• Siebrecht Vanhooren – Meaning in Experiential-existential Psychotherapy: The Body makes Sense
  • Tony Wilson – Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis (IPA): Philosophy for a Theoretical Framework
  • John Rae –   Coversation Analysis and clients’ experiences


Siebrecht Vanhooren


Title: Meaning in Experiential-existential Psychotherapy: The Body makes Sense

Affiliation: KU Leuven – University of Leuven, Belgium


Implications for practice: Case study of an experiential-existential psychotherapy process with a woman who suffers from an obsessive-compulsive disorder.  In this case study we focus on how the discovery/creation of her bodily felt meaning about her problems shifts eventually her meaning in life.

Implications for research: The case study helps us to understand how working on lower order bodily felt meaning (in Dutch: betekenis) can evoke a change on the bodily felt experience of higher order meaning (in Dutch: zingeving) and a shift in how one relates to the existential givens.




In experiential-existential psychotherapy, the creation and discovery of meaning is understood as the result of the experiential deepening of the client’s life process. However, clients are often stuck in the way they relate to their life process. Along with this frozen process, they are often caught in dysfunctional answers to the existential givens. As a consequence, they often experience their lives as empty and meaningless.

In this paper session, we present the case study of Sophie, a 30 year old women who had been suffering from depression and an obsessive compulsive disorder. Every morning, Sophie got up at 5 am to clean her house, and once she was back from work, she started all over. She never took holidays. She didn’t enjoy life at all. She often asked herself if life was worth living.

By working in the here-and-now and focusing on the interpersonal relationship and her bodily felt sense, the experiential-existential therapist helps her to contact her felt meaning about her issues. A video fragment shows how Sophie discovers and creates lower order meanings  (in Dutch betekenis), which leads to an important break-through. Further experiential exploration and empty chair work helps Sophie to understand her life in a different way and to develop a new stance towards life. As she becomes more in touch with what really matters to her, she makes new life choices and experiences more her life significantly more meaningful (higher order meaning: in Dutch zingeving).


Tony Wilson


Title: Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis (IPA): Philosophy for a Theoretical Framework

Affiliation: Visiting Senior Research Fellow, London School of Economics


implications for practice: Integrating evidence-based meaning-centered practices in health care services and business implications for research: A hermeneutic framework integrating IPA thematic analysis of research participant narrative


Abstract: In this proposed paper I draw upon hermeneutic philosophy (Heidegger, Gadamer, Ricoeur) to suggest a theoretical framework enabling IPA thematic analysis of research participant narrative to be integrated around a priori (or inelimineable) aspects (‘moments’) of their understanding experience. IPA establishes a practices research trajectory in qualitative psychology: addressing its earlier perception as a ‘troubling methodology’, the paper presents its ‘critical connection’ to a philosophical underwriting.


From a hermeneutic perspective, dismissing English empiricism (Locke, Ayer, and Austin) and its subsequent effects studies where research participants are conceptualised as passive recipients of representational ‘sense-data’, understanding is an embodied, equipped generic practice emplacing (or incorporating) a person’s tacit yet shared affective ‘horizons of understanding’ (Gadamer).  Understanding, moreover, constitutes a socially (in)formed literacy for living – ‘reading’ experience in prefigured (anticipated), configured (articulated), refigured (appropriated) narratives (Ricoeur). The paper positions IPA as reflectively concerned with narrative-constituting practices.


Following this philosophical underwriting of IPA, extending the foundational statement by Smith et al. (2009) on research participant practices (or embodied themes) connecting to their ‘practical engagement with the world‘, this paper presents re-worked analyses of published research, exemplifying participants’ own reflective interpretation of health issues as embodied, equipped narrative, emplacing a wider perspective – prefiguring, configuring and refiguring challenging experience. These narratives include: (i) aggression (ii) alcohol (ab)use  (iii) anorexia nervosa (iv) care-giving (v) contested medical diagnosis (vi) coping with chronic pain (vii) hospital haemodialyis (viii) spinal chord injury and (ix) jamu (herbal medicine) ethnic consumption in Malaysia.


Conversation Analysis and clients’ experiences.

John Rae

implications for practice: Contributes to our methods for understanding clients’ experiences of, and in, psychotherapy.

implications for research: Demonstrates how a methodology for the analysis of social interaction, which has been applied to psychotherapy, can offer an analysis of clients’ experiences in psychotherapy.


Conversation Analysis (CA) is a methodology for the analysis of social interaction. It is characterised by being data driven, inductive and by being particularly concerned with sequences of actions in interaction. CA has been extensively applied to the analysis of psychotherapeutic data (e.g. Madill, Widdicombe, & Barkham, 2001; Peräkylä, Antaki, Vehviläinen, & Leudar, 2008, Antaki, 2011). Whilst CA has been particularly concerned with recurrent, visible, structures in interaction, it construes turns at talk as responsive to previous turns, that is, it sees speaker’s analyses of previous turns as the principal determinant of what the speaker says. As such it is fundamentally concerned with the speaker’s immediate experience. The paper examines how CA thereby incorporates themes from Garfinkel’s (1967) complex adaption of Schutz’s analysis of the lifeworld (Schutz 1967) (see Heritage 1984 for an influential discussion. However, I go on to show how and why CA characteristically refrains from offering descriptions of experiences. Nevertheless, CA can be used to develop a form of experiential analysis and I demonstrate the relevance of this to the analysis of psychotherapy.