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Processed Oriented Testimony A Research Proposition

Updated: Jul 2, 2023

Uncovery Discovery Research Which Is True To Who You Really Are
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Processed Oriented Testimony

A personal research proposition and expansion of UKAGP conference workshop: Each for each other — the gold dust of gestalt relational research Facilitated Liz Mellor and Ana Miller

Process Oriented Testimony is a phrase I came up whilst considering the workshop experiences and is to convey a sense of the journey, and recognise the presenters use of testimony. Also, with my humour, I recognise the unconscious creation of the acronym POT. So I see the some of the current research approaches as ‘going to pot’. That a shift is needed in both how what is called ‘research’ is defined, approached and reported is overdue.

In July 2019 I attended the UKAGP residential conference and one of the workshops I was interested to attend was this one, facilitated by Liz Mello and Ana Miller, titled ‘Each for each other — the gold dust of gestalt relational research’

Their own abstract reads:

This workshop offers a follow up our year's work (June 2018-2019) exploring the relationship between gestalt and research. We are offering a workshop which sets out the overarching shape of this research experiment and some of the tensions and surprises along the way. The UKAGP is timely, and we would welcome your participation in a short workshop activity, one which emerged as part of the research process. Our hope is that this opens curiosity and brings a closer connection between what might be perceived as a 'split' between therapy and research, in training, in practice and in the field.

The workshop will initially be to work in triads to explore each other's deep attitudes and felt experience of research — what is our experience of and relationship towards research' in this moment? What sensations and emotions does the concept of research evoke? What ideas for research excite or frighten you and So on. The first part of the workshop will be to explore this through rotating therapy dyads, each with an observer.

The second question we are interested in exploring is whether there is a way of presenting/writing research in a way that is able to incorporate these attitudes as well as the differences between us? How can you present your collective exploration of research in a way that creatively foregrounds your different attitudes, styles and experiences of research? How to bring together and do justice to the difference in your research voices in a way that is able to communicate these to the group.

The workshop, itself was very much appreciated by the participants and our group outcome was as much drama as dialogue. I attempted to film our presentation but unfortunately this did not result in a suitable video; disappointing.


From the abstract from which this workshop emerged the presenters began questioning the absence of the use of gestalt practitioner skills on their research weekend and considered these skills as gold dust. Gestalt Therapy has shown to be a particularly good vehicle for this method of exploration; see Brown 1997[1].

The essential elements from a research perspective of this workshop were to experience the data gathering process and question how this experience could be encapsulated as authentically as possible in a way that honoured the participant and researcher.

The workshop

Our experience was gathering data of the Gestalt Therapy therapeutic engagement then exploring and reporting on the shared relational experience.

The experiment

In the workshop the phenomena to investigate was our own response to the subject 'research'. In pairs we each took the role of researcher and participant and approached the interview as therapist and client respectively. This provided a ground for phenomenological exploration.

In hindsight, indeed immediately upon completion of the interviewing task, we realised to have recorded in both audio and video would have given a much richer experience from which to feedback.

Following the task of interviewing we were asked to feedback our joint experience of the research interview.

Sharing the experience.

In this workshop we were presented with an opportunity to experience the gold dust of gestalt practice and experiment with how we might report this experience. This reporting is what I am calling Process Oriented Testimony[2].

In research, having gathered the data, the next steps are to analyse and report.

In the workshop our feedback was in the form of a performance, as were several other feedbacks. Feedback was sculpted jointly by each participant and researcher pair. Each instance is looking to re-create an experience. My workshop partner, and I, both felt, in hindsight, some failure to convey the depth of the relational experience. On reflection, this was inevitable. To capture the experience as fully as possible requires attention and analysis. In the workshop much more time would be needed to examine and explore the experience to capture, sculpt and give full testimony. This workshop demonstrated how the Gestalt skills provide for the uncovery of the research phenomena and, equally, for sculpting and giving testimony.

At the workshop we chose to perform our findings. In both the experiment itself and in preparing our feedback there was increasing emotional connection in our relationship with each other and with our findings. In feedback to the group we were able to record a video which was not entirely successful since the positioning of the camera was too low and so we had no heads!

