Ethics and Psychotherapy – 11

The last chapter by Tjeltveit is titled “Shaping Psychotherapy’s Ethical Character.” As he brings the book to a close, Tjeltveit reiterates that counseling goals really ought to be of benefit to clients and to the society as a whole. This give psychotherapists quite a bit of latitude in terms of goals – in part because there again are so many different stakeholders invested in defining goals.


In a section on dialogue, Tjeltveit discusses both broad and focused dialogue. Broad dialogue refers to discussions with those who hold to different perspectives. Focused dialogues occur within communities – they do not have to argue for their broad worldview but they go deeper into questions of application in particular instances.


Tjeltveit suggests that ethical acuity is important for improving the ethical character of psychotherapy. He is referring here to the ability to see with greater clarity the ethical issues (and the various alternatives) that pertain to psychotherapy.


Another term that is also introduced is ethical articulacy, which Tjeltveit sees as communicating our ethical ideals. He would like to see us be more explicit based upon the assumption that the more explicit we are about ethics the better (for ethical decision-making).


For reflection: What do you think of Tjeltveit’s suggestions for making gains in the area of ethical decision-making? What about being in dialogue with those with whom you disagree? Have you had that experience? How was it?


5 thoughts on “Ethics and Psychotherapy – 11

  1. I was beginning to feel pretty pessimistic as I read the book, because I was starting to think that who I am, and why I went into this field had become obsolete. That clients weren’t going to be able to count on me to help them make smart decisions in their life, because I was going to be constrained by all these attempts to make therapy value-free. It was a relief to learn that my experiences matter.

    In regards to the dialogue, I love how you become more mature from having broad dialogues with passionate people. But it is critical that you are strong and clear in your own beliefs, so that you can listen to another’s point of view without either becoming wishy-washy and jumping bandwagons or becoming defensive.

    I have had a mixed bag in terms of experiences. When the conversation is around a subject that I feel strong and convicted, then I can enjoy the discourse, but when I am not sure that I can defend my belief, then I tend to stand back and learn from others.

  2. I like what Tjeltveit had to say about the different kinds of dialogues and the purposes they serve. When I was at Calvin, you did not typically argue for a Reformed perspective; rather, you began there and went deeper with that perspective being more foundational. At other institutions, you may need to make your case to someone whose theology is quite different – and you do this before you ever get to the topic you want to dialogue about. How much more so when you then engage in broad dialogue with others who do not hold to a theistic worldview, let alone Christian or (in my case) Reformed? But these kinds of broad dialogues are important and can be beneficial to all involved.

  3. I’ve experienced many disagreements when in discussion with regards to ethical stand points. What I have taken away from it, which is duly reinforced by the postmodernistic thinking is…

    It is many times not an either-or situation, but a multi-modal situation. I can learn to appreciate my fellow brother’s disagreements to inform me what I might have missed out.

    This puts me in a position where I am able to be more aware of a broader implications when I am in a specific situation.

    Still working on saying good bye to black-and-white thinking. 🙂

    Thanks for the summaries of the books, and the critical questioning at the end of each blog post. Have been helpful.

    That’s why it took me such a long time to get to this post. 🙂

  4. Tjeltveit’s discussion on the need for both broad and focused dialogues made some good points. Both are necessary and bring different things to the table. Because some of the field, particularly those working with the underserved, have begun to move toward a more integrated model, these transdisciplinary dialogues can provide a lot of insight and growth. This can lead to improved service to those in need. I also like the point Lori made here on how for her it was necessary for her to first have strong convictions before engaging in these broader dialogues. I feel the same way, in that if I did not have a strong conviction I would rather just sit back and listen and think about what was being said as opposed to actively defending something for which I do not have strong convictions. Focused dialogues also have potential, which can be seen in the growth of integration of psychology and Christianity. I think it has allowed for better and more relevant service to those who are seeking to have their faith brought into their therapy session.

  5. I do something similar, I think. I tend to sit back and observe when I do not have strong convictions about a topic. Occasionally, I will do the ‘devil’s advocate’ thing, but introverts generally like to listen and process the information.

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