這是一場哲學運動，從第一人稱的角度研究意識經驗(Moran, 2000)。這里強調的是經驗的意向性——也就是說，有意識的經驗是指向某些現象的，而不僅僅是漫無目的的。這種目的性通常包含在第一人稱自己經歷的意義中。人類的經驗被認為是有意識的，這意味著我們通常在某種程度上意識到正在發生的經驗，而不是像西格蒙德·弗洛伊德的精神分析觀點那樣，經驗并不總是有意識的。意識體驗的定義是廣義的，它包含了很多因素，包括感覺、知覺、物體、事件、時間、自我、他人、空間、序列、情感、邏輯等等，特別強調這些體驗的意義(兩個個體可能有完全相同的體驗，但卻有完全不同的意義)。從歷史上看，現象學一直是一種支離破碎的哲學，尤其是自20世紀初以來，出現了許多變體，并逐漸形成，這些變體源自哲學家的著作，如馬丁·海德格爾(Martin Heidegger)、讓-保羅·薩特爾(Jean-Paul Satre)、埃德蒙·胡塞爾(Edmund Husserl)等黑格爾、馬克思·謝勒等人。我們所知道的盎格魯-撒克遜歐洲哲學的基本傳統在上個世紀一直被現象學所主導，目前為臨床研究的主要部分提供了哲學基礎，通常歸入定性研究的范疇。
This is a philosophical movement concerned with the study of conscious experience, from the point of view of the first person (Moran, 2000). There is emphasis on the intentionality of experience – that is, the idea that conscious experience is directed towards some phenomena, rather than being merely aimless. Such purposefulness is usually contained in the meaning that the first person ascribes to his or her experience. Human experience is said to be conscious, meaning that we are somehow usually aware of an experience as it is happening, as opposed to for example Sigmund Freud’s psychoanalytic view in which experience isn’t always conscious. Conscious experience is defined in broad terms, incorporating a wide range of factors including sensation, perception, objects, events, time, self, others, space, sequence, emotion, logic, and so on, with particular emphasis on the meanings of these experiences (two individuals may have exactly the same experience, yet attach completely different meanings). Historically, phenomenology has been a fragmented philosophy, with numerous variations emerging and becoming established especially since the early part of the 20th century, deriving from works of philosophers like Martin Heidegger, Jean-Paul Satre, Edmund Husserl, G.W.F Hegel, Max Scheler, and others. The basic tradition of Anglo-Saxon European philosophy as we know it has been dominated by phenomenology throughout the last century, and currently provides the philosophical basis for a major part of clinical studies, usually subsumed under the heading of qualitative research.