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CHAPTER 4: RESEARCH METHODOLOGY
Phenomenology is the science that studies truth. It stands back from our rational involvement with things and marvels at the fact that there is disclosure, that things do appear, that the world can be understood and that we in our life thinking serve as datives for the manifestation of things Sokolowski (2000, p. 185)

4.1.

QUALITATIVE VERSUS QUANTITATIVE RESEARCH

4.1.1. Introduction

In psychology research, few quantitative studies have definitively demonstrated the complexities involved in the process of psychotherapeutic change. Many researchers in the field are critical of existing quantitative research methods and argue that, in controlling and measuring variables, results, although statistically significant, are often clinically superficial (Giorgi, 1995; Yalom, 1995; Kotsch, 2000; McLeod, 2001). The shortcomings of quantitative research methods for investigating phenomena such as psychotherapeutic change are particularly evident when attempting to examine psychotherapeutic interventions such as ‘art therapy’. Art therapy involves the use of art images as symbolic communications in therapy. These images may reveal unconscious meaning systems that are inexpressible in words. Although an emotional experience in art therapy may be profound and life changing, it is not always immediately accessible or recognisable to the client on a conscious or cognitive level. It is often months (or years) later that the client may be able to put into words what has taken place on an unconscious level. This makes therapeutic change in art therapy particularly unyielding to research in general, but especially unyielding to the use of quantitative methods.

In contrast to quantitative methodologies, which focus on causal relationships explicated in terms of observational statements, verifications and predictions, qualitative methodologies (or qualitative inquiry) offer alternative ways of exploring human behaviour, thoughts and relationships in a manner more appropriate for studying phenomena such as therapeutic change (Maggs-Rapport, 2001).

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4.1.2. Qualitative inquiry as an alternative philosophy of science

It is not so much that phenomenology is against empiricism, as it is more than merely empirical. Giorgi (1997, p. 236)

Giorgi (1995) discusses what phenomenology can offer the science of psychology. He describes qualitative inquiry techniques as arising in reaction to a discrepancy between the natural scientific framework (adopted by psychologists as being the only scientific framework that is considered useful), and the essential characteristics of human phenomena as they spontaneously unfold in everyday life. He argues that because the definition of science accepted in psychology was initially the one defined by the natural sciences, psychology was placed in a dilemma: either it meets the scientific criteria as established by the natural sciences or it has to identify itself with the arts or humanities. Psychology as a science leaves many human phenomena (for example, creativity and freedom) without explanation, whilst psychology as an art is marginalised as not being rigorous and exact in academic circles. Phenomenological thought offers a way out of this dilemma by providing a better understanding of psychological phenomena as spontaneously lived, within an expanded idea of ‘science’.

Giorgi (1995, p. 27) reasons that the natural sciences developed on the basis of the nonconscious object as its model, in contrast to the human sciences that focus on human phenomena and the subjective acts of people that are directed towards aspects of their world. The phenomenon being studied is thus humans in relation to others and the world. Non-conscious objects exist in space and time and are subject to causal laws, whereas human perceptions cannot be subject to the same causal laws. The act of perceiving belongs to consciousness; the object perceived (or phenomenon) is neither the act of perceiving nor the object itself. Thus the object being studied is acknowledged as possessing the same consciousness as the researcher. The analysis of the phenomenon thus needs to be different to the analysis of a natural object. He suggests that concepts such as “forces” and “motivations unfolding over time” are more appropriate for describing human relationships in research.

King & Halling. People are creative co-contributors to their life-world. 2001). knowledge of phenomena (categories of events such as ‘psychotherapy for traumatic bereavement’). emphasises the fact of knowledge as correlated with consciousness and a phenomenon. Giorgi posits that phenomenology. McLeod. 1989. . and reflexive knowledge (the researcher turns his or her attention on to his or her own internal processes). McLeod (2001) suggests that there are three areas within which qualitative inquiry produces useful new forms of knowing. The term ‘co-construct’ refers to the way people construct their life-world through their talk (narratives). and all of the objects. consciousness. ‘bereaved parents’). The concept of reality as co-created implies that there may be many alternative or complementary definitions or understandings of reality (Valle. methodical and critical as well as general (Giorgi. and ‘reality’ is co-constructed between people. events and processes that come to awareness by means of this consciousness. through their rituals and institutions and through the ways in which they physically and materially shape the world.Chapter 4: Research methodology 76 Scientific thinking is defined as a way of approaching knowledge that is systematic. He asserts that phenomenology makes thematic. through their memories. through their actions. through their systems of meaning. Drew. 1995). 1995. whilst embracing these aspects of scientific thinking. 2001. he sees scientific understandings as being opened up to allow for a more precise comprehension of psychological subject matter. but this consciousness is also a creative participant in the relationship between people and their experience of the world. Not only do humans possess consciousness. Qualitative inquiry strives to achieve an understanding of how people co-construct their life-world as meaningful. Qualitative inquiry involves the exploration and mapping of meaning systems within all of these areas of human experience. Slife & Williams. In thematising consciousness in this way. These are knowledge of the other (involving a category of persons such as in this study.

