Responsibility in Therapy

Mike W. Martin

in From Morality to Mental Health

Published in print May 2006 | ISBN: 9780195304718
Published online September 2006 | e-ISBN: 9780199786572 | DOI:

Series: Practical and Professional Ethics

 Responsibility in Therapy

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This chapter discusses responsibility for health in the context of client-therapist relationships. It begins by considering Samuel Butler's Erewhon, a novel that adumbrates the current uncertainty about responsibilities for health and provokes us to clarify the meaning and foundation of those responsibilities. It then critiques two ideologies about therapy that distort our understanding of responsibilities for health. One ideology concerns the sick role: to be sick is to be an innocent victim, and nonjudgmental therapy implies not holding patients responsible for their sickness. The other concerns science and causation: sick people (as well as healthy ones) are completely determined by biological and environmental forces in ways that remove moral responsibility. It is argued that these ideologies are as inimical to effective therapy as to sound morality.

Keywords: health; client-therapist relationship; Erewhon; sickness; sick role

Chapter.  5085 words. 

Subjects: Moral Philosophy

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