The Erotic: Is Shame Making a Sham of Psychotherapy? Exploring Psychotherapists’ Experience of Engaging with Erotic Phenomena Emerging Within the Therapeutic Relationship and the Implications of Training and Development
: An Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis

  • Darren McClounan

Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis


The aim of this two part empirical study is to explore psychotherapists’ experiences of engaging, or not, with erotic phenomena emerging within therapeutic relationships (study one), and to identify the implications of training and development upon helping or hindering their ability to tolerate the presence of the erotic in the work (study two). Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis is used as the method to analyse the data, generated through semi-structured interviews with the two sets of eight psychotherapists recruited. A review of the existing literature highlights the predominance of the psychoanalytic modality and lack of contribution to the subject area from other approaches. A lack of distinction between ‘the sexual and ‘the erotic’ appears to result in the sexual dominating and obfuscating the erotic, leading to fear of shame and suggesting a need to explicate the former from the latter. Findings from the first study suggest the erotic can cause fear and discomfort that is multi-faceted, leading to the need to find ways to feel protected and safe. In the second study, findings are explored through the themes of power and authority in training and development; approaches to learning that could be considered avoidant and dead versus engaging and alive; and the impact on practice in real terms. A critical appraisal of the empirical research and research method is provided and considers in particular, some implications of the problematic that IPA could be seen to be attempting to take up both a modern and post-modern position. Suggestions for further research include exploring the dominant discourse around the erotic in society and how training and development can facilitate learning in therapists that encourages openness to the erotic as unknown.
Date of Award2012
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • University of Roehampton
SupervisorJulia Cayne (Supervisor) & Onel Brooks (Supervisor)

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