The idea of a bricoleur is appealing. and images. It is believed that by assuming a position of not knowing and keeping an open mind. The challenge for qualitative researchers is to negotiate their own personal route through the research. Discourse. Denzin and Lincoln (1994) point out that in contemporary social science there has been a blurring of genres. will prove to be the most useful for coaxing the themes from the matrix of the text of the research. selects from these what will best get the job done. the hidden meanings (or the taken-for-granted historical and cultural horizons of meaning) through which people experience the world. They suggest that the demands of qualitative research require the researcher to improvise and create personalised techniques for collecting and analysing material. as a . and the image of cobbling together stories rather than producing a grand theory seems to fit with the aims and limitations of this research. Often the method emerges in response to the research.1. They suggest the term ‘bricoleur’ to describe the researcher who. conversation. whilst well informed of alternative approaches.Chapter 4: Research methodology 77 4. Grounded theory and phenomenology focus on the meanings through which people construct realities (McLeod. with successful and influential studies straying into the border between art and science. rather than following a set method. rather than the researcher imposing a predetermined method onto the topic. Ethnography focuses on the way that people construct their world through social practices and rituals. Different directions within qualitative inquiry Different methodologies have arisen within the broader field of qualitative inquiry that emphasise and focus on diverse aspects of the ways in which people construct reality. the research process. Hermeneutics seeks to uncover. 2001). They see the key difference between this type of approach and taking a more conventional route lies in the kind of knowledge claims made by “bricoleurs” who “cobble stories together” rather than producing grand theories. conversational and narrative analysis focuses on how people make sense of the world through talk and language.3. It is envisaged that a combination of qualitative approaches that emerge in response to the needs of the research. through the interpretation of text such as written documents.

Husserl tried to reduce the perception of phenomena to their essence (Farber. and was subsequently elaborated on by a number of philosophers into a variety of divergent themes. He argues that to attain certainty it is necessary to examine the bedrock of everyday experience.1.Chapter 4: Research methodology 78 journey of discovery. 2001). Husserl does not accept that certainty (or ultimate truth) can be achieved solely through the use of rationality and logic. Husserl’s philosophy is eidectic in that he believes that there are essential structures to human experience that can be understood. gave phenomenology new meaning. 1997. the aim of phenomenology is a description of how the world is constituted and experienced through consciousness (Van Manen.2. Origins of phenomenology The term ‘phenomenology’ has been known in philosophy since the middle of the 18th century. Maggs-Rapport. objects) as they present themselves in consciousness as immediate experience. He maintains that conscious awareness is the one certainty for humans and is thus the starting point of all knowledge. actions and perceptions of things and relationships that an ultimately true understanding arises (McLeod 2001). Husserl (1962) questions the assumption that objects of consciousness can have a separate existence from the person who is conscious of them. he believes that researchers are able to describe the fundamental structures of the life-world or the world of lived experience (Draucker. the founder of modern phenomenology. Husserl shows that ‘phenomena’ (which means ‘to appear’) are perceived and observed by both . but the recognition that objects exist as ‘objects of consciousness’ (Kvale 1983. By means of the study of consciousness. PHENOMENOLOGY 4. At the beginning of the 20th century. For Husserl. 4. This theory involved the study of phenomena (things. 1990). By suspending commonly held beliefs or presuppositions about the world (bracketing). 1999). because it is in people’s emotions. which gained significance as his theory of a ‘Science of Consciousness’. Giorgi.2. arguing that it is not the existential existence of objects that is important. will unfold to reveal the deeper meanings that will act as plausible insights that lead to an expanded understanding of the phenomenon. 1966). Edmund Husserl (1962).

Sokolowski. The object of attention begins to exist more than it did before. as being the key to answering questions about the lived experience of people. 4. feelings. The object is looked at . or that consciousness is directed towards ‘consciousness of something’ (Giorgi. as some of the epistemological elements of phenomenology. which are part of everyday experience.2. touchable and audible things in the world. took phenomenology in new directions. Intentionality is embodied in the idea that every act of consciousness is directed towards an object of some kind. 2000). His sees ordinary pre-theoretical understandings of being. fantasies and all that stems from the human mind and spirit and belongs in the realm of the mental experience (Sokolowski. Heidegger saw people as constantly finding significance and meaning in their being in the world. dreams. 1997. 2000). as well as thoughts.2. Heidegger (1962). and are largely unaware of their being in the world in everyday life. These theoretical concepts denote important aspect of human consciousness and contribute to an understanding of the human experience (Drew. the notions of intentionality and transcendentality. He sought answers to the meaning of people’s ‘being-in-the-world’.Chapter 4: Research methodology 79 people’s senses and minds. 4.2. Basic concepts in phenomenology Husserl (1962) presents. and thereby becomes meaningful.1. a contemporary of Husserl. 2001). A researcher adopting a phenomenological approach is interested in the way that consciousness of an object or event is ascribed as having meaning. Phenomena include visible. He emphasised understanding more than description for revealing human experiences in research (Draucker. It means that what a person focuses on appears more clearly to the consciousness than before it was focused on.2. Intentionality and meaning The term ‘intentionality’ refers to the relationship between people and the objects or events of their experience. He believes that people are inseparable from the world in which they live. 1999).

2000). The world does not compete with other objects. The phenomenological attitude is also known as the transcendental attitude. In the moment of perceiving. the phenomenological attitude is reflexive on the natural attitude and the intentionalities that occur within it. people experience the life-world in an ‘all-at-once way’ intuitively grasping its meaning. the researcher must distance him or herself from the natural attitude. is thought to facilitate philosophical analysis (Sokolowski.2. people go about their lives with little reflection on their intentionality. the researcher disengages from the natural attitude.2. These two attitudes are known as the natural and the phenomenological attitude respectively. a background. including his or her underlying world beliefs. The singular ‘I’. In the transcendent attitude it is believed that the researcher’s intentionalities can be suspended. allowing for the contemplation and description of his or her underlying world beliefs. As residents of the ‘life-world’ people understand the world’s phenomena from the perspective of their particular situatedness within a historical context. Whilst the natural attitude is a world-directed stance. 2001) 4. but as an object that is experienced in a certain way. In doing this. However when engaging in the ‘phenomenological’ or ‘transcendental attitude’. The active relationship in which things are experienced and events endowed with meaning is the essence of intentionality (Drew.2. rather than remaining in the natural attitude. a container.Chapter 4: Research methodology 80 not simply as an object. rather he or she contemplates them. During this process the researcher becomes a detached observer or onlooker to the natural attitude. He or she does not change his or her intentionalities. ego or self is experienced as the centre around which the widest whole is arranged. Transcendence and the phenomenological attitude Phenomenological thinking posits that there are two attitudes of human consciousness that people are able to move between. or a setting for their being. or a sum of all objects. He or she focuses in a reflective way on all of his or her particular intentionalities. When engaging the natural attitude. . The manner in which people accept the things in the world and the world itself is one of belief or reality. rather it is perceived as a whole. Adopting a phenomenological attitude. The world is experienced as a context. reflect upon it and make it thematic.

