Working in the present moment: a phenomenological enquiry into the impact of mindfulness practice on trainee psychological therapists’ experience of therapeutic practice

Baker, Stuart (2012) Working in the present moment: a phenomenological enquiry into the impact of mindfulness practice on trainee psychological therapists’ experience of therapeutic practice. Other thesis, Middlesex University.


This study explored the lived-experience and impact of a brief mindfulness meditation training intervention on trainee psychological therapists. Particular attention is given to participants’ experiences of relational depth, the cultivation of therapeutic qualities and their use of the self in the therapeutic relationship; as well as how they integrated mindfulness into their clinical practice. The qualitative methodology of interpretative phenomenological analysis was used to investigate participants’ lived-experience of mindfulness. Fifteen (out of nineteen) participants completed a two-month MBSR/MBCT mindfulness training, contextualised for therapists; followed by two focus groups, then eight individual interviews four months later.
The findings suggested that a brief mindfulness training programme can have a significant impact, with participants experiencing a range of positive outcomes and meaningful effects at both a personal and professional level. The study indicated the potential of mindfulness as a complementary clinical training, in developing ‘being versus doing’ qualities and the potential to experience relational depth. Mindfulness facilitated participants’ confidence and ability to access and trust their own embodied experience or felt-sense of the emergent therapeutic process, in comparison to their core trainings where the emphasis was more on conceptual knowledge, theory and protocols. Although this research did not set out to build a model of mindfulness in the therapeutic encounter the findings were suggestive of a process model, where therapist intra-personal attunement facilitates therapist-client interpersonal attunement that in turn promotes client self-attunement, in a ‘co-created co-meditation space’.
Participants experienced mindfulness as providing an embodied developmental opportunity that complemented their core trainings and modalities.
Although participants proposed that mindfulness should be a training requirement for all psychological therapists the question of fit needs to be considered, with some participants finding this challenging at times both personally and in the context of jobs where adherence to a particular modality or process was required. It also seems that this training attracted those with a predisposition toward mindfulness; in contrast the four drop-outs indicate that this approach may not suit all. Thus future research needs to address these aspects.
In a political context where therapist training is becoming more protocol driven, mindfulness appears to provide a way to redress this imbalance, providing a complementary training route for the practical cultivation of relational qualities that allows participants a greater sense of authenticity, empowerment and trust in themselves and the therapeutic process.

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