Ethnography and hermeneutics consider the clinical encounter as an encounter between cultures. On the one hand, when one thinks about the Other in relation to his or her culture (as a world of meaning made up of beliefs and values), the person becomes immersed in a context of meaning. The context accounts for the person’s actions, bringing about intentional and meaningful behaviour, hence understandable. On the other hand, the anticipation of meaning (anticipation that guides our understanding of the Other’s actions) is determined by our cultural background. This fact creates a well-known paradox: the comprehension we have of the Other is enclosed in a context of meaning unfamiliar to the Other. However, if our comprehension is upheld by critical thinking, this process, instead of becoming an obstacle, becomes "the road" to encounter (outcome of mutual exchange on meanings and actions). Such an epistemological context brings the clinician to open up, to go towards the Other’s understanding and to question his own context of meaning. In this perspective the space of comprehension becomes dialogical and inter-subjective.
Keywords: Culture, world, the Other, critical ethnocentrism, psychopathology, hermeneutics