as opposed to the individual being studied as an object (Tesch. 4.2. 2000). if it is a perceived object.Chapter 4: Research methodology 81 The process of suspending the natural attitude and of adopting a transcendent attitude is known as ‘phenomenological reduction’. It is assumed that. attention is turned towards the individual’s subjective experience of reality. 1990). it is examined as remembered. 1997). Whilst it does not deny the existence of an objective reality. In phenomenological reduction the researcher’s beliefs are bracketed and the object is considered precisely as it is intended by an intentionality within the natural attitude. Husserl (1962) assumes that the turn towards a phenomenological attitude signifies a reduction to a simple targeting of the intentionalities themselves. because the researcher is able to look at what is normally looked through (Sokolowski. Phenomenological researchers attempt to study the ordinary ‘life-world’ of people. as one person’s reality differs from that of another. if it is remembered. an enhancement of the self occurs in which the researcher begins to live in the phenomenological attitude. Their focus is on how people experience their . In adopting this mode of observing.3. The focus in phenomenology is on how an individual deals with. Phenomenology as the basis for research Phenomenology advocates that the scientific study of people’s immediate experience should be the basis of psychological research. 2000). Heidegger (1962) questions Husserl’s assumption that people are able to suspend their ‘being in the world’ in order to attain this attitude. perceives and experiences events in their life-world. each person is likely to perceive things differently. This is known as ‘epoche’ or the neutralising of the natural intentions in order to contemplate them (Sokolowski. From this reflective stance it is possible to make the appearances thematic. Phenomenologists believe that ‘real meaning’ can be derived from observing an individual’s reaction to these events (Neuman. The researcher suspends the intentionalities he or she now contemplates in order to suspend his or her judgement or refrain from judging until the evidence in clear. it is examined as perceived. The emphasis is therefore on attempting to understand the psychological conceptions of the individual participants in the research. For example.

2001). To achieve this. 2000). It calls for a return ‘to things themselves’. . 1996). The term ‘transcendental subjectivity’ has been coined to describe the researcher’s thinking about his or her thinking as a part of the research (Drew. phenomenological researchers believe it is necessary to explore of their own thinking (Tesch.3. it needs to include a consideration of the reciprocity between the perceptions of the life-world and how these perceptions contribute to the lived experience (Drew. They study how people explain themselves and what goes on around them. 4. Any research project designed to explain the natural world begins with an awareness of the researcher’s own experience of the phenomenon under study. and to reductionist tendencies in the study of people. and how these explanations or conceptualisations change (Tesch. Phenomenology as transcendental subjectivity In order to gain experience of other people’s ‘life-worlds’. and to an investigation of subjective experiencing of ‘things’ away from preconceived or inferred theories about them (Sokolowski. 2001). 2001). 1990).Chapter 4: Research methodology 82 world. the researcher needs to incorporate his or her own experience into the research and to reflect on how he or she sees and understands the process of ‘knowing’ itself. As phenomenologically based research examines the ‘lived experience’ and the ‘lifeworld’ of the participants. or mechanistic. 1990). Phenomenologists are opposed to restricting psychology to the study of behaviours. Phenomenology is thus concerned with describing and analysing human consciousness as it is perceived and experienced independent of other theories. associationistic views. Phenomenology deemphasises external behaviour in favour of internal processes and experiences. Formal.2. abstract theorising is viewed as the antithesis of the intuitive ‘truth’ that varies from person to person (Maddi. reflexive activity itself should be part of the focus in research. involves a journey of self-discovery and calls forth self-awareness in the researcher (McLeod. Thus all phenomenological research. The researcher’s life-world would need to be made transparent in the research.1. Implicit in this approach is the idea that transcendental. of necessity.

or fact that emerges from the data. and research methodologies that are based on ‘interpretive phenomenology’ following the thinking of both Husserl and Heidegger. the researcher should carefully examine his or her prejudice and use this understanding as a counterfoil for understanding the experience of the participants in the research. or statement. descriptions are analysed to reveal themes. 2001). He suggests that instead of attempting to bracket personal prejudice. bracketing or suspension of the researcher’s presuppositions about the phenomenon under study is believed to be a possible and necessary step in the research process. 4.2. Descriptive phenomenology Descriptive phenomenologists approach a research topic by collecting intensive and exhaustive descriptions from the participants. Maggs-Rapport (2001) sees the essential features of research based on descriptive phenomenology to be • • self exploration of how the researcher knows an object of consciousness (phenomenon) recognising that he or she is inseparable from the phenomenon . The key distinction between the two is to be found in Heidegger’s (1962) position that presupposition (or bracketing) cannot be suspended because it is integral in defining what constitutes ‘meaning’ in the phenomenon. To achieve this. The result is a description of the general structure of the phenomenon studied (Maggs-Rapport.1. Descriptive versus interpretative phenomenological research Draucker (1999) and Maggs-Rapport (2001) distinguish between qualitative research methodologies that are based on ‘descriptive phenomenology’ following Husserl’s thinking. They then attempt to present the essential features of the phenomenon. Heidegger questions the possibility of the researcher being able to be completely free of his or her own worldview and prejudice. A theme is something akin to a content. or topic.4. Finding commonalities and uniqueness in these themes then allows the researcher to crystallise the ‘constituents’ of the phenomenon.Chapter 4: Research methodology 83 4. In Husserl’s (1962) thinking.2. He believes that the phenomenon can only be truly understood in terms of the researcher’s background and social context.4.

