A hermeneutic account of clinical psychology: Strengths and limits

Philosophical Psychology 3 (1):5-27 (1990)
Abstract
Abstract There have been increasingly popular claims that hermeneutics provides an epistemology that is appropriate and sufficient for psychotherapy. The purpose of this paper is to evaluate and explain those claims. Hermeneutics proves to provide terms that legitimize aspects of clinical expertise that have been most ignored within the traditional empiricist epistemology; namely, hermeneutics articulates and provides standards for therapeutic interpretations about clients? idiosyncratic intentions and also for using clinical theories that defy empirical test. Nonetheless, hermeneutics also proves to be limited in its account of clinical knowledge. That is, clinicians who advocate hermeneutics have ruled out any legitimate basis on which clinical expertise can be influenced by knowledge about non?intentional constraints on psychological life. Yet, therapists must use such knowledge, especially that which concerns the non?intentional constraints imposed by human development. Thus, to realize its potential, hermeneutics should be embedded within a more comprehensive epistemology that includes compatible standards for knowledge about development. Finally, this paper concludes by proposing an outline for such an inclusive approach to clinical knowledge
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