Empathy and Otherness: Humanistic and Phenomenological Approaches to Psychotherapy of Severe Mental Illness
Keywords:humanism, schizophrenia, phenomenology, empathy, radical otherness, case studies, clinical case studies
AbstractIn this commentary, we respond to Atwood’s (2012) article, "Psychotherapy as a Human Science: Clinical Case Studies Exploring the Abyss of Madness," by highlighting some of the theoretical ideals that guide Atwood’s writing and his therapy work. In particular, we consider how these case studies fit into the larger paradigm of humanistic psychology, and how this perspective informed Atwood’s work with his clients, providing him with the understanding and empathy that facilitated the therapeutic healing he describes. We also consider the different, but complementary, idea in phenomenological psychiatry of "radical otherness," which suggests the fundamental impossibility of complete empathy, and how this can be therapeutic, particularly when treating cases of schizophrenia. Finally, we discuss the contributions of phenomenology to the understanding of schizophrenia, and its implications for treatment.
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