the non-objective characteristics (such as the subjective feelings of the participant). intuition in this instance means that consciousness is present to something in some particular modality. Giorgi (1980. 1997) advocates that phenomenological research be based upon descriptions of experiences as they occur in everyday life. Giorgi (1995) offers five key ideas as being instrumental to this process: • The primacy of consciousness as a privileged realm of being • • Phenomenology as a philosophy of intuition. Giorgi (1995) believes that the structures revealed through applying this method include: the objective sequence of the processes involved in the research. as well as critical points along the path of the research. They are then systematically and methodically analysed so that explicit and implicit meanings are identified. and ideative intuitions that present objects that are not empirically real such as ideas or images.Chapter 4: Research methodology • • • • • 84 suspension of pre-existing beliefs about the phenomenon through bracketing phenomenological reduction using free imaginative variation rediscovering phenomena exactly as they are presented to consciousness engaging in a search for essences generating descriptions that illuminating these ‘essential connections’. The distinction between two different types of intuition. the more variations of a single . These descriptions of ‘lived experiences’ should be collected in the form of transcribed interviews or texts written by the participants in the research. Once compiled. • • Phenomenology correlates the phenomenon of consciousness with the presentation of an object rather than on the object’s reality. they constitute the raw data of the research. He suggests that the greater the number of participants. 1995. a distinction is drawn between experiential intuitions that present empirical real objects. The concept of intentionality. clarified and organised so that underlying psychological structures are revealed. to be ‘conscious’ is always to be ‘conscious of something. the roles played by others in the processes. Consciousness is always directed towards an object in that. refers to the essence of consciousness that is always directed towards an object.

He sees prejudice on the part of the researcher with regards to the phenomenon as being the means by which the truth about the phenomenon is revealed. and yet inseparable from. 4. the researcher must overcome the phenomenon’s strangeness and transform it into something familiar. . and that the researcher cannot divorce him or herself from his or her own ‘being in the world’.Chapter 4: Research methodology 85 experience are possible. He points out that he or she is using language in attempting to understand language.2.2. Interpretive phenomenology aims to uncover the concealed meanings that are embedded in the words of the participant’s narratives.4. It is posited that gaining an understanding of the phenomenon is more important than the description of the phenomenon (Draucker. Thus he sees the relationship between truth and prejudice as being positive and of integral importance to an understanding of the phenomenon. Gadamer (1975) believes that to understand and interpret a phenomenon. Maggs-Rapport (2001) sees the essential features of research based on interpretive phenomenology to be • • • • • • • attempting to make sense of the world through our existence within it understanding and interpreting the phenomenon being in the world (being open to. the world) making sense of the life-world through speech and language incorporating the researcher’s personal prejudice into the research acknowledging the researcher’s historical understanding of the phenomenon viewing all understanding as incomplete and circular. Interpretive phenomenology Research based on interpretive phenomenology differs from descriptive phenomenology in that the possibility of the researcher being able to ‘bracket’ personal presuppositions is brought into question. 1999). thereby leading to a greater possibility of the discovery of the invariants in the structure of the phenomenon. He posited that it is through language and communication that people’s ‘being in the world’ can best be understood.

. but rather a way of working within a philosophical framework.2.1. He delineates the three main trends in research into psychotherapy that involve the use of phenomenological principles. 4. and integrating these themes into an exhaustive description of the phenomenon. In other words.5.2. The extent to which the perspectives of the clients. influences and actions of the researcher that result in his or her interpretive findings. He argues that the principle source of understanding or ‘knowing’ in qualitative inquiry into psychotherapy is the researcher’s personal engagement in a search for meaning and truth in relation to the topic of inquiry. rather than by indices of objectivity. eliminating irrelevant material. McLeod (2001) believes that phenomenological methodology is particularly useful for researching topics such as ‘counselling’ and ‘psychotherapy’. the reader of the research needs to be able to audit the events.5. the presuppositions of the researcher and the processes by which these viewpoints merge should be described in enough detail for the reader to evaluate the quality of the analysis.Chapter 4: Research methodology 86 Draucker (1999) suggests that research based on Heidegger’s (1962) and Gadamer’s (1975) thinking should be evaluated by indices of convergence. The narratives of the participants. the researcher and other data sources merge in the interpretation should be taken into account when evaluating the research. extracting significant statements. He believes that it is in this ‘struggle to know’ that new and useful insights in the research are generated. These steps involve collecting descriptions of the experience. Phenomenology and research in psychotherapy McLeod (2001) sees all qualitative inquiry as being more than a process of following a set of procedural guidelines or applying a method. reading these descriptions to get a sense of the whole. identifying themes. It involves codifying and systematising phenomenological methods into a number of steps. The Duquesne school of empirical phenomenology This approach would fit into the category of ‘descriptive phenomenology’. These three approaches are briefly summarised below: 4.

5. Eventually the researcher converges on the essential features of the phenomenon being studied. They share abstract ideas about the nature of the phenomenon and check how these ‘fit’ with their experience of the phenomenon.Chapter 4: Research methodology 87 In this process the researcher strives to develop an attitude of openness to the phenomenon and to bracket his or her personal experience. Through dialogue the researcher gets confirmation of some of the features of his or her model of the phenomenon. The researcher engages in imaginative variation in order to distinguish the essential features of the situation and develop an empathic presence and immersion in the situation. In this way the researcher gradually becomes more alert to the nuances and patterns of the phenomenon both as experienced his or herself and by the other person. He or she attempts to appreciate the experience from the client’s point of view. but sets up a dynamic interplay between the two. The researcher then asks facilitative questions of the clients to draw out different aspects of the experience. . The researcher carries out some preliminary reflections of his or her personal experience of the phenomenon before starting the research and thus enters the study sensitised to the topic and with tentative ideas about the phenomenon. but also finds elements that are challenged and require revision or further differentiation. whilst regarding no one meaning as being more important than another. 2001).2. The researcher should meditate on the phenomenon in order to get an expanded understanding of it (McLeod. 4. De Rivera’s conceptual encounter approach The primary goal in this research method is to produce a map of human experience through an encounter between the investigator and the clients in therapy (De Rivera. The conceptual encounter is envisaged as a dialectic process in which the researcher does not rely solely on his or her own personal experience or on the informant’s account. He or she needs to amplify details in this process and attune to the particulars of the client’s meaning of objects and events as they are lived by them.2. 1981).

