Ethics and Psychotherapy – 3


In Chapter 4, Tjeltveit discusses approaches that form the basis for making ethical assertions: aretaic (ethic of character), teleologic (ethic of consequence), and deontic (ethic of duty or obligation). He distinguishes between moral judgment (having to do with rules or ideals that say whether behavior is right or wrong) and nonmoral judgment (which he sees mental health values as falling under, although he recognizes some overlap with moral judgment). Tjeltveit also writes about how we come to know what is right – he mentions tradition, reason, science, relationships/community, hermeneutics, and so on. He closes the chapter by discussing the importance of including religion in discussions of ethical theory:

We can therefore conclude that, since some therapist and many clients base their values, and their ethical theory, in some substantial measure on their religious or spiritual convictions, no account of values and ethics in therapy that claims to be adequate and comprehensive can ignore religion and spirituality. (p. 81)

For reflection: For the psychotherapist, what are the practical implications of the relevance of religion on ethical theory?

Integration in Statistics?

I tend to teach courses that lend themselves to discussions of integration: Ethics, Family Therapy, Psychopathology, Human Sexuality. Other courses, however, can sometimes seem removed from integration discussions. One such course is statistics. I recently came across an article by Jan Geertsema on a Christian perspective on Statistics as a discipline. Here’s Geertsema’s conclusion:

It has been pointed out that study of these questions is the responsibility of a Christian statistician in order to form a single integrated world and life view. But the view of Statistics sketched here also has implications for the teaching of Statistics by the Christian. Students should not only be taught “the facts” which modern textbooks present. They should also know that there are different presumptions as to what constitutes a “fact,” as well as different interpretations and uses of them. Students should therefore be helped to realize that belief, and thus their own belief, is connected to the subject which they are studying.  

Geertsema discusses various contexts in which statistics might be viewed (e.g., Historical, Scientific, and Social) and argues for the place of a Christian view of statistics.

Ethics and Values in Psychotherapy – 2


In Chapter 3 of his book, Ethics and Values in Psychotherapy, Alan Tjeltveit defines an ethicist, and he makes the distinction between psychotherapist as ethicist and moralist. An ethicist is someone who has knowledge and perhaps training, who shows discernment, careful evaluation, and good judgement, and who is recognized for these qualities within a community. Ethicists hold ethical convictions and influence others either directly or indirectly. According to Tjeltveit, an psychotherapist/ethicist can function in many ways, such as teaching, consulting, coaching, and advocacy, to name a few. While an ethicist creates space for others to reason, draw their own conclusions, and make their own decisions, a moralist is one who attempts to impose his or her beliefs upon others.

For reflection: What influences exist that would lead a Christian psychotherapist toward being an either an ethicist or a moralist?  

For What It’s Worth: Stealing Cats

Dog lovers and cat lovers may never agree on which is the superior pet. In Virginia, they might look at the legal books for guidance. I was reading in the Link (our local magazine from the VA Pilot) that in Virginia it is a misdemeanor to steal a cat, but it is a felony to steal a dog. Apparently, you can get as much as a year for stealing a cat; you can get up to 10 years for stealing a dog. There is a push in Richmond now to make stealing a cat a felony so that cat lovers will feel better about the penalty as a deterrent and dog lovers will not be so arrogant. I don’t know – as a dog owner with little interest in cats, the difference sounds about right to me.

Sin and Grace in Christian Counseling


Mark McMinn’s (George Fox University) new book just came out. It is Sin and Grace in Christian Counseling: An Integrative Paradigm. Mark extends a discussion he and Clark Campbell began in Integrative Psychotherapy on the functional, structural, and relational domains of the imago Dei as a basis for an integrative approach to psychology and counseling (as well as a practical/applied/clinical outworking of what he wrote in Why Sin Matters). I think it will be particularly attractive to people on both sides of the integration versus biblical counseling discussions.

APA Resolution on Religion and Prejudice

Last fall the American Psychological Association’s (APA’s) Council of Representatives passed a resolution dealing with religion, religion-based prejudice, and religion-derived prejudice. The citation is as follows: American Psychological Association Council of Representatives. (2007). Resolution on religious, religion-based and/or religion-derived prejudice. August, 2007.

