Psychotherapy as a 'good’ practice for people: moral enhancement

It is sometimes asserted that psychotherapy makes one a better person—more self-reflective and therefore more able to appreciate the feelings of others, and more likely to give up habits of behaviour that cause unhappiness to oneself and those in one’s social system. Some studies of outcomes in psychotherapy suggest that people who have positive outcomes have more coherent self-narratives and describe a sense of enhanced agency. But it is also argued that the values of the psychotherapies offered in the UK and Europe reflect Anglo-European values that privilege individual experience and personal gain, as opposed to a more relational or communitarian benefit. Individual accounts of victimization and passivity are often given high status in individual therapeutic processes, and there may be more emphasis on past hurts than forgiveness, compassion, and future responsibility for personal choices. In short, it is not at all clear what it is to be a ‘good’ person in therapeutic terms, yet there is some expectation that psychological therapies will not result in a patient behaving worse than before.

This is a complex area, and readers are referred to works by Alan Tjvelveit, and Holmes and Lindley.

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