Thus both existential and phenomenological approaches are woven together to form the basis of the research. For the purposes of the current study a combination of both descriptive and interpretive approaches would appear to offer the greatest scope for gaining an understanding of art therapy as a healing intervention for traumatic bereavement. falseness.Chapter 4: Research methodology 88 4. For example Janesick (1994) encourages researchers to become immersed in the setting of the research thereby allowing an ‘incubation’ process to occur in which nuances of meanings and intuitive insights come to light.3. She believes that .2. These are exposed and demystified. then the person’s real experience of the phenomenon becomes visible. Van Manen. The researchers then attempt to broaden the descriptions of the phenomenon. The belief is that when the ‘taken-forgranted’ assumptions are bracketed off. Stake. elusion and pretence) to making sense of the client’s experience. 1997). DATA ANALYSIS Traditional deductive data analysis is not usually considered to be congruent with a phenomenological methodology in research (Janesick. She suggests descriptive and exploratory ways of capturing the participant’s experience through an expanded awareness.3. The process of accessing the client’s perception of the phenomenon may involve discourse analysis of the language in general use around the client (in his or her family and society) in order to describe the phenomenon. 1994. Instead alternative ways of looking at the data are suggested. thereby arriving at a new way of seeing (from a transcendent attitude) which reveals the underlying themes of the research. 1994. collusion. 4. embodiment. Existential-phenomenological researchers use both narrative life histories (the client’s words) and paradigmatic ways (existential concepts such as ontological insecurity. What emerges initially from existential-phenomenological research is the ‘natural attitude’ or the ‘taken-for-granted’ ways of understanding the phenomenon. Existential-phenomenological research Existential-phenomenological researchers go directly to the clients in therapy in order to investigate the way the client perceives the phenomenon in question (McLeod.5. 2001).

He believes that a good qualitative text speaks to the reader’s cognitive and non-cognitive sensibilities. Janesick (1994) cites Moustakis in providing a helpful approach to data analysis.3. Inductive analysis requires the researcher to be reflective and committed to pondering impressions rather than isolating facts. the participant’s stories are brought together to illuminate the meaning of their lived experience. rather than be imposed on. He maintains that the researcher should “learn enough about the [phenomenon] to encapsulate complex meanings into a finite report but to describe [it] in sufficient descriptive narrative so that readers can vicariously experience these happenings.Chapter 4: Research methodology 89 through a creative synthesis. 242). themes and patterns to emerge from. as being more congruent with its underlying philosophy. thereby allowing them to see the phenomenon being studied in a manner that enriches their understanding of everyday experiences. 1994). Inductive analysis of data Phenomenological analysis of data or text necessitates the use of an inductive rather than a deductive approach. Moustakis suggests an inductive approach through five phases: • Immersion in the setting . Inductive analysis in qualitative research allows categories. 345) suggests that insight generated in qualitative inquiry speaks not only to people’s intellect but also to their intuitive capabilities. This alternative ‘way of knowing’ appears to offer a pathway for conducting research that is congruent with the aims and aspirations of this study. Janesick (1994. She encourages the qualitative researcher to focus on the substance of the findings and to avoid becoming too focused on methodology. 215) argues that “there is no one best system for [data] analysis [and that] staying close to the data is the most powerful means of telling the story”. p. Van Manen (1997. p. and draw their own conclusions”. 4.1. the data (Janesick. She believes that qualitative research depends on the presentation of solid descriptive data that leads the reader to a deeper understanding of the meaning of the experience under study. p. according to Stake (1994.

including the meaning of the lived experience. Description and exploration to capture the participants experience. In this study. urges Heidegger.3. it is always as though we were reaching into the void (Steiner. and capturing intuitive insights. the verbalisations.2. In a search for greater depth. this text is then analysed for categories. that in its existence which reaches our being. themes and patterns that illuminate the client’s perceptions of their experience of traumatic bereavement and of the usefulness (or otherwise) of art therapy. Creative synthesis. 1994). The purpose of following this ‘disciplined’ approach is to describe and explain the essence of the experience. as well as the meaning of the experience in the participants’ lives (Janesick. are there. pp. which allows thinking. as well as the creative processes involved in making them. But when we seek to articulate it. cannot be adequately defined as the material assemblance of linseed oil. becoming aware of nuances and meanings in the settings. pigment and stretched canvas. . The content of the artworks themselves. Illumination. 4.Chapter 4: Research methodology • • • • 90 An incubation process. Analysis of visual ‘text’ Steiner (1978) and Bacon (2002) describe the elusive nature of finding themes in the analysis of a visual image (an oil painting): What is here? The canvas? The brushstrokes? The spots of colour? All of these things. which allows expanded awareness. bringing together the participant’s story. something utterly decisive. we know. which we so confidently name. We feel. artworks and writings of the participants constitute the ‘text’ of the research. that there is something else there. is analysed to gain insight into the role that the artworks and the creative process plays in making a difference in the therapy. 1978. But the existential presentness of the painting. 45-46).

