The Healing VirtuesCharacter Ethics in Psychotherapy

The Healing VirtuesCharacter Ethics in Psychotherapy

Duff R. Waring

Print publication date: Dec 2016

ISBN: 9780199689149

Publisher: Oxford University Press


This book explores the intersection of psychotherapy and virtue ethics with an emphasis on the patient’s work in a healing project. This common ground between the therapeutic process and the cultivation of virtues can inform the efforts of both therapist and patient. The ethics of psychotherapy revolve partly around what therapists should or should not do as well as the sort of person that therapists should be: e.g., empathic, prudent, compassionate, respectful, and trustworthy. Contemporary practitioners have argued for therapist virtues that are vitally relevant to assisting the patient’s efforts in a healing project. The ethics of a therapeutic dialogue can also revolve around the sort of person the patient should be. There is an argument for patient virtues that are crucially relevant to working through the problems in living that arise in psychotherapy, e.g., honesty, courage, humility, and perseverance. The author’s central idea is not unfamiliar to psychodynamic therapists: that treatment may need to build virtues while it ameliorates problems. As a virtue epistemic and virtue ethical endeavor, the patient’s work in psychotherapy can both challenge character strengths and result in their further development.