A phenomenological exploration into psychotherapists' experiences of their breath awareness in psychotherapy

Premachandra, Shan (2019) A phenomenological exploration into psychotherapists' experiences of their breath awareness in psychotherapy. Other thesis, Middlesex University / Metanoia Institute.


At a time when the interest in mindfulness continues to rapidly expand, its development as a therapeutic tool appears significant to both therapists and their clients. By ‘going back’ to the experience of breath awareness, this study offered new perspectives.

In this study I investigated psychotherapists’ breath awareness in psychotherapy with their clients. My aim was to provide a ‘bottom up’ approach to investigate participants’ experiences by examining the phenomena of breath itself in the context of psychotherapy and mindfulness. Participants were interviewed after a two week period of them paying attention to their breath. The accounts of their lived experiences provided rich data that were analysed by the utilisation of a qualitative methodology, namely interpretative phenomenological analysis (IPA). The six participants were not given any training prior to taking part in the study. However they were guided to observe their experiences of breath awareness that could include the physiological, emotional, cognitive and context while in sessions with their clients. Participants were invited to keep a journal for their private use to record their experiences.

The findings revealed several similar experiences across the group that pointed to the usefulness of psychotherapists’ breath awareness such as, experiences of developing self-awareness. Difficulties in breath awareness such as, discomfort in breathing and coping with clients’ distress were also explored. Themes revealed breath awareness related to: physical breath experiences, experiences of being present; developing awareness; regulating self and client as well as discomfort in breath awareness. Further sub-themes offered a detailed exploration into the accounts as expressed by the participants and the interpretation of their meaning making. The findings of this study related to various literature such as, empirical evidence, theory connected to clinical practice and Buddhist ancient perspectives.

This study made a contribution as it offered a first of its kind, investigation into psychotherapists’ breath awareness within the context of therapy. It supported breath awareness as a method that can develop mindfulness. However within the context of IPA and qualitative research, limitations included that the findings cannot be related to the overall practice of mindfulness or meditation. The study is also limited by its reliance on the accuracy of participants’ self-reporting outcome.

SPremachandra thesis.pdf - Accepted Version

Download (5MB) | Preview
View Item