Hermeneutical Healing: Physical Therapy with a Gadamerian Twist
In recent decades, phenomenology has been utilized not only as a conceptual framework from which to understand medical encounters in healthcare settings, but also to guide medical professionals in providing care. In the realm of physical therapy, phenomenology has been touted as a philosophically-based avenue to aid in helping to understand what it means to be a patient. The works of Edmund Husserl and Martin Heidegger have been utilized as paths to approach phenomenologically-informed care in physical therapy. However, to our knowledge, no significant connection has been made in regard to the work of Hans-Georg Gadamer’s phenomenology and hermeneutics in the realm of physical therapy. The authors aim to close that gap by showing the ways in which Gadamer’s philosophy can help physical therapists provide phenomenologically-informed patient care. They begin by outlining some of the touchpoints between phenomenology and healthcare and then introduce Gadamer as a figure who deserves attention in the question of how to apply phenomenology to healthcare settings. Upon analyzing Gadamer’s account of what it means to experience an altered body, they outline Gadamer’s understanding of tact, practical knowledge, and good sense in order to show how to understand at a conceptual level what it means to empathize with patients on the path to building therapeutic alliance, that is, a cooperative working relationship. They then look closely at Gadamer’s hermeneutics and particularly his comments on how to cultivate a fusion of horizons in order to attempt to help guide physical therapists in theoretically understanding how to empathize with their patients. Ultimately, they argue that physical therapists who practice phenomenologically-informed care, which they call “hermeneutical healing,” are positioned well to form strong working relationships with their patients.
Keywords: Medical Humanities, Phenomenology, Hermeneutics, Gadamer, Fusion of Horizons
LicenseAuthors who publish with this journal agree to the following terms:
- Authors retain copyright and grant the journal right of first publication with the work simultaneously licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution License that allows others to share the work with an acknowledgement of the work's authorship and initial publication in this journal.
- Authors are able to enter into separate, additional contractual arrangements for the non-exclusive distribution of the journal's published version of the work (e.g., post it to an institutional repository or publish it in a book), with an acknowledgement of its initial publication in this journal.
- Authors are permitted and encouraged to post their work online (e.g., in institutional repositories or on their website) prior to and during the submission process, as it can lead to productive exchanges, as well as earlier and greater citation of published work (See The Effect of Open Access).