Soul Searching: Why Psychotherapy Must Promote Moral Responsibility / Edition 1

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Paul, a divorced father, wants to back out of his child care arrangement and spend less time with his children.Nathan has been lying to his wife about a serious medical condition.Marsha, recently separated from her husband, cannot resist telling her children negative things about their father.What is the role of therapy in these situations? Trained to strive for neutrality and to focus strictly on the clients’ needs, most therapists generally consider moral issues such as fairness, truthfulness, and obligation beyond their domain. Now, an award-winning psychologist and family therapist criticizes psychotherapy’s overemphasis on individual self-interest and calls for a sense of moral responsibility in therapy.
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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Psychotherapists since Freud, in Doherty's biting assessment, have overemphasized individual self-fulfillment while paying insufficient attention to the patient's moral values, accountability and family and community responsibilities. The psychologist-director of the University of Minnesota's marriage and family therapy program, Doherty draws on his own clinical practice in this important critique. Going against the prevailing wisdom, he proposes that therapists should consciously influence clients to change their behavior in light of the moral issues involved. Among the illustrative case histories are a recently divorced father who is considering abandoning his children; a depressed, anorexic, suicidal young man who needs emotional distance from his controlling, intrusive mother; and a couple coping with the strain of caring for their developmentally delayed, four-year-old daughter. Included are guidelines for those seeking a morally sensitive therapist. Apr.
Library Journal
Doherty Medical Family Therapy, BasicBks., 1992 raises concerns about our therapeutic culture's promotion of individual self-interest over interpersonal responsibility. Therapists of the past, presupposing that their clients had a sense of moral responsibility, set about to liberate their patrons from morally rigid upbringings. Yet, through changing times, psychotherapists have continued to emphasize self-fulfillment over social responsibility while at the same time claiming to be value-free. Doherty advocates that psychotherapists recognize the claims of the larger society on them; therapists, he says, have an obligation to serve as moral consultants to their clients, raising questions about the effects of clients' behavior on others. On a practical level, Doherty explains how therapists can introduce moral considerations to their clients and discusses the virtues he believes therapists should affirm after abandoning a morality-free approach. While the argument is well presented, the specter of mental health practitioners as "ethicists" is sure to raise hackles among therapists and their critics alike. A controversial book recommended for large psychology collections.-Bonnie Hoffman, Stony Brook, N.Y.
Doherty (director, Marriage and Family Therapy Program, U. of Minnesota) shows hows therapy can be a powerful healing force when clients face moral dilemmas around issue such as divorce, commitment to children, and honesty. He describes a movement of practitioner therapy forums to pursue the re-moralization of psychotherapy, calling for therapists to recognize their moral responsibilities to each other and communities, and tells consumers what to look for in a morally sensitive therapist. Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780465009459
  • Publisher: Basic Books
  • Publication date: 3/28/1996
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 224
  • Sales rank: 332,781
  • Lexile: 1380L (what's this?)
  • Product dimensions: 5.11 (w) x 8.04 (h) x 0.51 (d)

Meet the Author

William J. Doherty, Ph.D., is professor of Family Social Science and director of the Marriage and Family Therapy Program at the University of Minnesota. He lives in St. Paul, Minnesota.
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Table of Contents

Pt. I Morality in the Practice of Psychotherapy
Ch. 1 Psychotherapy and Moral Responsibility 3
Ch. 2 Commitment 21
Ch. 3 Justice 47
Ch. 4 Truthfulness 69
Ch. 5 Community 89
Pt. II The Moral Character of the Therapist
Ch. 6 Caring 115
Ch. 7 Courage 139
Ch. 8 Prudence 163
Postscript: Finding a Good Therapist and Creating Moral Communities Among Therapists 181
References 191
Index 203
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