The performance was our testimony and in rehearsal very much captured our experience of working together. Some of the testimony was lost in the performance with the group and viewing the video later there was disappointment at the lack of capture from our experience together. So, what happened, what changed, or got lost?

What happened was the experience of working together needs time and attention to enable the essence of the experience to be captured. The missing element was the experience of reviewing our testimony with a recursive methodology. Only by checking back, reflecting, and raising our awareness of the experience would we fully encapsulate our essence of sameness and difference in experience. This element is the required hard and disciplined graft needed to bring the testimony to fullness; yet done without losing the relational contact, nor the present centredness of our unfolding experience.

This is a process of inclusion of researcher-participant, that fits the heuristic research model. However,r heuristic focusses on the researcher's interpretation of the shared experience. Autoethnography, though it does not seem to fit at this time does have a potential form with this workshop model as it focusses on the researcher's feedback of the commonality/differential experiences with the participant; but does not include the participant feeding back.

Research Domain

This approach falls into the domain of Heuristic Research. In heuristic research it is the participants experiences of the research phenomena which is reported on.

So, there is a kinship to particular research methodology, but As I explore and write down my thoughts in relation to the workshop notes and our workshop experience, part of my process is to consider my position regarding research and its roots.

Visiting First Principles

Research is a label in a scientific environment of a particular community.[3] This community is the natural (or physical) sciences and was originally the study of anatomy, chemistry, physics, astronomy. Measurements were mathematic, quantifiable and constant. The study of the human psyche does not fit in this community. Therefore, it is not appropriate for psychotherapy studies, investigations, discoveries and uncoveries[4] to be labelled research. To be confluent to the natural sciences community is to invalidate the differentiation of the psyche with the mathematics of science.

The developmental journey has gone beyond this originating label and has resulted in a vast array of research approaches and whilst each justifies and holds its own truth and position there is a constant and continuous argument, battle and conflict to assert and differentiate each approach by its followers.

My personal view is to move away and beyond and out of confluence by returning to first principles and walking a separated path. Traditionally not science, it is art;

Psychotherapy is the healing of the psyche, and psychology is the study of the psyche. The psyche does not belong to the natural sciences and so its study and its healing does not belong to science. At this meta phase the psyche is not science, i.e., it is the polarity - art.

Having shifted out of science and therefore out of the ‘research’ label there is a need to label what our enquiry of our subject is. Talking over dinner at the conference my suggestion was we are engaged in discovery. Added to this came the proposal that we are engaged in uncovering – thus this created label, Uncovery[5].

Research Perspective

Research, as generally defined, is not the subject of study, it is the vehicle of study. Generally, though, research is not traditionally seen as a relational activity and the shift towards the relational perspective impacts every aspect of our living. The relational shift supports and demands a more experiential approach in living. To paraphrase Fromm-Reichmann[6] we need experience rather than explanation. Gestalt living is awareness in living; Gestalt Therapy is raising awareness in living. Shifting research into the experiential living field is the invitation for the research to be both subject and vehicle that is complemented with the Gestalt approach to enquiry.

Relational Research/Discovery

I feel it is time to reframe our researching. In the first instance this is about refinement and differentiation. Such a shift is a natural evolving discriminatory process.[7]

Qualitative research continues to be conflictual with the Quantitative research of many psychologists. There is a need to discriminate from psychology. Not least because of its alignment to quantitative practice and for grounding itself in science, which therefore requires a replication test environment.


is a type of talking therapy that can often prove useful in treating emotional problems and mental health conditions.(NHS)


is the scientific study of people, the mind and behaviour.(BPS)

Psychotherapy - v - Psychology


therapy - v - ology

(restoration) - v - (knowledge)


Shifting out of science and therefore out of the ‘research’ label there is a need to label our Enquiry. We are engaged in discovery - we are engaged in uncovering. This is a process of Uncovery

Uncovery, just like research, follows the same principles of approach in respect of Uncovery studies respect for the characteristics of:

• ontology – What is reality?

• epistemology – How do you know something?

• methodology – How do you go about finding it out?

From current social science, and conscious of the confluent nature in referencing ‘science’ there is plenty to utilise which is relatable to Uncovery.