 August 2007

 That Council adopts the following resolution as APA policy:

 Resolution on Religious, Religion-Based and/or Religion-Derived Prejudice


Prejudice based on or derived from religion and anti-religious prejudice have been, and continue to be, a cause of significant suffering in the human condition. APA’s policy statement on Prejudice, Stereotypes, and Discrimination provides operational definitions for prejudices, stereotypes and interpersonal and institutional discrimination. The resolution specifically states, “prejudices are unfavorable affective reactions to or evaluations of groups and their members, stereotypes are generalized beliefs about groups and their members, interpersonal discrimination is differential treatment by individuals toward some groups and their members relative to other groups and their members, and institutional discrimination involves policies and contexts that create, enact, reify, and maintain inequality (American Psychological Association, 2006) .” Prejudice directed against individuals and groups based on their religious or spiritual beliefs, practice, adherence, identification or affiliation has resulted in a wide range of discriminatory practices. Such discrimination has been carried out by individuals, groups and by governments. Examples of non-governmental discrimination based on religion include social ostracism against individuals based on their religion, desecration of religious buildings or sites, and violence or other hate crimes targeted towards adherents of particular faith traditions (U.S. Department of State, 2004). Prejudice and discrimination based on religion and/or spirituality continue to be problems even in countries that otherwise have achieved a high level of religious liberty and pluralism. Governmental discrimination based on religion has taken both covert and overt forms. Current examples of covert religious discrimination include government surveillance of religious speech, pejorative labeling by governmental bodies of certain religious groups as ‘cults’ with a resulting loss of religious freedoms, and a lack of legal protection for citizens that are from non-majority faiths who are victims of religious hate crimes (Center for Religious Freedom, 2001, 2003; U.S. Department of State, 2004). Prejudice based on or derived from religion has been used to justify discrimination, prejudice, and human rights violations against those holding different religious beliefs, those who profess no religious beliefs, individuals of various ethnicities, women, those who are not exclusively heterosexual, and other individuals and groups depending on perceived theological justification or imperative.

Indeed, it is a paradoxical feature of these kinds of prejudices that religion can be both target and victim of prejudice, as well as construed as justification and imperative for prejudice. The right of a person to practice their religion or faith does not and cannot entail a right to harm others or to undermine the public good. This situation is further complicated by the increasing tendency of individuals to identify as ‘spiritual’ apart from any identification or affiliation with a religious tradition (Hill & Pargament, 2003). It is as of yet unclear what impact on the relationships between spirituality and prejudice this increasing trend towards non-institutionalized spirituality may produce.

While many individuals and groups have been victims of anti-religious discrimination, religion itself has also been the source of a wide range of beliefs, attitudes, and behaviors towards other individuals (Donahue & Nielsen, 2005). Several decades of psychological research have found complicated relationships between measures of religiousness and measures of prejudice (Allport, 1954/1979; Allport & Ross, 1967; Gorsuch & Aleshire, 1974; Spilka, Hood, Hunsberger, & Gorsuch, 2003). Dozens of studies have reported positive linear relationships between measures of conventional religiousness, such as frequency of church attendance or fundamentalism scale elevations, and measures of negative social attitudes such as prejudice, dogmatism or authoritarianism (Altemeyer, 1988; Altemeyer & Hunsberger, 1992, 2005). Yet, Allport (1950) and his colleagues (Allport & Ross, 1967) observed that the relationship between religion and prejudice is curvilinear rather than linear, with highly religious individuals having lower levels of prejudice than marginally religious adherents. This finding has been relatively robust over numerous subsequent studies on religion and prejudice using self-report measures (Batson & Stocks, 2005; Gorsuch & Aleshire, 1974). Recent research, using non-self report measures, has found an even more complex and varied sets of relationships between diverse types of personal religiousness and prejudice indicators (Batson & Stocks, 2005). As Allport (1954/1979) concluded “the role of religion is paradoxical. It makes prejudice and it unmakes prejudice” (p. 444). While religious motivations and rationales for violent conflicts, social oppression of religious outgroups or norm violators, and the reinforcement of prejudicial stereotypes are readily adducible, it is also true that religious motivations and rationales have been key factors contributing to prosocial developments such as the abolition of slavery (Harvey, 2000; Herek, 1987; Hunsberger, 1996; Rambo, 1993; Rodriguez & Ouellete, 2000; Silberman, 2005; Stark, 2003). This complex relationship between religion and psychosocial variables has led to multiple models of the relationship between forms of religiousness and psychological adjustment (Allport, 1950; Altemeyer, 2003; Batson, Schoenrade, & Ventis, 1993; Krikpatrick, 2005; Watson, Sawyer, Morris, Carpenter, Jemenez, Jonas, & Robinson, 2003). A common motif across these models is that it is the way one is religious rather than merely whether one is religious that is determinative of psychosocial outcomes (Donohue, 1985). It is important for psychology as a behavioral science, and various faith traditions as theological systems, to acknowledge and respect their profoundly different methodological, epistemological, historical, theoretical and philosophical bases. Psychology has no legitimate function in arbitrating matters of faith and theology; and faith traditions have no legitimate place arbitrating behavioral or other sciences. While both traditions may arrive at public policy perspectives operating out of their own traditions, the bases for these perspectives are substantially different.