will be a unique configuration of forms and associated . they often need a protected space in which to be assimilated. It is important in attempting an analysis of an image that both client and therapist look at the image in a variety of ways in order to reveal its content.d. For example. Bacon believes that painting and image making generally are forms of visual communication that are not translatable into language. in order for submerged meanings to come to light. Artist. It is this space rather than the image itself that needs to be held in mind if any interpretation or description of the image is to be meaningful. The inter-subjective experience between the art therapist and the client needs to be acknowledged as being the space in which the client’s self is supported (Goodman & Williams. It is only in this kind of detailed looking that the iconological power of the image becomes apparent. 1998). They are not meant to hang on a wall. these images are not cognitively constructed for an audience outside the therapy space. fellow members of the therapy group and the artist’s own reflexive self. b. Art therapy provides a context in which images are viewed as intensely personal products that illuminate the artist’s inner world. particularly images whose original creative impulse have arisen from the unconscious. Both Steiner (1978) and Bacon (2002) (a modern British artist) draw attention to the limitations involved in interpreting or analysing a visual image. The audience to which these images are given consists of the therapist.Chapter 4: Research methodology 91 I have often tried to talk about painting. but writing or talking about it is only an approximation. as painting is its own language and is not translatable into words (Francis Bacon. as the client’s vulnerability is represented in them. in different time settings. or to advertise a product.1929. Any attempt to analyse these images for the purpose of research needs to take these considerations into account. in different contexts and across different conversations. on the contrary. Unlike art that is created for exhibition. His observations are especially relevant with regard to the images made in art therapy. Artistic expression in images. the image may need to be viewed from different perspectives.1992).

The primacy of images in the formation of ‘subjectivities’ Rose (2001. Authors who have dealt with visual data methods (Denzin & Lincoln. otherwise there is a risk that what is most important to the artist may be missed (Edwards. In her book on visual methodologies. Emmison & Smith. 12) believes that all visual material is intended by the artist and interpreted by the viewer as a form of communication and is therefore open to interpretation. her writing offers an increased awareness of the many possible ways of looking at images. Her ideas offer expanded possibilities for observing and interpreting images. it is important to focus on both the image produced and the client’s associations around the image. 1987. Rose (2001. thereby adding meaningfully to the interpretation of the image.2. 2001) have focused mostly on the use of photography in ethnography. 1997. 1998). The author who has most comprehensively dealt with analysis of visual material is Rose (2001). p. She posits that “depicting. unconscious world of the artist’s ‘self’ and providing a bridge that links this inner world to the outer world of the conscious self.Chapter 4: Research methodology 92 affects. Gantt.3. Thus interpreting images made in art therapy requires a special kind of ‘looking’ that takes into account the context of their creation. 2000. Rose. The art image is viewed as reflecting the inner. 1998. in ways that are pertinent to this research. picturing and seeing are … [the way in which] … most people . In the following section. Rose overviews the analysis of visual imagery in general. Synder. A literature review revealed no documentation that dealt specifically with the analysis of art images as a means of illuminating the usefulness of psychotherapy. p 12) believes that the ‘visual’ is the most fundamental of all the senses. In analysing or interpreting such an image. Flick. Her interests are primarily with images that are produced for public viewing and not with images made in art therapy. as well as an open mindedness to their multifaceted nature.1. a “passionate engagement with what the interpreter sees” is required. She posits that the use of formal methodologies acts to “discipline passion”. 4. However. 1994. a brief summary of Rose’s (2001) thoughts on the analysis of visual imagery is presented. She believes that for the interpretation of visual material to be meaningful.

which explains the importance of the visual to people’s sense of self. 4. Even rationality can be seen as a kind of emotion often secretly dependent on these other non-rational states of mind. Lacan’s “mirror stage” thus involves identification with the image and detachment from it simultaneously. as Lacan (1977) suggests. If. can be ambivalent and contradictory. Lacan (1977) posits that babies go through a ‘mirror stage’ in which they recognise an image in a mirror as ‘self’. as a self-portrait of the client’s inner world.3. she observes that seeing and visual connection to the world come before words and language as a natural progression in childhood development. This misrecognition entails an alienation from the image. 2000a). take pleasure and are repulsed. Rose (2001) points to Lacan’s (1977) work on the fundamentality of the visual image. Images as cultural expressions Emmison and Smith (2000) and Rose (2001) have drawn attention to the fact that over the last two decades cultural expression has become the way that many social science . As evidence for this. She cites Freud’s belief that pleasure in looking is one of the most basic drives that people are born with. can be a useful tool in psychotherapy for facilitating the client’s reconstruction of a secure sense of self. They feel. panic stricken or in love. then it follows that an image. vision is central to subjectivity. as the image is not the ‘real’ self. ‘Subjectivity’ refers to the way that people make sense of their life-world through a whole range of complex and often non-rational ways of understanding.2. fantasise. dream.Chapter 4: Research methodology 93 come to know what the world really is for them”. Lacan claims that certain moments of seeing and particular ways of seeing are central to how ‘subjectivities’ are formed in people. This vision allows for the identification of other people and creates the founding moment of interrelations between self (subject) and other people (object). and can react to things in ways that ‘feel’ beyond words. One of the negative psychological consequences of the experience of traumatic bereavement is the erosion of the bereaved client’s sense of self (Neimeyer. He notes that this mirror image also involves misrecognition. Lacan believes that the dynamics of the mirror stage continue to structure subjectivity later in life.2.

