Breathing and Relating: Exploring a Therapist's Heuristic Experience
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What is my experience of consciously breathing while in sessions with clients? This research question sparked a year of exploration into breathing and relating as a beginning psychotherapist. Following a heuristic self-search methodology, I closely examined my subjective experience of breathing while in sessions with clients, and illuminated my relationship with my own breath. In this dissertation, I review the literature on psychotherapists’ experiences of consciously breathing while with clients. I identify four themes in the literature, which I then critique in relation to my own findings; my notes on breath after client sessions and depictions from my self-search. I discovered that my experience of breathing with clients shifts from unconscious to conscious, and that my own relationship with the breath is fraught and complex. I discuss my findings in my final chapter, concluding that shifting breath consciousness is influenced by intersecting client and therapist histories, trauma, cultural background and stage of the therapeutic relationship. Writing within the bi- and multi-cultural context of Aotearoa New Zealand, I refer to matauranga Māori (Māori knowledge) alongside western psychotherapy theory written in the Northern Hemisphere. The significance of my research lies in the synthesis of these two bodies of knowledge, anchored in an in-depth exploration into the subjective experience of a psychotherapist in practice. My research argues for the importance of conscious breathing in psychotherapy, and potential it has to help clients heal from trauma and experience new life through psychotherapy.