Pavlov’s Dawgs – Practice

Pavlov’s Dawgs are not playing for a couple of more weeks due to the nature of the intramural schedule. Did we take the time off? No, we had practice. Eight of us met at another church to practice for a couple of hours. The best part about this other church is that the court is about 30% shorter than what we normally play on. Very nice for those of us who are still working on conditioning. The big news, however, was that no one was injured! If you have been following our season, you realize how important that is to the Dawgs. It looks like the Dawgs need to win the next two games to make the playoffs, so we will take one game at a time (and they are scheduled on the same day!) and go from there.

The Psychology of Judgmentalism – 2


In his book Making Judgments Without Being Judgmental, Terry Cooper distinguishes healthy judgment and judgmentalism by pointing to seven key distinctives (these are from Table 2.1, p. 28). The first distinctive is that healthy judgment is characerized by concern, whereas judgmentalism does not reflect concern for others. The second distinctive is that healthy judgment trusts others until given a reason not to; judgmentalism reads the minds of others, particularly motives. Third, healthy judgment reflects tolerance such that one holds moral concepts but does so in (with) love; judgmentalism holds onto moral concepts with intolerance toward others.

The fourth distinctive Terry Cooper identifies is that healthy judgment denounces behavior or ideas but not people; judgmentalism denounces the person. The fifth distinctive is that healthy judgment is open, recognizing tensions with a person’s own posiiton, while judgmentalism is characterized by “absolute certainty” (p. 28). Sixth, healthy judgment takes time – it is reasoned over time, while judgmentalism is reflected in quick or rash decisions based often in emotion. Finally, healthy judgment is unafraid of a careful decision-making process; judgmentalism is found in unreflective thinking.

For reflection: Do these capture the essential differences between healthy judgment and judgmentalism?  Are there other distinctives that are missing from this analysis? Can you think of practical examples of any of these characteristics of either healthy judgment or judgmentalism?

Ethics and Psychotherapy – 6


We are continuing our discussion of Tjeltveit’s book, Ethics and Values in Psychotherapy. In Chapter 7 Tjeltveit discusses the “social context of psychotherapy,” that is, he locates the practice of psychotherapy in the context of how it functions within society. He discusses psychotherapy’s medical heritage including bioethics and medical ethics and the two emphases of “the idea of the professional and a focus on the individual client” (p. 132). Other influences from medicine include reductionism in the form of limiting psychotherapy’s focus to a medical focus of symptom reduction. He seems to suggest that there is much more to biopsychosocial problems than merely what is understood in terms of a “medical issue”.

The other major social context in which psychotherapy occurs is business. Psychotherapy has become a “business relationship” (p. 139) in which there is an exchange of services that occurs in the context of economics (in which resources either contribute or impeded goals being met) and limited financial resources (of third-party payors, including government, insurance companies, employers, and so on). There is a risk of a kind of “ethical reductionism” (p. 141) to the extent that businesses “consider economic considerations alone” (p. 141).

For reflection: Do you agree with Tjeltveit that psychotherapy occurs in the social contexts of its medical heritage and business? How do you see these social contexts shaping the field and the practice of psychotherapy for good or for ill?

Tests of Parenting

Here is another quote from the “opening reflections” in Family Therapy. Again, these are readings on family from a Christian worldview. The quote is from On Being Family: A Social Theology of Family by Ray Anderson and Dennis Guernsey.  

Perhaps one of the greatest tests of parenting is the capacity to allow significant development and change in personality without breaking contact with the person being parented. A professional therapist must learn how to do this if the therapy is to be effective. But this is not a matter of professional training: it is actually a matter of love. “Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things,” wrote the apostle Paul (1 Cor. 13:7). Love “takes hold” of the other person without letting go, and thus frees the other from all other determinations…. The only mark left upon another person who becomes a free and whole person through parenting is the capacity to love. Because this mark is not an imprint of the personality of the one who parents in love, the significant link is the covenant that is remembered and kept. Not to forget one’s parents but rather to honor them is both the responsibility and the joy of one who has become free through parenting. (p. 65)

Update: We actually discussed this quote at the beginning of class today. The part that resonated with one student in particular was the line “But this is not a matter of professional training; it is a matter of love.” It is hard as a parent to “let go” as children get older. The authors want to say that the therapist has a similar task – to “let go” – to be in a relationship in which people grow and get better and move on. Someone once remarked that the role of the therapist is to work themselves out of a job.

