A moment of love? Embodied experiences of relational depth in transactional analysis psychotherapy
AbstractThis research project explores the question: ‘Can moments of relational depth be understood as a moment of love?’ The aims of the research were: to determine whether Transactional Analysis (TA) psychotherapists have experienced moments of relational depth; to explore their embodied and spiritual experience of this phenomenon, and to investigate participants’ interpretations of this experience. The research has sought to understand if these moments of intense, embodied attunement in therapy can be interpreted as moments of love. The study uses Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis (IPA) to explore the embodied experience of moments of relational depth in transactional analysis psychotherapy, by exploring the felt experience, understandings and conceptualisations of visceral experiences of moments of profound, intense connection in the therapeutic relationship. Thoughts, feelings and experiences of love in therapy are also explored. Semi-structured interviews of nine experienced Transactional Analysis psychotherapists are analysed and 5 superordinate and 26 subordinate themes are identified. The study found that TA psychotherapists do experience moments of embodied relational depth, and that this moment of relational depth can be described and understood as a moment of love. The participants were able to describe significant and similar physical and spiritual sensations that identified the experience. This phenomenon is also explored and understood as a moment of interpersonal physical synchrony. The participants interpreted this experience as being related to early infant-parent interactions, and as a transmission between themselves and their clients. All the participants described feeling love in the therapeutic relationship, and there were descriptions of the types of love that can occur in therapy. A definition of therapeutic love is also offered. The research data showed that for the participants in the study, therapeutic love is a fundamental aspect of therapy, both as a quality of the therapeutic relationship, and as a moment of embodied attunement. Therefore, the research suggests that training and supervision processes need to support trainee and qualified psychotherapists to explore and understand these phenomena. Identifying moments of embodied attunement requires an awareness of our internal experience. This suggests that a focus on the body and body awareness is an essential component of counselling and psychotherapy training courses. The integration of body psychotherapy into mainstream counselling and psychotherapy training will enable therapists to be open to experiences of embodied attunement in therapy. In addition, ongoing personal therapy for practitioners serves as an additional resource to underpin the safe provision of this profound therapeutic work.
CitationSwales, E. (2020). A moment of love? Embodied experiences of relational depth in transactional analysis psychotherapy [Unpublished doctoral thesis]. University of Chester.
PublisherUniversity of Chester
TypeThesis or dissertation
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