Northampton Electronic Collection of Theses and Research

An interpretative phenomenological analysis of synchronicity in therapy

Roxburgh, E. C. (2012) An interpretative phenomenological analysis of synchronicity in therapy. Paper presented to: Society for Psychical Research (SPR) 36th International Annual Conference, The University of Northampton, 07-09 September 2012. (Unpublished)

Item Type: Conference or Workshop Item (Paper)
Abstract: Attempts to explain synchronicity experiences by mainstream science argue that believers in the paranormal are more prone to seeing meaningful patterns in randomness (Blackmore & Moore, 1994) or underestimate the probability of their occurring by chance (Brugger et al, 1993). However, empirical studies testing these theories have found mixed results. Brugger, Landis, and Regard (1990) found a moderate correlation between belief in the paranormal and subjective frequency of coincidences, whereas others have found no differences between believers and sceptics in terms of probability misjudgement (Blackmore, 1997; Bressan, 2002). Regardless of whether synchronicity experiences are associated with a belief in the paranormal or are indeed random events, a large body of literature exists that claims synchronicity experiences (meaningful coincidence between an inner event and an external event occurring simultaneously or at a future point in time) frequently occur in clinical settings, especially in psychotherapeutic settings, and that they can promote personal growth (Jung, 1952; Keutzer, 1984; Nachman, 2009). For example, there have been occurrences where the therapist has dreamt information about the client that is later verified as correct (Ehrenwald, 1948; Orloff, 1996) or where the therapeutic setting becomes part of the synchronistic event, the most notable being the Scarab beetle scenario (cf. Jung, 1952). However, there has been limited systematic research that has explored the phenomenology of synchronicity experiences in different therapeutic settings. This is surprising given that such experiences could have implications for the therapeutic relationship, the clinical outcome, and models of psi. The study reported in this paper investigated the process and nature of synchronicity experiences from the perspective of the ‘therapist’. A qualitative study using interpretative phenomenological analysis (IPA; Smith, 2009) explored the phenomenology of synchronicity experiences by interviewing a purposive sample of ‘therapists’ who report such experiences in their therapeutic sessions. Semi-structured interviews were conducted with three counsellors, three psychologists and three psychotherapists and focused on how synchronicity experiences are interpreted, what features influence these interpretations, how participants make sense of these experiences, and whether synchronicity experiences were perceived to be useful in therapy. Three super-ordinate themes were identified that illuminate how participants interpret, understand, and deal with synchronicity experiences in therapy: ‘Sense of connectedness’, ‘Therapeutic process’, and ‘Professional issues’. Most participants commented on how their experience of synchronicity in the therapeutic setting was a profound moment that facilitated growth in their clients and resulted in a stronger therapeutic relationship. These super-ordinate themes also have nine constituent subthemes which will be reported at the conference alongside participant extracts to demonstrate how they are grounded in the data and as a way of validating interpretations. Anomalous experiences that occur in the clinical setting are an important consideration for mental health professionals and parapsychologists as findings add to our knowledge of a growing area termed ‘clinical parapsychology’ or ‘counselling for anomalous experiences’ and point to the need for a more integrative approach to therapy that acknowledges anomalous experiences as subjectively real for the client and therapist
Subjects: B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BF Psychology > BF1001 Parapsychology. Psychic research. Psychology of the conscious
B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BF Psychology > BF1175 Coincidence
R Medicine > RC Internal medicine > RC435 Psychiatry > RC475 Therapeutics. Psychotherapy
Creators: Roxburgh, Elizabeth C
Funders or Sponsors: Bial Foundation
Grant Reference Number: 82/10
Faculties, Divisions and Institutes: University Faculties, Divisions and Research Centres - OLD > School of Social Sciences (to 2016)
University Faculties, Divisions and Research Centres - OLD > Faculty of Health & Society > Psychology
Faculties > Faculty of Health & Society > Psychology
Date: 7 September 2012
Date Type: Presentation
Event Title: Society for Psychical Research (SPR) 36th International Annual Conference
Event Dates: 07-09 September 2012
Event Location: The University of Northampton
Event Type: Conference
Language: English
Status: Unpublished
Refereed: Yes
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