Pavlov’s Dawgs – 3


Pavlov’s Dawgs secured their first win of the season tonight! It was a pretty even first half, but we were able to pull away a little more in the second half. If you’ve been following the Dawgs, you know that we have been down four players since the opening few minutes of our first game. All ankle injuries. Sprained ankles, hairline fracture – you name it. But we had two of the four players back tonight and the Dawgs were able to put together a decent game. I should also mention that the Dawgs’ fan base is very impressive. I’m not sure they have a name yet: The Dawg House? The Kennel? Also, I’ve managed to locate a more recent team photo (from last season). Strange that we now have almost a month off before our next game. I’m not sure who sets the schedule, but a little rest sounds pretty good about now.

The Psychology of Judgmentalism


In Ethics this spring, we are reading for our opening reflections excerpts from Terry Cooper’s Making Judgments without Being Judgmental: Nurturing a Clear Mind and a Generous Heart. A main purpose of the book is to help the reader understand the difference between judgmentalism and the capacity to make moral judgments. Practically speaking, this might entail retaining the capacity to make sounds moral judgments, which he sees as absolutely necessary, while avoiding being a judgmental person. In Chapter One he discusses some of what he sees as the psychology of being judgmental, insofar as it involves avoiding our own condition:

We may not consciously be aware that tearing down others can inflate ourselves. Yet the underlying message is something like, I wouldn’t think of doing such a thing, or I could never do that or I am shocked and aghast at such behavior. We are usually noting how utterly different we are from these people or how we would simply never sink to their level. Criticizing others is not  just an offensive move against them; it is also a defensive move to protect our own “purity.”When we are judgmental, therefore, we need other people’s faults in order to dodge our own. Stated simply, judgmental thinking is addicted to other people’s faults or destructive behavior. Judgmentalism finds its identity in what it is not. (p. 23)

Ethics and Psychotherapy – 5


In Chapter 6 Tjeltveit discusses “the intellectual contexts of psychotherapy.” He argues that psychotherapy is necessarily rooted in ethics precisely because the goals of therapy involve aiding clients in living better lives. The implicit (if not explicit) assumption is that some ways of living are better than other ways of living. This is a similar critique to those who have addressed this concern from an explicitly Christian worldview, such as Jones and Butman’s Modern Psychotherapies and Robert Roberts’ Taking the Word to Heart. In other words, it has been argued that each model of therapy provides a “map” for getting from one place (disorder, dysfunction, etc.) to another (health, improved functioning, etc.). But these are more than just ways to get from “here” to “there”; they are theories with assumptions about what is wrong and what is right – including assumptions about what better ways to live and relate to others and understand oneself.

In any case, Tjeltveit goes on to discuss “old” and “new” psychology and the contributions of each to ethical contours in therapy. He then discusses the perspective of those who think psychotherapists essentially strive to base decisions on science alone in responding to ethical issues. He has a great quote from Beutler (1989, p. 4):

Our mentors have implied, if not overtly said, that if it only were possible surgically to remove the therapist’s values, he or she would be a more effective clinician. In the greatest of therapeutic paradoxes, a valueless clinician is valued. (p. 111)

Tjeltveit unpacks a number of issues, and he reasons that “The scientific context of psychotherapy has both shaped and obscured psychotherapy’s ethical dimensions in a variety of ways” (p. 130). But we have erred on the side of avoiding “ethical discourse” based upon our current “understandings of science” (p. 130). Tjeltveit sees both science and ethics as interrelated in part because scientists themselves necessarily rely upon ethics in so many facets of their work. For the author the ability to reflect on ethics is helpful in part because scientists can then either decide to reduce the influence of those values or recognize and use specific values more intentionally (or “wisely”) as he puts it (p. 128).

For reflection: In what ways is your approach to (or practice of) psychotherapy based upon science? In what ways is your approach to (or practice of) psychotherapy based upon ethics? How do you experience these as related?