What is the need, if any, for therapeutic education in mental health nursing?
: An empirical phenomenological study of mental health nurses’ responses to this question

  • Anthony McSherry

Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis


This study explores how some mental health nurses are therapeutic, in terms of the art of healing, and how they have learned to be this way. The study originated in my experience of feeling abject while working as a mental health nurse. The research question addressed this situation through exploring whether or not therapeutic education was needed in mental health nursing. Ten mental health nurses participated in the study. Giorgi’s (2009) empirical phenomenological method was chosen because of its established status, and its grounding in Husserlian phenomenology which places a primacy on experience. A review of the literature included commentaries, qualitative empirical studies, case studies, and theoretical models, and indicated that mental health nurses may be therapeutic in idiosyncratic ways. A crucial aspect to these ways unfolded in this study as openness, through which the other may come to be in her own truthfulness. Significant methodological considerations were how we ‘constitute’ meaning, how meaning can ‘force itself’ like a gestalt, empathy may be self-alienating, and words ‘sedimented’ in tradition. These linked to how we can question being captivated in ‘experiences of truth’. Findings from Giorgi’s (2009) method were that mental health nurses are therapeutic through ‘being with’ others, through innate characteristics, that learning is through openness, and is facilitated through a therapeutic environment. Giorgi’s (2009) method is critiqued, and compared to a phenomenology of the therapeutic in relation to the research interviews (after Husserl and Merleau-Ponty). It was shown that the phenomenological ‘opens up’ language while method narrows meaning. The phenomenology showed that allowing an uncertain relation between two people was crucial, and how recognising the sensual aspect of meaning opened a healing space for another to be, through which a person’s own truthfulness may emerge. Openness appears to be innate, indicating one question for further study.
Date of Award27 Apr 2018
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • University of Roehampton
SupervisorDel Loewenthal (Supervisor) & Julia Cayne (Supervisor)


  • Mental health nursing, Therapeutic, Phenomenology, Openness

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