Of necessity there is a need of language for communication and the intent is to hold faith and truth of the essence delivered by Goodman in Perls et al (1951/1994) on Verbalising and Poetry. My own Uncovery includes:

Language – Assigned Meaning

When we relate our experiences to others, or indeed to our self, it is the use of language that we mostly employ.

“… language is an abstraction. At best, oral or written language is an imperfect representation of human experience” (Langer & Furman, 2004, p. 1)[1]

Through the creative use of language, we are able to communicate our feelings, thoughts, needs and experiences. However, in the verbal communication of our experience the language used has the facility to remove the experience itself, leaving only the labelling – the assigned meaning.

“We lose something when assigning meaning too quickly, attempting to put the experience in a tidy labelled box” (Cyndi, 2009, p. an online conversation)[2].

What I am meaning by this is sometimes our words are disconnected from the experience and it is almost like we are paying lip service to the experience, not engaging with it, and instead concentrate on the speaking, a verbal exercise of recitation without connecting to any experience. This, then, is neurotic verbalising (Perls, et al., 1994, p. 100)[3].

Neurotic verbalising is speaking that is disconnected and distant from the present-moment experience and is distinct from speaking that connects the present-moment experience, the situation, and the embodiment of the speaker. This is “contactful speech and poetry” (Perls, et al., 1994, p. 100).

” … the contrary of neurotic verbalizing is various and creative speech; it is neither scientific semantics nor silence; it is poetry” (p. 321)

Here Perls et al (1994) are emphasising the power of contactful speech and, perhaps in some ways obviously,

“language is potentially one of the most powerful agents for contactfulness” (Polster & Polster, 1974, p. 152)[4]

Equally, it is one of the most powerful agents for avoidance of contactfulness![5]

Discovery / Uncovery as the Research Paradigm

Uncovery is a relational and novel development from qualitative, humanistic research. Shifting the focus from one person as the discoverer (researcher) and another as participant providing the environment for uncovering phenomena towards a joint uncovery of phenomena with an equitable contribution from all. Placing relate-ness as the underpinning phenomena in all experiences shifts any enquiry into an experience of relating, and thus to uncovery of Self -

Uncovery, just like research, follows the same principles of approach in respect of “the set of common beliefs and agreements… about how problems should be understood and addressed”[1]:

image of table showing criteria for Research Paradigm


Uncovery principles of approach are grounded in the (traditional) characteristics of:

· what is reality (ontology), or the Science of Being;

· How do you know something (epistemology) or the Theory of Knowledge;

· and, how do you go about finding out that knowledge (methodology).

The Uncovery paradigm is characterised by:

· Ontology – What is reality?

o Gestalt Theory grew, in a small part, out of Gestalt Psychology which had its focus on perception. Reality is ‘as it is perceived’; in the eye of the beholder. Reality is the shared experience and will mostly have inconsistencies (because of ongoing change and growth) over time due the very nature of experiencing and the process of Gestalt Contact. Reality has social dimensions which are informed through the perceptions between and of us. A relational experience.

· Epistemology – How do you know something?

o The epistemology with Uncovery fits to Gestalt knowing of Self – in the relationship; the discovering Gestalt Contact. The Gestalt Theory of Self is sufficient and comprehensive enough to provide the epistemology for the methods of Uncovery.

· Theoretical Perspective

o Gestalt Therapy Theory

· Methodology – How do you go about finding it out?

o Finding out requires an enquiring approach that does currently exist with a broad spectrum of humanistic therapy models; the use of the Gestalt practitioner skills – the gold dust.

o Process Oriented Testimony provides the basis of enquiry and also provides the means of explanation.

· Methods

o Tools are creative and relational, requiring an I-Thou attitude.

o Out of the workshop experience we go about finding out about a phenomena utilising practitioner gold dust, and with Process Oriented Testimony, mine the gold seam.

o The method is relational in nature.

· Sources

o The source of the experience of Self lies between and with two people. Within the inter-actions of us, we experience Contact and our shared Self.

Skipping forward: Process Oriented Testimony

Process Oriented Testimony evaluates phenomena with all contributing parties, supporting the Gestalt translation that the sum of the parts is greater than the whole.

Each individual and combination of individuals engaged in the Uncovery also gives testimony of uncovery. So, for me and my peer, in the workshop experience our testimony provided both our response to the questioning of the phenomena (research) and our own and joint - relational - experiential uncovery of our engagement.

