Professional relationships are at the heart of professional practice. Qualitative studies exploring professional practice relationships are typically positioned in either the social constructivist (interpretive) paradigm where the aim is to explore actors’ subjective understandings of their relationships and relational practices, or in the critical paradigm where the aim is to reveal objective unconscious structures and hidden power plays influencing actors’ practices. This paper introduces critical imaginal hermeneutics as a systemic philosophical and methodological approach situated on the juncture of the social constructivist and critical paradigms where the dual aim is to explore both actors’ subjective understanding and meaning-making processes associated with their relational practices as well as explore objective unconscious structures and power relations influencing their relational practices. At the core of this approach is a Critical Imaginal Hermeneutic Spiral – a methodological guide for text construction and interpretation processes developed by partnering Paul Ricoeur’s critical hermeneutics and Carl Jung’s imaginal arts-based approach. The spiral was developed, employed, and coined as part of the first author’s doctoral thesis exploring clinical play therapists’ relational practices with parents. It incorporates the Bourdieu and Jung thought partnership explored by the authors in another paper in this volume. The approach provides a systemic guide for developing practitioners’ critical reflexivity regarding personal, social, and collective unconscious influences on their relational practices, and in turn minimising the unconscious influences that undermine the quality of professional practice relationships.


Paul Ricoeur, Carl Jung, Pierre Bourdieu, Professional Practice, Relational Practices, Critical Hermeneutics, Critical Imaginal Hermeneutics, Critical Imaginal Hermeneutic Spiral, Unconscious Influences, Critical Reflexivity, Clinical Play Therapy, Play Therapy, Child Mental Health, Counselling, Psychotherapy

Author Bio(s)

Rosa Bologna is the Director of The Academy of Art & Play Therapy. She is a registered psychologist, clinical supervisor, and mental health counselling educator based in Sydney, Australia. Her research interests include interdisciplinary theoretical and methodological partnerships; art and play therapy modalities in qualitative research; and the professional practice of mental health counsellors, supervisors, and educators. Contact: Rosa Bologna, PhD, The Academy of Art & Play Therapy, GPO Box 3111, Sydney, NSW 2001 Australia; E-mail: rosab@artandplay.com.au.

Franziska Trede is an Associate Professor in Higher Education and Professional Practice in the Institute for Interactive Media and Learning at the University of Technology Sydney, Australia. Her body of research focuses on professional practice, professional identity development, social justice, relational agency and arts-based methodologies. Contact: Franziska Trede, PhD, Institute for Interactive Media & Learning, PO Box 123, Broadway, NSW 2007 Australia; E-mail: Franziska.trede@uts.edu.au.

Narelle Patton is the Sub Dean Workplace Learning and Accreditation for the Faculty of Science at Charles Sturt University. Her research interests focus on professional practice, professional practice capabilities, practice-based education, workplace learning and development of professional practice capabilities. She is particularly interested in creative research methods. Contact: Narelle Patton, PhD, Faculty of Science, Charles Sturt University, PO Box 789, Albury, NSW 2640 Australia; Email: npatton@csu.edu.au.


The first author Rosa Bologna would like to acknowledge that her doctoral research cited in this paper was supported by an Australian Government Research Training Program Scholarship.

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