WHEREAS religion is an important influence in the lives of the vast majority of people, is ubiquitous in human cultures, and is becoming increasingly diverse throughout the world (Brown, 2005; Eck, 2001; Hoge, 1996; Genia, 2000; Richards & Bergin, 2000; Shafranske, 1996); and

WHEREAS the American Psychological Association opposes prejudice and discrimination based upon age, race, ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation, gender, gender identity or physical condition (American Psychological Association, 2002); and

WHEREAS, psychologists respect the dignity and worth of all people and are committed to improving the condition of individuals, organizations, and society; and psychologists are aware of and respect cultural, individual, and role differences among individuals, including (but not limited to) those based on ethnicity, national origin, and religion (American Psychological Association, 2002); and

WHEREAS the American Psychological Association has recognized the profound negative psychological consequences of hate crimes motivated by prejudice (APA council, 2005), and

WHEREAS prejudice against individuals and groups based on their religion or spirituality, and prejudice based on or derived from religion continue to result in various forms of harmful discrimination perpetuated by private individuals, social groups, and governments in both covert and overt forms (Balakian, 2004; Center for Religious Freedom, 2001, 2003; Marshall, 2000; Yakovlev, 2004; U.S. Department of State, 2004); and

WHEREAS the experience of pluralistic cultures which embrace religious liberty shows that a variety of religious faiths and non-religious worldviews can peacefully co-exist while maintaining substantial doctrinal, valuative, behavioral, and organizational differences, (Byrd, 2002; Eck, 2001; Marshall, 2000); and

WHEREAS understanding and respecting patient/client spirituality and religiosity are important in conducting culturally-sensitive research, psychological assessment and treatment (Hathaway, Scott, & Garver, 2004; McCullough, 1999; Richards & Bergin, 1997; Shafranske, 1996; Worthington & Sandage, 2001); and

WHEREAS evidence exists that religious and spiritual factors are under-examined in psychological research both in terms of their prevalence within various research populations and in terms of their possible relevance as influential variables (Emmons & Paloutzian, 2003; Hill & Pargament, 2003; King & Boyatzis, 2004; Miller & Thoresen, 2003, Weaver et al., 1998), and

WHEREAS contemporary psychology, religious and spiritual traditions all address the human condition, they often do so from distinct presuppositions, approaches to knowledge, and social roles and contexts and, while these differences can be enriching and may stimulate fruitful interaction between these domains, they also can present opportunities for misunderstanding and tension around areas of shared concern (Emmons & Paloutzian, 2003; Gould, 2002; Haldeman, 2004; Miller & Delaney, 2004; Van Leeuwen, 1982), and

WHEREAS religion and spirituality can promote beliefs, attitudes, values and behaviors that can dramatically impact human life in ways that are either enhancing or diminishing of the wellbeing of individuals or groups (Allport, 1950; Altemeyer & Hunsberger, 1992, 2005; Silberman, 2005; Stark, 2003),

THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED that the American Psychological Association condemns prejudice and discrimination against individuals or groups based on their religious or spiritual beliefs, practices, adherence or background.

THEREFORE BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that the American Psychological Association condemns prejudice directed against individuals or groups, derived from or based on religious or spiritual beliefs.

THEREFORE BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that the American Psychological Association take a leadership role in opposing discrimination based on or derived from religion or spirituality and encouraging commensurate consideration of religion and spirituality as diversity variables.  

