Ethics and Values in Psychotherapy

Ethics and Values in Psychotherapy

Ethics and Values in Psychotherapy

Ethics and Values in Psychotherapy


Ethics and Values in Psychotherapy examines the ways in which the ethical convictions of both therapist and client contribute to the practical process of psychotherapy. Practitioners are increasingly focusing on the issue of their extensive -- and often problematic -- ethical influence on clients as they attempt to agree on guidelines and standards for professional practice. Alan C. Tjeltveit argues that any discussion of ethical practice in psychotherapy must be carried out in connection with traditional ethical theories.

The author draws on scientific, clinical, and philosophical approaches to address issues such as: the role of therapy in society; the goals and outcomes of psychotherapy; techniques and practices; the existence and operation of values; and the intellectual and social context in which therapy takes place. This comprehensive study is a significant contribution to the debate on the ethical character of psychotherapy.


Murder mysteries accompany me on long trips. I like people who find clues that others miss, who patiently put together a case, who pay attention to all the important evidence, who look beyond the obvious, who think clearly and well.

To think well about the ethical character of psychotherapy we need, I think, to be like those sleuths. Although the mystery of therapy has to do with positive human change, not murder, complexities abound, and the skills of the detective can help us to understand and make good decisions about ethics and values in psychotherapy.

Abundant clues await those who want to think more deeply than "Therapy is not value-free." New evidence from a variety of sources can be used by people who want to explore how-for good and ill-the ethical convictions of therapist, client, and culture invigorate therapy. The empirical finding that therapists influence client values, research on therapy in general, the increasingly sophisticated psychology of moral development, the retrieval and application to psychology of Continental philosophical traditions, cross-cultural psychological investigations, and the careful historical work that is reshaping our understanding of psychology and psychotherapy all provide evidence that is essential to a satisfactory solution to the mystery of the role of values in therapy.

Emerging developments in ethics provide crucial clues as well: the rise of a transdisciplinary bioethics that links together academic philosophy and the clinical setting, ethical analyses of psychotherapy, evolving standards of professional ethics, the vigor and creativity of feminist ethics, the development of revivified and psychologically nuanced forms of virtue ethics, cross-cultural ethical studies, and analyses of how culture shapes ethics and therapy. Finally, careful work on the definition of "values" and the increasing involvement in therapy of those who pay for therapy (e.g. insurance companies, governments, and managed care organizations) provide us with new perspectives from which to consider the evidence.

To make progress in unraveling the mystery of the ethical character of therapy, we need to move, I think, beyond obvious solutions and think

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