Existential phenomenology is the most common form of phenomenology in psychology. Perhaps the most faithful to Husserlian philosophical phenomenology, the term reflects the influence of existentialist philosophical anthropology on phenomenological studies. With a heavy focus on understanding individual experience, existential phenomenology often incorporates a reliance upon the phenomenological method and/or the infusion of existentialist thought into the analysis of individual experience. The phenomenological method, as developed by Husserl and others (Spiegelberg 1982), has been adapted to fit the needs of social scientific research (Boss, Dahl, and Kaplan 1996; Giorgi 1985; Pollio, Henley, and Thompson 1997). Although psychological proponents of phenomenology do not subscribe to one single system of procedures, they do focus their efforts on developing methods that will enable the psychologist to capture the essential meaning of an experience. In contrast to more sociological forms of phenomenology, existential phenomenologists do not venture much further than an elaboration of the lived experience of the individual.
Some analysts use a phenomenological approach and incorporate forms of existential thought to study aspects of familial experience. Here, they draw on the work of Sigmund Freud, Martin Heidegger, Jean-Paul Sartre, Maurice Merleau-Ponty, Rollo May, Erich Fromm, and others to assist the in analysis of human experience. For example, Howard Pollio, Tracy Henley, and Craig Thompson (1997) contrast psychoanalytic and attachment theory conceptualizations of the human experience of other people with their own existential phenomenological perspective as well as analyzing the reparation of breaches in relationships and other experiences such as falling in love, loving others, and death. Other existential phenomenological studies of family life have focused on child development (Briod 1989), informal care of aged parents (Paul 1999a, 1999b), disturbed families (Laing 1971), and intimate relationships (Becker 1992).
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