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Simmonds, J.G. (2004). Heart and spirit: Research with psychoanalysts and psychoanalytic psychotherapists about spirituality. Int. J. Psycho-Anal., 85(4):951-971.

(2004). International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, 85(4):951-971

Heart and spirit: Research with psychoanalysts and psychoanalytic psychotherapists about spirituality

Janette Graetz Simmonds

In qualitative interview research with 25 psychoanalysts and psychoanalytic psychotherapists in London, Sydney and Melbourne, the author explored how these clinicians experienced, conceptualised and worked with spiritual issues. Bringing to bear their experience on both sides of the couch, this ‘information-rich’ sample of mainly senior practitioners reflected on a psychoanalytically informed view of spirituality, and its understanding in clinical practice. Two methods of analysis were used. The technique of ‘narrative finding’ was followed by coding of core ideas, themes and concepts expressed. Participants noted that spirit may be the ‘blind spot’ of psychoanalysis, and reflected that what they had wanted in their own analyses—and consider that what patients want—is to be able to have spiritual issues addressed in a similar manner to other matters, not prejudged as infantile or pathological. In participants' concepts and experience of spirit, a comfort/challenge dimension was identified. Comfort was taken in having a ‘wider view’, a more inclusive sense of inter-relatedness, with challenge involving a heightened sense of the unknown and a greater degree of uncertainty.

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