THEREFORE BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that the American Psychological Association encourages all psychologists to act to eliminate discrimination based on or derived from religion and spirituality.

THEREFORE BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that the American Psychological Association encourages actions that promote religious and spiritual tolerance, liberty, and respect, in all arenas in which psychologists work and practice, and in society at large.

THEREFORE BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that the American Psychological Association views no religious, faith or spiritual tradition, or lack of tradition, as more deserving of protection than another and that the American Psychological Association gives no preference to any particular religious or spiritual conventions.

THEREFORE BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that the American Psychological Association will include information on prejudice and discrimination based on religion and spirituality in its multicultural and diversity training material and activities.

THEREFORE BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that the American Psychological Association encourages the dissemination of relevant empirical findings about the psychological correlates of religious/spiritual beliefs, attitudes, and behaviors to concerned stakeholders with full sensitivity to the profound differences between psychology and religion/spirituality.

THEREFORE BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that the American Psychological Association encourages individuals and groups to work against any potential adverse psychological consequences to themselves, others or society, that might arise from religious or spiritual attitudes, practices or policies.

THEREFORE BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that psychologists are encouraged to be mindful of their distinct disciplinary and professional roles when approaching issues of shared concern with religious adherents.

THEREFORE BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that psychologists are encouraged to recognize that it is outside the role and expertise of psychologists as psychologists to adjudicate religious or spiritual tenets, while also recognizing that psychologists can appropriately speak to the psychological implications of religious/spiritual beliefs or practices when relevant psychological findings about those implications exist. Those operating out of religious/spiritual traditions are encouraged to recognize that it is outside their role and expertise to adjudicate empirical scientific issues in psychology, while also recognizing they can appropriately speak to theological implications of psychological science.

THEREFORE BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that psychologists are careful to prevent bias from their own spiritual, religious or non-religious beliefs from taking precedence over professional practice and standards or scientific findings in their work as psychologists.

THEREFORE BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that the American Psychological Association encourages collaborative activities in pursuit of shared prosocial goals between psychologists and religious communities when such collaboration can be done in a mutually respectful manner that is consistent with psychologists’ professional and scientific roles.


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Allport, (1979). The nature of prejudice. Reading, MA: Addison-Wesley. (Original work published 1954).

Allport, G.W., & Ross, M.J. (1967). Personal religious orientation and prejudice. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 5, 432-443.

Altemeyer, B. (1988). Enemies of freedom: Understanding right-wing authoritarianism. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

Altemeyer, B. (2003). Why do religious fundamentalists tend to be prejudiced? The International Journal for the Psychology of Religion, 13, 17-28.

Altemeyer, B., & Hunsberger, B. (1992). Authoritarianism, religious fundamentalism, quest, and prejudice. International Journal for the Psychology of Religion, 2, 113-133.

Altemeyer, B., & Hunsberger, B. (2005). Fundamentalism and authoritarianism. In R.F. Paloutizian & C.L. Park (Eds.), Handbook of the psychology of religion and spirituality (pp. 378-393). New York: Guilford Press.

American Psychological Association. (2002). Ethical principles of psychologists and code of conduct. Washington, DC: Author.

American Psychological Association Council of Representatives. (2005). Resolution on Hate Crimes. February, 2005.

American Psychological Association Council of Representatives (2006). APA Resolution on Prejudice, Stereotypes, and Discrimination, February, 2006.

Balakian, P. (2004). Burning Tigris, The Armenian Genocide and America’s Response. New York: Harper-Collins.

Batson, C.D., Schoenrade, P., & Ventis, W.L. (1993). Religion and the individual: A social-psychological perspective. New York: Oxford University Press.

Batson, C.D., & Stocks, C.L. (2005). Religion and prejudice. In J.F. Davidio,P. Glick, & LA. Rudman (Eds.), On the nature of prejudice: Fifty years after Allport. (pp. 413-427). Malden, MA: Blackwell.

Bergin, A.E., & Jensen, J.P. (1990). Religiosity of psychotherapists: A national survey. Psychotherapy, 27, 3-6.

Brown, K. (2005). Does psychology of religion exist? European Psychologist, 10, 71-73.Byrd, J.P., Jr. (2002). The challenges of Roger Williams: Religious liberty, violent persecution and the Bible. Macon, GA: Mercer University Press.

