Psychotherapy as assisted Self Inquiry

Psychotherapists who are engaged in research can be robust about adopting self inquiry methods. Autoethnography, heuristic inquiry, autophenomenlogy – all of these methods are of immense benefit to the project of psychotherapy research. Here is why.

Psychotherapy is a form of assisted self inquiry. We offer our clients a chance to delve deeply in to the meaning of their experience and to form a body of knowledge as a result of that inquiry. The academic bias towards positivist ‘knowledge’ claims is keenly felt in psychotherapy – more than almost any other discipline our raison d’être is to find ways of knowing life. Ways of knowing. And what psychotherapists are really clear about is that these ways of knowing come from within the person themselves and the therapists job is simply to facilitate the emergence of that knowledge.

How bizarre then, that so much psychotherapy research is predicated in ‘subject/object’ style knowing. The drive to seek ‘data’ from ‘out there’ rather than finding new and bold ways to mine the self for knowledge and then to engage with the challenge of underpinning the reliability of that knowledge.

William Braud and Rosemarie Anderson have offered a strong argument for an ‘expanded view of validity’ which begins to address some of the questions concerning research reliability. We need to turn the volume up on this debate, in order that the nature of ‘knowledge’ and ‘data’ and the proper ‘subject’ for research can become centre stage in the research activity of psychotherapists.

I strongly urge researchers, and research educators (those of us engaged in graduate education) to encourage use of first person methodologies in psychotherapy research.

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