Being listened to in therapy
: an interpretative phenomenological analysis

  • Monique Proudlove

Student thesis: PsychD


Most of the existing literature on listening in therapy presents studies of listening either conceptualised as a therapist skill or in relation to other therapeutic factors, such as empathy, with limited attention on the actual experience of being listened to and how it is experienced and understood by clients. The current study adopts an Interpretative Phenomenological approach to investigate how clients experience the phenomenon of being listened to in therapeutic interaction. Semi-structured interviews were conducted with 8 female clients that focused on investigating their experiences of being listened to in therapy. The findings suggest that rather than being simply a positive experience, being listened to can be difficult for the client and can be experienced ambivalently. Clients may use the experience of being listened to as a way of testing the therapist and the therapeutic relationship, and as a way of gauging whether to commit to or continue with the therapeutic relationship. Furthermore, being listened to in therapy can be experienced both as a way of being together with the therapist and as a way of being alone - being together as part of the testing process and being alone as a way of turning their attention to themselves - and movement between these two positions enables movement in the therapeutic process and therefore therapeutic change for the client. These findings contribute to existing psychotherapy research literature in two ways: first, they bring attention to the difficulty and ambivalence the client can experience in the face of being listened to in therapy; and second, they demonstrate how therapeutic change can be enabled by the client moving between different ways of experiencing being listened to. This enhanced understanding of the client experience can be used in psychotherapy training and practice to improve the practitioner’s awareness and understanding of the client experience.
Date of Award2 Apr 2019
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • University of Roehampton
SupervisorJanek Dubowski (Supervisor) & Paul Dickerson (Supervisor)

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