Knowledge is created in social interaction between investigator and respondents and the "results" or "findings" are literally created as the investigation proceeds (see e.g. Denzin & Lincoln 1994).

Parts: Process Oriented Testimony

In this section I wanted to review the characteristics of the model of research with some reference to existing approaches. Essentially Process Oriented Testimony is grounded in phenomenology; is experiential; maybe existential; is relational; and humanistic in approach. It is a Co-operative Enquiry



Review / Reflect

1. In the domain of phenomenology

“The philosophy of phenomenology resides within the naturalistic paradigm; phenomenological research asks … lived experience. …
Phenomenological research is probably unique among the research methods discussed here as an example of a human science method that emphasizes descriptions of meaning structures of lived experience. Opinions are not considered to be lived experience. The use of spoken or written text as data marks the ideological predisposition of phenomenological research, while the use of observation marks the more pragmatic and positivistic character of methods such as ethnographic research, participant observation and grounded theory”[1]

There is a problem, however, in that subdivisions exist and thus a need to locate appropriately, if at all. Because

“… Husserl’s approach to phenomenology, now labelled descriptive phenomenology, experiences are described and researcher perceptions are set aside or ‘bracketed’ in order to enter into the life world of the research participant without any presuppositions”[2].

Different approaches and applications of phenomenological to research have been developed. Figure 5, in Appendix E, page 21 highlights the differences between the main traditions of phenomenology[1].

These aspects are common to several research methodologies, nothing ground-breaking yet …


2. experiential in structure

Experiential research is a new research paradigm that breaks down the traditional distinction between the role of the researcher and the role of the subject.

“In the new paradigm, this separation of roles is dissolved. Those involved in the research are co-researchers and co-subjects.
They devise, manage and draw conclusions from the research; and they also undergo the experiences and perform the actions that are being researched.”[1]

[1] John Heron, Empirical Validity in Experiential Research, Sage, London, 1982.

This is being addressed in the late 1970s and early 1980s, so not ground-breaking either… source article is: A Guide to Inquiry and Experiential Research, available here

3. a relational approach

“Four features of relational research … presence, inclusion, intersubjectivity and reflexivity.… phenomenological research approaches especially highlight the need for researchers to maintain an open presence. Integrative psychotherapy researchers will foreground the nature of the intersubjective intertwining of conscious and unconscious selves in relation. Feminist versions of relational research are likely to highlight reflexive elements as gender and power, as well as relational, issues are brought to the fore.”

Examples of Relational Research in Action

for Process Oriented Testimony this part is equally not ground-breaking.

4. existential approach

“Existential phenomenology gives more explicit attention to ontological issues. There is an interest in understanding the actuality of Being[1].…Existential phenomenology makes the whole person its point of departure.…Existential phenomenology is the most common basis for phenomenological research”

[1] Osborne, J. W. (1994). Some similarities and differences among phenomenological and other methods of psychological qualitative research. Canadian Psychology/Psychologie canadienne, 35(2), 167-189.

Heidegger opted for ontology in place of epistemology

Hannu Soini, Eeva-Liisa Kronqvist & Günter L. Huber (Eds.) 2011 Epistemologies for Qualitative Research.Center for Qualitative Psychology. Germany

5. humanistic tradition

Some of the major concepts and ideas that emerged from the humanistic movement include

Maslow’s Hierarchy of needs - I will not subscribe to this.

Person-centered therapy. - I can subscribe to this.

Unconditional positive regard. - ok, is not possible?

Free will. - ok

Self-concept - I am expecting this to be controversial

Self-actualization. - certainly not in terms of Maslow

Peak experiences. - do not know what this means

Fully-functioning person - ok

Humanistic (psychology) supports a set of values:

  • a belief in the worth of persons and dedication to the development of human potential.

  • an understanding of life as a process, change is inevitable.

  • an appreciation of the spiritual and intuitive.

  • a commitment to ecological integrity.

  • a recognition of the profound problems affecting our world

  • and a responsibility to hope and constructive change.



