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Vol 22, No 1, Article 3, PDF

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The Central Role of Attention in Psychotherapy: Paul B. Whittemore

Abstract: This theoretical exposition aims to highlight the important, fundamental, and ever-present role that "attention" plays in all forms of psychotherapy. A phenomenological method is used, based primarily on the work of Edmund Husserl, which describes the universal structure and components of “attention.” It attempts to show that the various theories, concepts and terms of different psychotherapies initially function as “objects of attention” for the psychotherapist which then become a lens through which she or he see what needs changing in order to help their clients. Psychotherapy techniques appear to share the common characteristic of directing clients’ attention to previously unrecognized realms that help them improve. Additionally, a “therapeutic hierarchy” is described that appears to characterize the optimum sequence of therapeutic attention for all forms of psychotherapy. Theoretical and practical advantages of this approach are noted, as well as its limitations.
Keywords: attention, phenomenology, psychotherapy, therapeutic hierarchy, theory, techniques 

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