Van den Berg’s Patient – Illustrations of a Phenomenological Psychology Approach II
A more appropriate approach to phenomenological psychology is the one taken by J. H. Van den Berg in his book The Phenomenological Approach to Psychiatry (1955), Springfield, IL: Charles C. Thomas, republished as A Different Existence – Principles of Phenomenological Psychopathology, Pittsburgh, PA: Duquesne University Press. Van den Berg describes a patient/client whose “complaints refer to changes of the visible world, of his body, of the way in which this is related to his fellow men, of his past and of his future.” “[T]he street appeared very wide to him and … the houses gave the impression of being colourless, drab and so old and tumbledown, that he could not but expect to see them collapse at any moment. … In a square he was struck by a spaciousness that far surpassed the size of the square … He had not been outside the town, in the fields or woods for years. … The patient drew such a vivid picture of all this that one could not help wondering whether he was not actually living in another world … a world as real as our own, but utterly dissimilar” (emphasis added) (Van den Berg, 1955, p. 6). Van den Berg does not use the words “mind” or “self” even once in his description of his patient/client’s condition. Instead, he adopts a purely phenomenological approach, focusing on the patient/client’s interaction with his/her physical environment and its resulting impact on the patient/client’s practical ability to function within it.