The images can be conceived of as having a culture-forming and a culture-revealing function within the group in a way that is similar to written or spoken language.71) Rose (2001) suggests that in interpreting an image there is a need to focus on questions such as. These researchers have focused on the way social life has been constructed around the ideas that people have about themselves and the behaviour that flows from those ideas. An image represents a vision of social difference. and imagery may be viewed as ‘text’ for analysis to reveal the underlying human processes of a particular society or community. what does the image say that expands one’s vision of oneself? She suggests the following points to bear in mind when analysing visual images: • • • • • An image has its own visual effects. The viewers bring their own visualities to the viewing of an image.Chapter 4: Research methodology 94 researchers have started to understand human processes/identity/social changes and conflicts.3. . or the giving and taking of meaning between people. An image mobilises the way the viewer sees it. and the shifting.3. An image is always created in and viewed from a social context. Both language. Culture is seen as being dependent on people’s meaningful interpretation of what is around them. and thereby making sense of the world. These ‘meanings’ may be implicit. This idea has implications for the use of the images made in art therapy as part of the ‘text’ in this research. 4. Interpreting images The power of the painting is there. or unconscious and are conveyed through both speech/language and imagery. (1991. Rose defines cultural expression as the production of and/or exchange of meanings. as well as revealing therapeutic changes taking place in the client’s inner world that may be preverbal. in the thousands of gazes caught by its surface. Bryson. in the form of narratives. and the resultant turning. Themes emerging from the images could reveal the emergent microcosm of the group as a healing community. what is the image saying? Or. explicit. conscious. the redirecting of the discursive flow. p.

and value (brightness). Compositional analysis Rose (2001) suggests that there are three modalities in which meaning is made in the process of creating an art image. spatial organisation and perspective that influence how it is perceived). saturation (how vivid the colour is). • • • • spatial organisation (how the volumes are arranged in relation to each other in the image) perspective (where the viewer is placed in relation to the image) light (what is highlighted) expressive content (what is the ‘feel’ of the image).1. this includes hue (the actual colour). This is particularly relevant when interpreting images created in the context of psychotherapy.3. colour. She suggests that compositional interpretations of images involve an examination of the • • content of the image (what the image is showing) colour. 4. different audiences will interpret the image in different ways). It also involves the effect that the colour has. the audiencing of the image (each observer of the image will bring his or her unique way of seeing to the image. and the atmospheric perspective created by the colour. for example how harmonious or disharmonious the colours are. contributes to its effect on the viewer) the image itself (all images have a number of formal components such as content. It sensitises both the creator and the viewer to look more deeply into the image as a reflection of a deeper process within the inner world of the artist.Chapter 4: Research methodology 95 Thinking about the image in this way is helpful for revealing subtleties and themes that otherwise may be missed. . These are • • • the actual production of the image (the circumstances under which the image is made.3.

To give an example. senility. What does race mean in this context? Body size. Happy. Spatial arrangement of figure. and what is the meaning in the look? Expression.2. sitting or lying . It allows for the discovery of patterns that may be otherwise missed. The image is broken down into component parts. content analysis does not demand this intense reflexivity. Race. wisdom. Content analysis Whereas compositional analysis is concerned with an art image as a compositional modality that requires the intense attention of the observer. Positional communication. weakness etc)? Gender. The usefulness of this method of analysis is that it offers a way of understanding the symbolic qualities of the image. etc.3. and provides protection against an unconscious search in the image for that which would confirm the researcher’s initial theory. 4. a semiological analysis of an image of a human form would involve an examination of the following: • • • • • • • Age. sad.Chapter 4: Research methodology 96 4. What is the significance of age in the image? What does age signify (innocence. These elements are then counted in order to obtain a set of descriptive categories that can then be related to theoretical concerns. strength. standing.3.3. Semiology Semiology encourages the observer of an image to explore how images make meaning and the social effects of this meaning. It involves the analysis of signs and symbols and their use in the image in relation to dominant codes or mythologies in the particular culture from which they arose. Is the body whole or incomplete? What is made big in the body? Looks. whilst female is associated with passive/emotional.3. Content analysis is a method of textual analysis that deals only with the image itself. fearful or haughty. Male is often associated with rational/active.3. Who looks at whom.

Examining the symbolism in an image can reveal the creator’s inner world as well as their outer worldview.3. Psychoanalysis The unconscious is the only defence against a language frozen into pure fixed or institutionalized meaning. 2001) The underlying idea in semiology is that visual signs are motivated by some underlying rationale for their choice. Understanding an emotional reaction to a visual image requires a recognition that not all reactions are working at a wholly conscious level. and therefore on the uncertainties involved in the analysis of any image.3. Is movement active or passive? (Rose. The concept of the unconscious serves to focus attention on the uncertainties inherent in ‘subjectivity’. 38) Psychoanalytic art critics emphasise that there is no absolute way to interpret an image (Rose. will produce very different interpretations of that image. p. is a break against the intolerable limits of common sense. which may be conscious or unconscious. which they repeat every time an image is appraised. Subjectivity is always influenced by the discipline imposed by culture and is psychically constructed in a continuous way.Chapter 4: Research methodology • • 97 Touch. and … in its capacity to unsettle the subject. However. Who touches what and to what effect? Movement. care needs to be taken that the signs belong to the artist and not to the observer of the image. Some reactions may be coming from the unconscious. when brought to bear on the same image. Rose (2001) suggests that psychoanalysts are interested in the way that the impact of an image may be immediate and powerful even when its precise meaning remains vague and suspended. 2001). People learn to see in certain ways. A psychoanalytic perspective focuses attention on the emotional effects of the visual image. Verification of a semiological interpretation of an image by its creator is necessary to avoid bias (Rose. It is never fully conscious. as they never know themselves fully. Different psychoanalytic concepts. 4. coherent or complete. Rose (1986.4. As viewers of an . 2001).

