Psychology and Psychotherapy: Theory, Research and Practice

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Volume 82 Issue 4 (December 2009), Pages 355-466

Self‐deception and the therapist: An interpretative phenomenological analysis of the experiences and understandings of therapists working with clients they describe as self‐deceptive (pages 385-401)

Objectives. The aim of this study was to explore how participants experience working with clients they describe as self‐deceptive, as well as the participants' reflections on the experience and their understandings of self‐deception.

Design. Data were collected in two stages. In the first stage, participants were asked to provide a written description of a specific incident or of a set of sessions in which it seemed to the therapist that the client was deceiving him/herself. The second stage consisted of a semi‐structured interview, designed to follow‐up the written description in greater detail.

Methods. Four participants took part in the study. The data were analysed using interpretative phenomenological analysis.

Results. Three superordinate themes were identified in the analysis: therapists' self experiences; engaging with the client; and therapists' experiences and perceptions of the client.

Conclusions. The concept of self‐deception offered participants a perspective for describing and understanding clients who present a range of ‘difficult’ attitudes and behaviours, such as evasion and denial of the ‘truth’ of their predicament as understood by the therapist, conflicting, and contradictory attitudes to the process of self change, avoiding taking responsibility for themselves, lack of self‐understanding, withholding from engagement in therapy, and from relationship with the therapist. The findings also bring to light therapists' experiences of discomfort, frustration and anger, and feelings of incompetence when working with clients they described as self‐deceptive. The construct of client's self‐deception constitutes one possible interpretation but other interpretative possibilities are considered.

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