Expressing experience: the promise and perils of the phenomenological interview

Elizabeth Pienkos, Borut Škodlar, Louis Sass

Research output: Contribution to journalComment/debatepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


This paper outlines several of the challenges that are inherent in any attempt to communicate subjective experience to others, particularly in the context of a clinical interview. It presents the phenomenological interview as a way of effectively responding to these challenges, which may be especially important when attempting to understand the profound experiential transformations that take place in schizophrenia. Features of language experience in schizophrenia—including changes in interpersonal orientation, a sense of the arbitrariness of language, and a desire for faithful communication of experience (including of ineffable transformations of experience)—are described, together with discussion of their relevance for the interview context. Furthermore, the interview presents a unique context in which both intersubjective and interpersonal aspects of experience will be described as well as evoked. It is proposed that phenomenological interviewers should not only be familiar with these and other experiences that can occur in schizophrenia, but also capable of applying the techniques of phenomenological and hermeneutic methods in order to understand the descriptions of interviewees with sensitivity and accuracy.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)53-71
Number of pages19
JournalPhenomenology and the Cognitive Sciences
Issue number1
StatePublished - Feb 2022

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Philosophy
  • Cognitive Neuroscience


  • Clinical interview
  • Language
  • Phenomenological psychopathology
  • Psychosis
  • Schizophrenia


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