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Doctoral Dissertation Announcement
Candidate: William W. Fitzgerald
Doctor of Philosophy
Department: Counselor Education and Counseling Psychology
Title: The Influence of a Personal Practice of Meditation on One’s Therapeutic Practice
Dr. Alan Hovestadt, Chair
Dr. Gary Bischof
Dr. Karen Horneffer
Date: Thursday, September 9, 2010 10:00 a.m. - Noon
3210 Sangren Hall
The focus of this study was to examine counseling professionals’ personal experience with meditation and how it influences their clinical work, including the formation of a therapeutic relationship. Using phenomenological methods, data was gathered from ten psychotherapists and then analyzed.
There has been a great deal of effort devoted to investigating what contributes to positive counseling outcome for clients. One constant in the therapeutic process is the person of the therapist. While the person of the therapist is frequently mentioned in the literature, much less attention has been given to the examination of personal development paths of the therapist. Little effort has been put forth to examine how practicing meditation influences one’s work as a counselor. In addition, this research examined how participants defined meditation along with how they described their meditation practice.
A pool of ten psychotherapists was identified as engaging in the practice of meditation. They were asked to participate in a study in which they described the effects of this practice on their work. Along with an in-person interview, participants completed a demographic questionnaire. Using a phenomenological approach, this data was then analyzed.
Participants reported a variety of definitions of meditation. Common amongst the responses was the idea that there cannot be one definitive definition that is applicable to all people. They offered a variety of descriptions of their meditation practice. Participants noted that one’s attitude, rather than behavior, is paramount to a meditation practice. The data from the study indicate the belief that engaging in meditation while simultaneously working as a professional counselor does have perceived beneficial influences on the therapeutic process. Areas of influence include an increase on one’s level of empathy for a client and oneself, an increase in the level of acceptance for the client as well as for himself/herself, and the use of micro counseling skills. Practicing meditation also influenced the type of interventions used, one’s ability to listen to clients, the counselor’s attitude toward clients and oneself, genuineness with clients, theoretical orientation, and awareness of countertransference issues. Participants also reported that their therapeutic relationship with clients was stronger as a result of practicing meditation.