Center for Religious Freedom (2003). The rise of Hindu extremism and repression of Christian and Muslim minorities in India. Washington, DC: Author.

Center for Religious Freedom (2001). Massacre at the Millennium: A Report on the Murder of 21 Christians in Al-Kosheh, Egypt in January 2000 and the Failure of Justice. Washington, DC: Author.

Day, Dorothy (1997). Loaves & fishes: A history of the Catholic Workers Movement. Maryknoll, NY: Orbis Books.

Donahue, M.J. (1985). Intrinsic and extrinsic religiousness: Review and meta-analysis. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 48, 400-419.

Donahue, M.J., & Nielsen, M.E. (2005). Religion, attitudes, and social behavior. In R.F. Paloutizian & C.L. Park (Eds.), Handbook of the psychology of religion and spirituality (pp. 274-291). New York: Guilford Press.Eck, D.L (2001). A new religious America. San Francisco: Harper.

Emmons, R.A., & Paloutzian, R.F. (2003). The psychology of religion. Annual Review of Psychology, 54, 377-402.

Gallup, G., Jr., & Lindsay, D.M. (1999). Surveying the religious landscape: Trends in U.S. beliefs. Harrisburg, PA: Morehouse.Genia, V. (2000). Religious issues in secularly based psychotherapy. Counseling and Values, 44, 213-222.

Ghandi, M.K. (2001). Nonviolent restistance. London: Dover Publications.

Gorsuch, R.L., & Aleshire, D.(1974). Christian faith and ethnic prejudice: A review and interpretation of research. Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion, 28, 348-354.

Gould, S. J. (2002). Rock of ages: Science and religion in the fullness of life. New York: Ballantine Books.

Haldemen, D.C. (2004). When sexual and religious orientation collide: Considerations in working with conflicted same-sex attracted male clients. Counseling Psychologist, 32, 691-715.

Harvey, P. (2000). An introduction to Buddhist ethics. New York: Cambridge University Press.

Hathaway, W.L., Scott, S.Y., & Garver, S.A. (2004). Assessing religious/spiritual functioning: A neglected domain in clinical practice? Professional Psychology: Research and Practice, 35, 97-104.

Herek, G.M. (1987). Religious orientation and prejudice: A comparison of racial and sexual attitudes. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 13, 33-44.

Hill, P.C., & Pargament, K.I. (2003). Advances in the conceptualization and measurement of religion and spirituality: Implications for physical and mental health research. American Psychologist, 58, 64-74.

Hunsberger, B. (1996). Religious fundamentalism, right-wing authoritarianism, and hostility towards homosexuals in non-Christian religious groups. International Journal for the Psychology of Religion, 6, 39-49.

Keller, R.R. (2000). Religious diversity in North America. In P. S. Richards & A.E. Bergin (Eds.), Handbook of psychotherapy and religious diversity (pp. 27-55). Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.

King, M.L. (1969). Why we can’t wait. New York: Signet.King, P.E., & Boyatzis, C.J. (2004). Exploring adolescent spiritual and religious development: Current and future theoretical and empirical perspectives. Applied Developmental Science, 8, 2-6. Kirkpatrick, L.A. (2005). Evolutionary psychology: An emerging new foundation for the psychology of religion. In R.F. Paloutizian & C.L. Park (Eds.), Handbook of the psychology of religion and spirituality (pp. 101-119). New York: Guilford Press.

Marshall, P. (2000). Religious freedom in the world: A global report on freedom and persecution. Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman Publishers.

McCullough, M.E. (1999). Research on religion-accommodative counseling: Review and meta-analysis. Journal of Counseling Psychology, 46, 92-98.

Miller, W.R, & Delaney, H.D. (2005). Psychology as the science of human nature: Reflections and research directions. In W.R. Miller & H.D. Delaney, Eds., Judeo-Christian perspectives on psychology: Human nature, motivation and change (pp. 291-308). Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.

Miller, W.R., & Thoresen, C.E. (2003). Spirituality, religion and health: An emerging research field. American Psychologist, 58, 24-35.

Rambo, L.R. (1993). Understanding religious conversion. New Haven: Yale University Press.

Regan, C., Malony, H.N., & Beit-Hallahmi, B. (1980). Psychologists and religion: Professional factors and personal beliefs. Review of Religious Research, 21, 208-217.

