Benefits and Challenges of the Phenomenological Approach to the Psychiatrist's Subjective Experience: Impassivity, Neutrality, and Embodied Awareness in the Clinical Encounter
- Philosophy, Psychiatry, & Psychology
- Johns Hopkins University Press
- Volume 26, Number 4, December 2019
- pp. E-83-E-96
- Additional Information
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Based on the idea of objectivity as "a view from nowhere," the dominant approach to the subjectivity of the clinician in psychiatry is a negative one: it stipulates that the psychiatrist's impressions and emotions may only interfere with the results of the psychiatric examination. Even the person-centered approach in psychiatry fails to address this issue directly because it focuses almost exclusively on the person of the patient. A positive approach has only been adopted in psychotherapy and in particular in psychoanalysis where the clinician's reaction to her client constitutes a rich source of information about the client's state. A positive attitude to the clinician's subjective experience can also be found in phenomenologically informed psychopathological and psychotherapeutic literature. Nevertheless, very few researchers studied this topic thoroughly. In this article, I explain this lack of interest and show that the challenges for developing a phenomenological approach stem not only from the epistemological presuppositions of classic psychiatry, but also from the methodology of classic phenomenological psychopathology that tends to downplay the performative aspect of phenomenology. I suggest that, when understood, instead, as a practice, phenomenology offers the psychiatrist the tools to become aware of her own lived experience of the clinical encounter in a very specific way. After highlighting how such a phenomenological awareness differs from the psychoanalytical one, I argue that it allows reassessing the idea of objectivity as "the view from nowhere" on new grounds by demonstrating the embodied nature of the subject of study.