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Developing an Empirical-Phenomenological Approach to Schizophrenia Research

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Schizophrenia has historically been considered a severe psychiatric disorder with a chronic and progressive course; an assumption that has shaped both clinical research and public policy. Recent studies have suggested, however, that many people recover from this disorder to varying degrees, prompting new research approaches that focus on factors influencing improvement as well as pathology. An empirical-phenomenological approach appears especially promising as an avenue to investigating the active role the person may play in improvement. The dimensions of everyday life that are discussed as providing a conceptual framework for investigations of the active role of the person are intentionality, temporality, and meaning. Within this framework a four-step process of recovering and reconstructing the self in schizophrenia is then delineated, with concrete illustrations of each step drawn from interviews with one young woman with schizophrenia. The findings are taken to represent the kinds of valuable insights that may be garnered from an empirical-phenomenological approach to research built upon a recognition of the importance of the dimensions of intentionality, temporality, and meaning in the everyday life of those afflicied with severe mental illness. There is only the fight to recover what has been lost And found and lost again and again. T. S. Eliot


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