1st Edition

The Ethical Visions of Psychotherapy

By Kevin Smith Copyright 2021
    112 Pages
    by Routledge

    112 Pages
    by Routledge

    The standard view of psychotherapy as a treatment for mental disorders can obscure how therapy functions as a social practice that promotes conceptions of human well-being. Building on the philosophy of Charles Taylor, Smith examines the link between therapy and ethics, and the roots of therapeutic aims in modern Western ideas about living well.

    This is one of two complementary volumes (the other being Therapeutic Ethics in Context and in Dialogue). This volume explores the links between therapeutic aims and conceptions of well-being. It examines several cognitive-behavioral and psychoanalytic therapies to illustrate how they can be distinguished by their divergent ethics. Smith argues that because research utilizing standard measures of efficacy shows little difference between the therapies, the assessment of their relative merits must include evaluation of their distinct ethical visions.

    A key text for upper level undergraduates, postgraduate students, and professionals in the fields of psychotherapy, psychoanalysis, theoretical psychology, and philosophy of mind.


    1. Introduction: The Means and Ends of Therapy
    2. The Ethics of Therapeutic Aims
    3. Therapeutic Ethics in "Technical" Therapies
    4. Different Therapies, Different Ethics: The Example of Psychoanalysis
    5. Psychotherapy Research: From Effective Techniques to Ethical Aspirations
    6. Conclusion: What Works? What Matters?




    Kevin R. Smith is Adjunct Associate Professor of Psychology at Duquesne University, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA. He is a psychotherapist in private practice in Pittsburgh and supervises the psychotherapy training of psychiatry residents and doctoral students in clinical psychology. He has published papers on psychotherapy and phenomenological psychology.

    "The Ethical Visions of Psychotherapy is a much-needed contemporary analysis of the ways in which psychotherapy is inextricably tied to visions of optimal human functioning, of flourishing, of what makes life worth living, of the good life. Kevin Smith insightfully uncovers these implicit ethical assumptions even in those psychotherapeutic approaches that are purportedly nothing but technical applications of scientific findings. The book is thus an invitation to the often-neglected task of exploring how ethical and psychological strands interweave in psychotherapy." -- Alan Tjeltveit, Professor of Psychology, Muhlenberg College, author of Ethics and Values in Psychotherapy

    "All too often our contemporary landscapes, be they international, national, social, ethnic, or professional, are torn asunder by relentless divisiveness and claims of rightness and superiority. Among the varied approaches to psychotherapeutic efforts, while the diversity of disciplines could well foster mutual learning and maturation, far too often the advocates of these models collapse into divisiveness and competitions that impoverish our opportunities to learn from one another. In these two volumes, Kevin Smith places ethics at the heart of these professional debates, examining and critiquing the values that divergent models of psychotherapy hold, both explicitly and implicitly, arguing that each represents a practice that promotes a particular vision of the good life. As a psychotherapist often drawn quite passionately into taking sides in these theory wars, I found in Smith’s book a quiet, deeply resourced perspective that allowed me to take a more reflective stance with regard to both the differences and the commonalities of contemporary models of psychotherapy. These books will be of great value to practitioners, researchers, scholars and teachers who value the reflective practice of the art, the science, and the philosophies of psychoanalysis and psychotherapy." -- William F. Cornell, author of Self-Examination in Psychoanalysis and Psychotherapy

    "Kevin Smith’s work is essential. Every single practitioner of psychotherapy should be familiar with Smith’s message, and should be aware of the issues it raises for their work, every moment of every day. Psychotherapy, Smith tells us, is not a technical exercise in the amelioration of problems. The aims and conduct of psychotherapy are not adequately described or measured in the terms of evidence-based practice. Every aspect of psychotherapy, from the way problems are defined to the means by which they are addressed, is an expression, often inadvertent, of what we believe makes life good. Psychotherapy of every variety is a social practice, and like all such practices, it promotes an ethic. Whether they are used to thinking of their work as an ethical endeavor or not, all psychotherapists spend their entire professional lives influencing those with whom they work to live in certain ways and not in others. Psychotherapists are far too little aware of what is, after all, the very (ethical) ground under their feet.

    Smith’s two books should be assigned in every psychotherapy training program and should be required reading for those who have finished formal training, regardless of their theoretical orientation (yes, I do mean to include the entire spectrum, from psychoanalysis to cognitive-behavioral therapy) or the profession of its matriculants. Psychologists, psychiatrists, social workers, counselors, clergy, psychiatric nurses, marriage and family therapists—all really do need to think through the issues presented here." -- Donnel B. Stern, Ph.D., William Alanson White Institute, author of The Infinity of the Unsaid