Lecture – Psychotherapy as an Ethical Process

Available with English captions.

The Priscilla Aikenhead Lecture
Robert P. Drozek, LICSW, McLean Hospital

In This Presentation

What role does ethics play in the practice of psychotherapy? In everyday clinical work, therapists and patients alike tend to view ethics and morality as a side issue—demarcating the boundaries of acceptable and unacceptable behavior—but not central to the therapeutic endeavor. In contrast with this perspective, Drozek considers the foundational importance of ethical experience in the therapeutic relationship, as well as the essential role that ethics might play in our clinical formulations and technique.

Empirical research is reviewed on the relevance of ethics to psychopathology, psychological well-being, therapeutic change, and our models of psychotherapy. Synthesizing theorizing from ethical theory, relational psychoanalysis, and mentalization-based treatment (MBT), Drozek offers an ethically grounded vision of clinical process, wherein therapist and patient are engaged in the co-construction of an intersubjective space that is progressively more consistent with their intrinsic worth as human beings.

The presentation includes a review of technical strategies from the treatment of patients with severe personality disorders, illustrating the utility of explicitly and thoughtfully introducing ethics into the heart of the therapeutic process.