Title

A phenomenological study of the use and experience of intuition in marriage and family therapy by those who claim it

Date of Award

2008

Degree Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department

Marriage and Family Therapy

Keywords

Intuition, Ways of knowing in therapy, Therapists, Intuition in therapy, Intuition marriage and family therapy, Therapist intuition

Subject Categories

Counseling Psychology | Family, Life Course, and Society | Psychology | Social and Behavioral Sciences | Sociology

Abstract

This study explores how marriage and family therapists (MFTs) view and experience intuition in clinical work. Intuition is purported to be a meaningful way of knowing in clinical work. While some have written about how intuition is used and experienced in various fields of therapy (e.g., social work, music therapy, psychology), little to nothing has been researched or written about MFTs' experience and views. By anecdotal reports, many MFTs use intuition in therapy, but there is little field-specific research to guide them in its effective use. Eight MFTs were interviewed in this phenomenological study and answered questions about their views and use of intuition in therapy. Five domains emerged from the interviews: (1) The demographics of intuition in MFT, (2) Intuition and the therapist-client relationship, (3) Spiritual issues and intuition, (4) Training and development of intuition, and (5) Reluctance towards intuition in MFT. Intuition remains a difficult phenomenon to define, although participants' experiences showed important similarities. Intuition is discussed within the therapeutic relationship and is framed as a relational or systemic phenomenon. A tentative connection emerged between spiritual beliefs, practices, and intuitive experience. Ways of developing intuition in therapists-in-training are discussed. Clinical supervision and mentoring seem to be primary modalities of developing intuition. As such, supervisors need to understand the dynamics (e.g., a supportive, encouraging relationship of trust) under which intuition can be fostered. A perceived hesitancy towards intuition in the field is postulated as well as hypotheses for this perception. Implications for training and clinical practice are discussed.

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