A ringing, persuasive call for injecting moral considerations -- both personal and political -- into the often self-oriented...


SOUL SEARCHING: Why Psychotherapy Must Promote Moral Responsibility

A ringing, persuasive call for injecting moral considerations -- both personal and political -- into the often self-oriented world of psychotherapy. A psychologist who is director of family therapy at the Univ. of Minnesota and coauthor of Medical Family Therapy (not reviewed), Doherty rightly decries the fact that therapists tend to be ""more comfortable with the language of techniques than with the language of morality."" He advocates that clinicians help their clients not only to achieve greater self-fulfillment but to become sensitive to interpersonal ethics -- such as commitment to relationships and the need for just behavior and truthfulness in those relationships. Similarly, while mental health professionals sometimes reduce clients' communal and political activism to an escape from emotional problems, Doherty asks, ""Are we helping clients create psychological cocoons for themselves at the expense of their communities?"" Along with such contemporary communitarian thinkers as Amitai Etzioni and Mary Ann Glendon, he extols engagement in larger societal concerns as beneficial for individual psychic health as well as for the common weal. Doherty concludes with short sections on how the therapist might strive towards a moral practice, exploring such concepts as personal courage (i.e., in clinical interventions). His final short, helpful section tells how to find a morally good therapist. Doherty's approach is balanced, for he does not believe that therapists should be ethically prescriptive but that they should serve as ""moral consultants."" Still, once or twice, Doherty goes too far, as when he relates giving a client her senator's phone number when she raises concerns about US policy during the Gulf War. And his chapter on prudence (in interpretations or other interventions) seems less about morality than about good clinical practice. Overall, a finely nuanced, beautifully written work, one that is rich in case studies and should help clinicians and patients alike to move therapy beyond the morally sterile culture of narcissism in which it's too often stuck.

Pub Date: April 26, 1995

ISBN: 046500945X

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Basic

Review Posted Online: N/A

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 1995