Richards, P.S. & Bergin, A.E. (1997). A spiritual strategy for counseling and psychotherapy. Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.

Richards, P.S. & Bergin, A.E. (2000). Toward religious and spiritual competency for mental health professionals. In P. S. Richards & A.E. Bergin (Eds.), Handbook of psychotherapy and religious diversity (pp. 3-26). Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.

Rodriguez, E.M., & Ouellete, S.C. (2000). Gay and lesbian Christians: Homosexual and religious identity integration in the members of a gay-positive church. Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion, 39, 333-347.

Shafranske, E.P. (1996). Introduction: Foundation for the consideration of religion in the clinical practice of psychology. In E.P. Shafranske, (Ed.), Religion in the clinical practice of psychology (pp. 1-17). Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.

Silberman, I. (2005). Religious violence, terrorism, and peace: A meaning-system analysis. In R.F. Paloutizian & C.L. Park (Eds.), Handbook of the psychology of religion and spirituality (pp. 529-549). New York: Guilford Press.

Spilka, B., Hood, R.W., Hunsberger, B., & Gorsuch, R.L. (2003). The psychology of religion: An empirical approach (3rd ed.) New York: Guilford Press.

Stark, R. (2003). For the glory of God: How monotheism led to reformation, science, witch-hunts, and the end of slavery. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.

U.S. Committee for Refugees (2004). World Refugee Survey 2004. Washington, DC: Author.

U.S. Department of State (2004). Annual report on international religious freedom. Washington, DC: Author.

Van Leeuwen, M.S. (1982). The sorcerer’s apprentice: A Christian looks at the changing face of psychology. Downer’s Grove, IL: Inter Varsity Press.

Watson, P.J., Sawyer, P., Morris, R.J., Carpenter, M.I., Jemenez, R.S., Jonas, K.A., & Robinson, D.L. (2003). Reanalysis within a Christian ideological surround: Relationships of intrinsic religious orientation with fundamentalism and right-wing authoritarianism. Journal of Psychology and Theology, 31, 315-328.

Weaver, A.J., Kline, A.E., Samford, J.A., Lucas, L.A., Larson, D.B., & Gorsuch, R.L. (1998). Is religion taboo in psychology? A systematic analysis of research on religion in seven major American Psychological Association journals: 1991-1994. Journal of Psychology and Christianity, 17, 220-232.

Worthington, E.L. & Sandage, S.J. (2001). Religion and spirituality. Psychotherapy, 38, 473-478.

Yakovlev, A.N. (2004). A century of violence in Soviet Russia. (A. Austin, translator). New Haven, CT: Yale University Press.

Ethics and Values in Psychotherapy – 1


In our Ethics course this spring we are reading Ethics and Values in Psychotherapy by Alan Tjeltveit. We recently discussed the first couple of chapters. Here’s a brief summary.

Tjeltveit’s thesis is that psychotherapy is value-laden; that it is invariably value-laden. In the opening two chapters he lays this out and in chapter one, especially, identifies competing views. Here they are:

  • Psychotherapy is inconsequentially value-laden
  • Psychotherapy involves only mental health values
  • Clients alone should choose therapy values
  • Psychotherapy ought to be based on science, not values
  • It is meaningless to claim that values or ethical assertions in psychotherapy can be true or correct
  • Psychotherapy is not value-free. So what?

He unpacks the meaning of each competing claim and then points out the difficulties inherent in that claim. For instance, the claim that Psychotherapy is inconsequentially value-laden makes the assertion that, yes, the psychotherapist could say to a client, “You should honor your marriage vow and return to your spouse and fulfill your responsibilities to your children” (p. 3). But what do most psychotherapists actually do? They say something like, “Sounds like you’re really feeling sad. How long has this been going on?” (p. 4). Tjeltveit’s response is to say is such a response really neutral? Or are their implicit values in responses we commonly identify as neutral?

His thesis is that psychotherapy is value-laden and that therapy – all therapy – necessarily involves goals that are value-laden. Goals reflect commitments to values and an ethical theory (at least an implicit one), and Tjeltveit reasons that  it can be helpful to reflect on ethical convictions and theories.

For reflection: What do you make of Tjeltveit’s thesis? What are your thougths about the competing views? More Tjeltveit to come!