Corresponding Author Information: Steven Anthony Sola

Session Abstract: Contemporary psychotherapeutic practice including, but not limited to, psychoanalysis, psychodynamic psychotherapy, relational and intersubjective psychotherapies, narrative psychotherapy, and modern forms of family therapy, often rely on case formulations that call for a broader and more enlarged approach to the assessment process. But contemporary therapists all too often ignore what an assessment might bring to their practice. We would like to suggest some changes in the assessment process that may better accommodate these practitioners. This symposium explores such an enlarged role for personality assessment by way of a paradigmatic change, in which a rigorous but more encompassing philosophy of human science, that not only accommodates the history of the progress of personality assessment, but also suggests an underlying meta-methodological schema for future progress. This necessarily involves a meta-analysis of how we do assessment: for example, how we think about the thought processes we engage in when we interpret results. This is where a hermeneutic meta-methodology might be most valuable. The three highly experienced clinical psychologists, who come from different backgrounds from all over the country, will define and explore the heuristic use of hermeneutics as foundational for assessment practice. In the spirit of our greatest contemporary personality assessors: Paul Lerner, Bruce L. Smith, Connie Fischer, and Irving Weiner, please join our symposium.

Chair Information: Steven Anthony Sola | Private Practice, Bennington VT,  and Pittsfield MA

Presentation 1 Title: Oneself As Another: Theory and Practice of Hermeneutical Personality Assessment


Marvin W. Acklin, PhD | University of Hawaii at Manoa, Honolulu, Hawaii

Presentation 2 Title: Methodological Faith and Suspicion: The Implicit Role of Hermeneutical, Dialogal, and Reflexivity Methods in Psychological Assessment

Presentation Abstract: Historically, the practice of psychological assessment has been divided between two approaches to understanding human experience; 1) statistical and normative driven methods that have come to be known as “nomothetic” approaches and 2) methodological approaches that aim to understand more individualistic and experiential or “idiographic” components of experience. Though both have inherent value and importance for the practice of psychological assessment, idiographic approaches, which have far more implications in engagement with participants and interpretation, have been less represented in assessment literature, particularly as regards theory or methodology. This paper aims to outline the hermeneutic underpinnings of psychological assessment. Riceour’s hermeneutics of faith (meaning, truth) and suspicion (decoding of meaning, method) are introduced as an introduction to the “hermeneutic circle” of interpretation and inquiry. These philosophical foundations are then explicated through the description of hermeneutic interviewing, dialogal approaches, and reflexivity as essential methods for psychological assessment, interviewing, and interpretation. This exposition aims to demonstrate that such methods are superior for exploration and theory development, analyzing situations in real-world contexts, providing holistic analyses of experience, highlighting subjectively understood meanings, and undertaking relational or intersubjective analyses. The implications for the value and validity of such methods in psychological assessment reporting as well as for assessment research are discussed.


Patrick J. McElfresh, PhD | Duquesne University, Pittsburgh PA

Presentation 3 Title: Judgement and Orientation in Psychological Assessment: A Hermeneutic Point of View

Presentation Abstract: We need to re-conceptualize and enlarge the underlying philosophy of science and conceptual methodology of psychological assessment in order to better incorporate such facets as, for example, life history, values, and intersubjective relations. Because of the inapplicability of experimental methodology in many of these areas, along with a better understanding of what it means to be a person, a refined human science approach is called for. This foundational meta-methodological underpinning needs to be unbiased and empirically based. But it also needs to be catholic enough in its applicability that it can be utilized to assess meanings and intents as well as functions and processes. The hermeneutic philosophy of Wilhelm Dilthey in general, and its contemporary development in the work of Rudolf Makkreel, is explored as providing the foundational conceptual tools that may allow us to have the necessary re-envisioned paradigm of a hermeneutic philosophy of science that is particularly pertinent for psychological assessment.


Steven Anthony Sola | Private Practice, Bennington VT,  and Pittsfield MA

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