Becoming the Vulnerable Neighbour: From Trauma Research to Practice


  • Tiffany Beks University of Calgary



hermeneutics, counselling psychology, trauma, psychology, qualitative research


This article explores the relevancy and application of Gadamerian hermeneutics and Levinisian philosophy as adapted by Orange (2011) to the field of counselling psychology, with a focus on working with individuals who have experienced trauma. I begin by exploring an encounter that ignited my search for better understanding the suffering associated with traumatic betrayal in the context of military service, a journey which led me to an application of hermeneutics as a theoretical orientation in trauma counselling. I then examine Gadamerian hermeneutics and Levinisian constructs with respect to how my practice was altered by this encounter and how my approach to working with survivors of trauma continually evolves. The review of Gadamer’s constructs of dialogue and prejudice and Orange’s hermeneutic sensibility brings me to new insights as to the application of hermeneutics in the context of counselling psychology and its associated work in trauma care.


Canadian Psychological Association. (2017). Canadian code of ethics for psychologists (4th ed.).Ottawa, ON, Canada: Author.

Field, J. C. (2018). Lecture on Gadamer and Grondin [Class notes, EDER-701]. Calgary, AB, Canada: University of Calgary.

Freyd, J. J., & Birrell, P. J. (2013). Blind to betrayal: Why we fool ourselves we aren't being fooled. Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons.

Gadamer, H.-G. (1987). The problem of historical consciousness. In P. Rabinow & W. Sullivan (Eds.), Interpretive social science: A second look (pp. 82-140). Berkeley, CA: University of California Press.

Gadamer, H-G. (1960/2013). Truth and method (J. Weinsheimer & D. G. Marshall, Trans.). London, UK: Bloomsbury.

Klingle, K. (2015). Batman and the sticky-fingered maiden: Psychology as an interpretive practice. Journal of Applied Hermeneutics, Article 5. Retrieved from

Lévinas, E. (1991). Totality and infinity: An essay on exteriority (3rd ed.). Dordrecht, NL: Kluwer Academic Publishers.

Moules, N. J., McCaffrey, G., Field, J. C., & Laing, C. M. (2015). Conducting hermeneutic research: From philosophy to practice. New York, NY: Peter Lang.

Moules, N. J., McCaffrey, G., Morck, A. C., & Jardine, D. W. (2011). On applied hermeneutics and the work of the world. Journal of Applied Hermeneutics, Editorial 1. Retrieved from

Moules, N. J., Venturato, L., Laing, C. M., & Field, J. C. (2017). Is it really “yesterday’s war”? What Gadamer has to say about what gets counted. Journal of Applied Hermeneutics, Article 1. Retrieved from

Orange, D. M. (2011). The suffering stranger: Hermeneutics for everyday clinical practice. New York, NY: Routledge.

Paré, D. (2013). The practice of collaborative counseling and psychotherapy: Developing skills in culturally mindful helping. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.

Patterson, C. H. (1974). Relationship counseling and psychotherapy. New York, NY: Harper & Row.

Porter, E. H. (1959). Critical incidents in psychotherapy. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice Hall.

Williams, E. P. (2017). What should I do? What would you do? A counselling psychologist’s interpretation. Emerging Perspectives, 1(2), 1-5. Retrieved from

Yehuda, R., & Bierer, L. (2009). The relevance of epigenetics to PTSD: Implications for the DSM-V. Journal of Traumatic Stress, 22(5), 427-434. doi:10.1002/jts.20448