Recognizing the “non-intentional”—some implications for practioner education

Dennis Greenwood

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This article considers the implications of what continental philosopher Emmanuel Levinas (1989b) described as the “non-intentional” (p. 81). The place of the non-intentional emerges from an exploration of Buber's (1987) conception of the I–Thou and the ′relations, and is seen as an experience that is prior to the grasping of conscious understanding. A specific incident that took place between a psychotherapist and patient diagnosed with dementia is described and then used to illustrate this exploration of the “I–Thou” relation and the non-intentional. The therapist's preunderstandings of the term dementia are shown to have hindered the emergence of an I–Thou relation and the possibility of a non-intentional glimpse of the otherness of the other. The implications for practitioner education and learning in relation to the non-intentional are considered, in particular, the need to reflect on the immediacy of the feelings experienced in a relationship. The non-intentional highlights how I, as a psychotherapist, can exclude the other by imposing an understanding on what is seen and experienced in relation to another person.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)19-30
Number of pages12
JournalThe Humanistic Psychologist
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 3 Apr 2008


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