EXPLORED their emotions and their understanding and decided on a course of action, a client can TRANSFORM their situation and ultimately themselves into a person who can stand behind their decisions and actions because they will have made them consciously, authentically, and freely.
My understanding of the existential-phenomenological approach is based on the work of Dr. Alfried Längle, who developed the method of Personal Existential Analysis, on which this is based. For further reading see: http://laengle.info/userfile/doc/PEA—EP-2003.pdf