Lecture – Psychotherapy as an Ethical Process

Available with English captions.

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

What role does ethics play in the practice of psychotherapy?

In everyday clinical work, therapists and patients tend to view ethics and morality as something of a “side issue.” They often draw the boundaries of acceptable and unacceptable behavior. Yet, they do not make morality central to the process.

In contrast, Drozek considers the foundational importance of ethical experience in the therapeutic relationship. He examines the ethical approaches therapists traditionally take to psychotherapy.

He also looks at the concept of “ethical intersubjectivity.” This is the idea that the therapist’s own psychology influences the therapeutic process. Building on these topics, Drozek considers the key role that ethics might play in clinical formulations and technique.

Watch now and learn how to:

  • Recognize ethical vulnerabilities involved in psychopathology and therapeutic impasses
  • Identify ethical dimensions of processes of change in psychotherapy
  • Put in place therapeutic techniques that address patients’ capacities towards mentalization, empathy, and ethical functioning

Drozek draws on his background in philosophy, ethical theory, and social work as he considers many issues involving ethics and morality in psychotherapy. He discusses “self-focused attention,” or the cognitive bias often associated with depression, generalized anxiety, and social anxiety.

Also, he examines mentalization. This refers to the human capacity to see, access, and represent subjective experience in ourselves and other people.

Drozek explains how mentalization-based treatment (MBT) has become a proven treatment for borderline personality disorder and antisocial personality disorder. He also reviews technical strategies from the treatment of patients with severe personality disorders.

In addition, Drozek shares research on the relevance of ethics to psychopathology, psychological well-being, therapeutic change, and models of psychotherapy. He digests various theories from ethical theory, relational psychoanalysis, and MBT.

Drozek offers an ethically grounded vision of the clinical process. In this vision, the therapist and patient engage in the co-construction of an intersubjective space. Such a space is progressively more consistent with their intrinsic worth as human beings.

Ultimately, Drozek demonstrates how to introduce ethics into the heart of the therapeutic process. He also provides advice to therapists on identifying ethical vulnerabilities involved in psychopathology.