Hermeneutic inquiry: Interpretation and understanding in research and practice

Joy Higgs, Margo Paterson, Elizabeth Kinsella

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    Psychotherapy deals with the uncertainties and particularities of people's lives and situations. The selection of approaches to investigate these phenomena cannot be restricted to objective and context-free options; people's lives are subjective, contextualised and personally experienced. Many human sciences research approaches exist that can access, deeply study and richly portray the human world. One of these is hermeneutics. The aim of hermeneutics is understanding rather than explanation. The types of questions people may consider through an hermeneutic perspective are varied, and draw attention to human being and understanding with a focus on the role of interpretation of these phenomena. Some examples of hermeneutic situations might include: What does the community expect from psychotherapy? How do people feel about their psychotherapy experiences? In what ways do clients and families benefit from psychotherapy? In this paper we examine philosophical hermeneutics as an approach that is structured around the particular questions and purpose of a specific research project and we provide an example to illustrate what hermeneutics can reveal. We present hermeneutics as a credible, rigorous and creative approach to investigations into the human life world, one that is flexible, adaptable, and justifiable in the contexts of evidence-based as well as client-centred practice.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)1-12
    Number of pages12
    JournalContemporary Psychotherapy
    Issue number1
    Publication statusPublished - 2012


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