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J Adv Nurs. 1994 Aug;20(2):368-76.

Catharsis: an investigation of its meaning and nature.

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Frances Harrison College of Healthcare, St Luke's Hospital, Guildford, Surrey, England.


Nurses commonly use catharsis and cathartic techniques as part of their clinical practice to enable clients and themselves to release emotion, to feel better and to facilitate coping. However, the literature does not provide clinical nursing evidence for its use. The main purpose of the investigation is to examine the beliefs about and understanding of catharsis which two groups of nurses hold: one group of nurse teachers and one group of nursing students. One hundred and forty-two respondents completed self-administered questionnaires asking about their understanding of and beliefs about catharsis as being beneficial, social, negative or psychotherapeutic in nature. The possible relationship of their answers to age, sex, philosophical orientation and qualifications was deemed to be important. The results suggest nurses understand that catharsis is related to emotion and has a psychotherapeutic purpose. However, there appear to be gaps in their understanding. Nurses also seem to believe that the release and expression of emotions is more acceptable for women than for men. There is also evidence that the more experienced nurses think differently from less experienced nurses, placing more emphasis on behaviour rather than emotion as they grow older. The problems associated with catharsis are discussed along with the implications for research and practice.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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