Appendix A Psychotherapy

psychotherapy (n.)[1]

1892 in modern sense, from psycho- + therapy, in model of French psychothérapie (1889). In early use also of hypnotism. Psychotherapeia was used in medical writing in 1853 as "remedial influence of the mind."


word-forming element meaning "mind, mental; spirit, unconscious," from Greek psykho-, combining form of psykhē "the soul, mind, spirit; life, one's life, the invisible animating principle or entity which occupies and directs the physical body; understanding, the mind (as the seat of thought), faculty of reason" (see psyche). It also was used to form compounds in Greek, such as psychapates "soul-beguiling" (with apate "deceit").

therapy (n.)[3]

1846, "medical treatment of disease," from Modern Latin therapia, from Greek therapeia "curing, healing, service done to the sick; a waiting on, service," from therapeuein "to cure, treat medically," literally "attend, do service, take care of".

Considering the etymology can a label be made that is more essence of a humanistic, relational, experiential, integrative approach to working with troubled souls.

The counter argument, which compromises, probably appropriately most of the time, is to maintain the label and differentiate the type of psychotherapy – which is the current situation…

Appendix B Research Paradigms

image of table showing Research Paradigms

Appendix C Creating the Phrased Sculpture.

image of text Creating the Phrased Sculpture

Appendix D What is Science

Roughly speaking, the natural sciences (e.g. biology, chemistry, physics) are considered "hard", whereas the social sciences (e.g. economics, psychology, sociology) are usually described as "soft". ... However, there are some measurable differences between hard and soft sciences.

Natural Science =

a branch of science which deals with the physical world, e.g. physics, chemistry, geology, biology.

Physical Science =

the sciences concerned with the study of inanimate natural objects, including physics, chemistry, astronomy, and related subjects.

Human Science =

a branch of study which deals with people or their actions, including the social sciences and the humanities, as contrasted with the natural sciences or physical sciences

Appendix E Comparison of the main phenomenological traditions

Approach and influence



Descriptive empirical phenomenology: with foundations in the Husserlian method, seeks to identify the essence of the phenomenon through ‘epoche’ (bracketing) and psychological phenomenological reduction.

The researcher compares written descriptions of the phenomenon of interest, for example, the experience of an illness, to identify the essential structures of the phenomenon, such as living with that illness.

Giorgi and the Duquesne school, and more recently Les Todres[1] [1] Todres L . Embodied enquiry: Phenomenological touchstones for research, psychotherapy and spirituality. New York: Springer, 2007.Google Scholar[1] Ashworth P . An approach to phenomenological psychology: the contingencies of the lifeworld. J Phenomenol Psychol 2003;34:145–56.doi:10.1163/156916203322847119 Google Scholar

The Sheffield School: builds on descriptive empirical phenomenology with additional analysis of the existentials of the life world (selfhood or identity, sociality, spatiality, temporality, activities of daily living, discourse).

​The researcher undertakes interviews and analysis focusing on existential themes, …that relate for example to living with illness.


Heuristic: although has Husserlian foundations, the focus is the transformative effect of the inquiry on the researcher’s own experience.

​The researcher reviews different types of data, as all experiences of the phenomenon are of interest.The researcher considers the phenomenon of interest on themselves and their own experiences to develop a detailed description and creative synthesis of the experience.


[1] Moustakas C . Heuristic research: design, methodology, and applications. London: Sage Publications., 1990.Google Scholar

Relational approaches: although has Heideggerian foundations, the findings are viewed as being co-created through the research dialogue.

The researcher might interview one individual and choose to concentrate on certain elements of that experience, for example, the sense of self, being-in-the world, ways in which they have coped. Reflexivity addresses the relational dynamics between researcher and co-researchers/participant in generating an interpretation.


[1] Finlay L . The intertwining of body, self and world: a phenomenological study of living with recently-diagnosed multiple sclerosis. J Phenomenol Psychol 2003;34:157–78.doi:10.1163/156916203322847128 Google Scholar

van Manen approach: van Manen further developed the Hermeneutic (interpretive) approach by identifying the four life-world existentials that are implicit to understanding lived experience: temporality (lived time), spatiality (lived space), corporeality (lived body) and sociality (lived relationships).

​The researcher uses a broad range of data collection methods appropriate to participants and the phenomena of interest.Data is analysed using thematic analysis and is influenced by the researcher’s interpretations. The aim is to bring to light the lived experience by considering the four existentials of existence as different perspectives in the analysis.Findings can draw on the arts to better convey meaning, for example, poem or drawings or photographs to support or describe the meaning of a theme.

