"Empty is the argument of the philosopher which does not relieve any human suffering." Epicurus (341B.C.-271B.C.)

What Does Phenomenological Counselling Look Like?

As a phenomenological counsellor, my approach to therapy is deeply rooted in the belief that each person's experiences are unique and invaluable. From the moment a client walks into my office, my primary goal is to create a space where they feel safe, heard, and understood. Trust is the cornerstone of our journey together.

I start our sessions with active listening, a skill I've honed over years of practice. I listen attentively, not just to the words spoken but to the subtle cues in tone, pace, and body language. My aim is to grasp not only what my client is saying but how they're experiencing their thoughts and emotions.

Utilising open-ended questions encourages one to engage in self-reflection. I use them to invite clients to dive deeper into their thoughts and feelings to explore the intricacies of their experiences. Questions like 'What does that experience mean to you?' and 'How do you feel about it?' gently guide our conversations.

A fundamental aspect of my work is to suspend any assumptions or preconceived judgments I might have. It's not about me interpreting their experiences; it's about them exploring and understanding their own world. I embrace empathy and validation to make sure my clients feel heard and respected.

Phenomenological reduction is a concept I often introduce. It's a process where we, together, set aside presuppositions and look at their experiences as they truly are, without filters. We navigate 'epoché,' the suspension of judgment, to help them observe their experiences from a fresh and unbiased perspective.

As we progress, I offer reflective feedback to help clarify and summarise their thoughts and feelings. It's a tool for insight, a way to help them see connections they might have missed on their own.

Our sessions aren't just about talking; they're about uncovering meaning and insight within their experiences. We explore emotions, beliefs, and values and how these elements influence their understanding of their situation. The goal is a holistic understanding of their experiences, considering all aspects of their life that may be relevant.

Through this process, we work together to foster self-awareness and personal growth. My role is to support them in making choices aligned with their authentic selves. I encourage them to find their own answers and their own unique paths.

While phenomenological counselling is at the core of my practice, I also acknowledge that sometimes, different perspectives are needed. In those cases, I may integrate elements from other therapeutic approaches, such as Gestalt Therapy, Emotion-Focused Therapy (EFT), Cognitive-Behavioural Therapy(CBT) and Existential Therapy, to ensure my clients receive the comprehensive and individualised support they require.

Iaso: The Greek Goddess of Healing

The captivating portrayal of Iaso, the revered goddess of remedy and healing modalities, showcased prominently on the main page, is a masterpiece by Nadia Batool. She is an Australian/Pakistani talented artist who finds inspiration in her own life experiences and distinctive interactions with the intricacies of the human condition, translating them into thought-provoking conceptual art. She shared with us valuable insights concerning this piece of art: 

"This painting portrays a serene and compassionate goddess of healing, holding a person in a state of trauma within a protective hair nest. The goddess exudes a sense of calm and nurturing care. Her eyes are gently closed, conveying a deep focus on the healing process. She dons a radiant crown that resembles a blooming flower, symbolising life and rejuvenation. The crown's golden spikes may represent rays of hope and healing energy emanating from her. Her attire is classical, reminiscent of ancient healer deities, with a purple cloth that suggests nobility and spiritual depth. Ornate golden bracelets adorn her wrists, adding to her divine status.

The person she cradles is encapsulated in a hair nest, which suggests safety and recovery. The nest may be symbolic of the careful and structured support the goddess provides. The individual is shown in a tranquil fetal position, highlighting vulnerability and the need for care. The background is subtle, with smoke or spirit-like forms that could represent the intangible power of healing or the presence of a divine force. The overall composition evokes a profound sense of peace, protection, and the hope for healing."

What becomes of us witnessing humanity in the state of bare life?

It starts with an absolute apprehension. As the event unfolds, the apprehension matures into anger, dread, gloom, blame, rage, grief, and a devastating turmoil that drains every drop of hope for a resolution: a Kafkaesque state of being. The relentless absurdity of life serves as a sardonic reminder, mocking the very notion of a world striving towards excellence and moral evolution. What becomes of me observing humanity in the state of bare life, victims of historical oppression being branded as dangerous beasts to be thrashed ceremoniously on international human rights slaughterhouses.

The experience of powerlessness and ultimate despair in the above section is a common experience of people who observe adversity and the never-ending brutality against the invaluable human life. The incompetent cognitive ability to make sense of dehumanising endeavours of human rights organisations undermines the very foundation of one’s moral values. The blatant violation of one’s moral value is known as ‘moral injury’ and may affect the whole community of observers, witnesses, and bystanders as collective stress. Moral injury is best explained as a deep emotional and moral wound caused by witnessing intense human suffering.

From a biopsychosocial perspective, the human being is hard-wired to recognise altruistic efforts and expects reciprocal altruism; this is the foundation of morality in human society. When certain behaviours violently transgress these altruistic tendencies, certain emotions arise, signalling the stimuli's nature. Moral violations intrigue the emergence of moral emotions such as anger, shame, disgust, resentment, and guilt. The transgression of one’s fundamental moral values destabilises the grounding of one’s sense of right and wrong and paralyses the very capacities of moral judgments. Moral injury, then, is this complex and emotionally ‘painful’ experience that can be understood as the psychological, emotional, and spiritual distress resulting from actions, or the lack of actions, that violate one's moral or deeply held ethical code of conduct.

The heart-wrenching pain of witnessing humanity reduced to mere commodities in a gruesome display of institutionalized brutality before the indifferent eyes of the world, the bitter spring of tears occasionally turning to loud subbing, is all the externalisation of ‘moral injury.’ We suffer the inescapable burden of witnessing the ultimate ‘betrayal of our trust’ by those supposed guardians of human dignity as a mental and psychological affliction.    

As a mental health practitioner committed to facilitating people’s journey toward healing from their wounded hearts, I cherish the profound nature of moral injury as a manifestation of a high level of self-reflection, a phenomenological 'throwing back at oneself.' This retrospective reckoning testifies to the resonating sound of our aroused moral consciousness and its relentless struggle toward salvaging our moral identity. Moral injury is the subtle sign of an existing pulse on our humanity's broken, buried bodies.  It is a testimony to an awakened awareness, a driving force to navigate the complex labyrinth of our beliefs and ethical values. Moral injury, a profound human emotion, echoes an ongoing conversation within our inner sanctum, guiding us toward a deeper understanding of our intrinsically relational self.