whilst psychoanalysis looks for signs of the unconscious as they disrupt the conscious making of meaning in the image. 2001). or the way people see.Chapter 4: Research methodology 98 image they bring a certain subjectivity to bear on the image that is imbricated onto the image. in that a specific visuality will make certain things visible and render other things un-see-able in an image. Art can be understood as a particular form of discourse. semiology and psychoanalysis all assume that the analysis of images needs somehow to delve behind the surface appearances of the image in order to discover its ‘real’ meaning. Discourse analysis and visual images Compositional and content analysis. on casual assumptions. Compositional and content analysis seek out latent meaning. whilst semiology searches for the dominant codes or myths that underlie the surface appearance of signs. Foucault (1972) believes that human subjectivity is produced through discourse. Visuality. ‘Discourse’ refers to a group of statements that structures the way a phenomenon is thought about and the way people act on that thinking. He rejects ‘penetrative’ models of interpretation at both the level of method and explanation. 4. Intertextuality in discourse analysis refers to the way the meanings of any one discursive image depend not only on that one image.3. can be viewed as a form of discourse in itself.5.3. on everyday mundane routines and banalities to explain how subject and object are discursively produced. He pays close attention to the ways in which various social practices define what it is to be human. but also on the meanings carried by other images. This idea carries the implication that an . most notably Foucault (1972). Psychoanalytic theorists are turning to other theorists. Foucault avoids explanatory accounts of why a ‘text’ (such as an image) works in the way it does. Foucault believes that human subjectivity is constructed through particular discursive processes. Foucault refutes the premise from which these analytic methods work (Rose. Instead he focuses on detail. thus the viewer and viewed are mutually constitutive. to ground their accounts of ‘visuality’ in social practices.

From this reflective stance appearances are made thematic. The underlying belief is that there can be no essential tendencies of the human mind or therefore of an art work. The observer also contemplates his or her own intentionalities and become aware of what he or she brings to seeing the image. and to the web of intertextuality in which any individual image is embedded. Sokolowski (2000) describes the “phenomenological attitude” as the researcher’s attempt to disengagement from his or her natural attitude. He or she suspends all intentionalities in order to contemplate the intentionalities in the image. It explores how specific views of the social world are constructed as real. 4. because human subjectivity is entirely constructed in the interaction between people. reflects upon and makes thematic the natural attitude as portrayed in the image. could be a source of enriched understanding when analysing an image. A discourse analytic approach to images involves paying careful attention to the images themselves. and reading the image for what is not seen or is invisible as having just as powerful effect as what is visible. This means that the researcher distances him or herself from. The focus is on how social difference is produced through visual imagery. In taking a social constructionist perspective. Discourse is seen as socially produced rather than created by an individual. discourse analysis using the image as ‘text’ can be used to explore how images construct specific views of the social world of the client in therapy. as well as what they do not permit themselves to see.3. truthful or natural. Phenomenology and image analysis A phenomenological approach to visual analysis involves adopting a transcendent or phenomenological attitude towards the image. and to reflectively focus on the image by becoming a detached observer of the image. From this attitude the researcher looks at and describes analytically all the particular intentionalities and world beliefs as portrayed in the image. .6. This enables the researcher to look at what is normally looked through.3.Chapter 4: Research methodology 99 awareness of the way people see an image.

Attention is paid to meaningful patterns and themes that arise from this text. an expanded understanding of the image for both the artist and the researcher. 4. Within a qualitative paradigm. This process has the potential to build up. phenomenology offers a way of structuring the research that is congruent with its endeavours and focus. in a circular way. Phenomenology promotes thinking about thinking as part of the inquiry process. semiology. psychoanalysis and discourse analysis) in order to contemplate the image’s many messages and to find connection among its parts. by making the subjective or lived experiences of the participants visible in the research. for achieving insight. or from the natural attitude. Qualitative methods attempt to achieve an ‘insider’ perspective of a phenomenon. which consists of the participants’ descriptions of their lived experience. To attain a meta-perspective of the phenomenon. and that there are many alternative or complementary definitions of reality. The researcher needs to be aware of the different possible ways of seeing an image (such as compositional and content analysis. The underlying assumptions are that formal. abstract theorising is the antithesis of the intuitive ‘truth’ that varies between people. the researcher needs to adopt a ‘transcendent’ attitude that facilitates an expanded understanding of the text. so as to make them explicit in the research. Rather than focusing on establishing concrete facts. Phenomenology is unique in its respect of the capacity of the participant for ‘self-knowing’. . It attempts to present the essential features of the phenomenon through a detailed analysis of a ‘text’. This understanding can then become a base line from which to create a dialogue around the image with the participants.Chapter 4: Research methodology 100 Phenomenology posits that the researcher cannot completely disengage from his or her preconceptions. SUMMARY Qualitative methodologies offer a viable alternative to quantitative methods for understanding the complexities involved in a phenomenon such as ‘therapeutic change’. This awareness will lead to a deepened understanding of the image as a text. Instead he or she needs to develop a deep understanding of these preconceptions and how they may influence the research process.4. these methods are discovery orientated and critical. and its encouragement of the researcher to reflect on this knowledge.

for both the participant and the researcher. This has the potential to generate an expanded understanding of the artworks in the ‘text’. content and semiotic analytic techniques is helpful for achieving an indepth observation of the artworks. . They view selfreflexivity as being the base line from which dialogue around an artwork is created. as opposed to deductive analysis. Discourse analysts and psychoanalytic art critics emphasise that there is no absolute way to interpret an artwork. Awareness of compositional. for extracting themes from the ‘text’. The ‘text’ of this research consists of the artworks made by the participants and their written self-reflections about their experience of being part of the art therapy group. as well as what they do not permit themselves to see as a way of achieving a deeper understanding of an artwork.Chapter 4: Research methodology 101 Phenomenology encourages the use of inductive analysis. as the researcher cannot fully disengage from his or her being-in-the world (or subjectivities). In the next chapter the research design is laid out and the manner in which the text is presented is explicated. Interpreting such images requires an expansive and inclusive perspective. allows the observer to look at what is usually looked through and thereby to obtain an enriched understanding of the phenomenon. Combining these different ways of seeing. that his or her preconceptions need to become clear and transparent in the research. Further. They suggest that. They suggest that the researcher needs to become aware of the way people see an image. The artworks are viewed as a form of symbolic language that can potentially reveal the client’s inner world. rather than a reductive focus. they believe that there are no essential tendencies of the human mind (and therefore of an artwork). They believe that the viewer and viewed are mutually constitutive and inseparable.

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