​van Manen[1]

[1] van Manen M . Researching lived experience, human science for an action sensitive pedagogy. Albany: State University of New York Press, 1996.Google Scholar

Interpretive phenomenology analysis (IPA) with foundations in the hermeneutic method, the focus is on interpretation and engagement with cognitive and social psychological literature.

​The researcher undertakes interviews and individual experiences are illustrated through thematic analysis.Findings explore the lived experience of the phenomenon, influenced by researcher interpretations.

​Smith et al[1]

[1] Smith JA , Flowers P , Larkin M , et al . Interpretative phenomenological analysis. London: Sage, 2009.Google Scholar

Critical narrative analysis: with foundations in the hermeneutic method, draws mainly on the philosophy of Gadamer and Ricoeur[1], who take similar stances on the approach to the hermeneutic interpretation of texts, deciphering differences between the structure and use of language to create meaning.Hermeneutics is defined as the theory or practice of interpretation, while a hermeneutic (singular) is defined as a specific type or method of interpretation.

[1] Langridge D . Phenomenological psychology: theory, research and method. London: Prentice Hall, 2007.Google Scholar

​Narrative analysis is performed on interview data, where narratives are analysed in relation to their function, tone and content. In addition, a distinguishing feature of this narrative method is then the action that is taken ‘to interrogate the text using aspects of social theory as a hermeneutic of suspicion’ (p130).[1] Social theory, which relates to the phenomenon of interest, is drawn on to further critically examine our understanding.

[1] Langridge D . Phenomenological psychology: theory, research and method. London: Prentice Hall, 2007.Google Scholar


adapted from Rodriguez, Rodriguez A . ’We are here for a good time not a long time: being and caring for a child with a life-limiting condition: University of Huddersfield, 2009. PhD thesis. Google Scholar

Appendix F Knowing, my own seam of gold


Not to be frustrated nor disappointed

At the glimpses of treasured wisdom.

So close to hand, so near to surface,

image of galaxy to complement Knowing poem

Tread lightly less excitement sinks!

This vision brought forth in thought

Transformed to real with patient coaxing

Here is but the beginning,

The tip, the start, the embarkation.

A journey that spirals without gravity

Up, down, turning, racing

Flowing outward, inward, forward, backward

The gravity of learning, of knowing immense!

© David Forrest 2005

Appendix G Psychotherapy as a Skill Level

There is a confused situation with the label psychotherapy being both level of achievement as well as an approach to helping. Which is it more of, achievement or approach?

I understand UKCP was established to distinguish a level of training that would earn a psychotherapy title and be recognised for its breadth and depth of training. So, the question is – training in what? UKCP include training organisations[1] for:

  • Child and Adolescent Psychotherapies

  • Family, Couple and Systemic Therapy

  • Outcome Oriented and Hypno-Psychotherapies

  • Medical Psychotherapists

  • Sexual and Relationship Psychotherapy

  • Constructivist and Existential

  • Psychoanalysis and Jungian Analysis

  • Humanistic and Integrative Psychotherapy

  • Psychotherapeutic Counselling and Intersubjective Psychotherapy

To say we are all psychotherapists is akin to saying we are all graduates. A qualification is needed to determine a graduate in/of – a psychotherapists in… school / modality.

Whether counsellor or psychotherapist we are all practitioners … uncovering and seeking to heal the ‘soul’ of the individual.

What word might be used to mean uncover / seek, and heal, the soul?

Missing Reference Footnotes: PDF is complete

Brown, J. R., 1997 Researcher as Instrument: An Exploration of the Relationship Between Gestalt and Qualitative Methodology. Gestalt Review Vol 1 Isssue1 pp71-84 Richard Rorty has argued that the distinction between the sciences and the humanities is harmful to both pursuits, placing the former on an undeserved pedestal and condemning the latter to irrationality. From I am creating this word ‘uncovery’ to complement discovery. [6]Frieda Fromm-Reichmann 1950 Principles of Intensive Psychotherapy University of Chicago Press [7] Bruner J. S., Goodnow J. J., Austin G. A. 1956 A study of Thinking. Routledge London

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