Psychotherapy is an ethical endeavor: Balancing science and humanism in clinical practice

and Professor of Psychiatry, Menninger Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Science, Baylor College of Medicine, Houston, Texas.
Bulletin of the Menninger Clinic (Impact Factor: 0.72). 06/2013; 77(2):103-131. DOI: 10.1521/bumc.2013.77.2.103
Source: PubMed


The author proposes that psychotherapy is best grounded in scienceinformed humanism and, more specifically, that psychotherapists at least implicitly promote ethical, moral-and indeed, virtuous-behavior. In doing so, therapists are challenged continually to engage in making evaluative moral judgments without being judgmental. He contends that psychotherapists, and psychologists especially, are overly reliant on science and might benefit from being more explicit in their ethical endeavors by being better informed about the illuminating philosophical literature on ethics. He highlights the concept of mentalizing, that is, attentiveness to mental states in self and others, such as needs, feelings, and thoughts. He proposes that mentalizing in the context of attachment relationships is common to all psychotherapies, and that this common process is best understood conjointly from the perspectives of developmental psychology and ethics. The author defends the thesis that employing psychotherapy to promote ethical, moral, and virtuous functioning can be justified on scientific grounds insofar as this functioning is conducive to health.

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