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Values, Discourse & Action:

On the Morality of Psychological Practice

Isaac Prilleltensky


Paper Presented at the Annual Convention of the American Psychological Association, Toronto, 1996


Opening Paragraphs

Canadian scholar John Ralston Saul is not happy about our social values. He tells us that our culture, I quote, "leads to a worship of self-interest and a denial of the public good." (1995, p. 187). Therapist William Doherty is not happy with psychotherapy's values either. In his 1995 book he tells us that "therapists since the time of Freud have overemphasized individual self-interest, giving short shrift to family and community responsibilities" (1995, p. 7). Both authors reflect an urgent concern for the state of values in society and in psychology.

As psychologists, we find ourselves in the paradoxical position of talking more about values and knowing less about what to do. To be sure, discussions about the role of values in psychology abound, but there is still confusion about what to do. To reach some clarity with respect to the values we should promote I'll do two things today. First, I'll suggest a series of values psychologist can use to promote the good life and the good society; and second, I'll examine to what extent various psychological approaches uphold these values. I'll explore the role of values in traditional, empowering, postmodern, and communitarian approaches. Let me start then by proposing a set of moral values.



Ethos and Morals of Practice


Isaac Prilleltenskyis Professor of Psychology at Vanderbilt University. He is the author of The Morals and Politics of Psychology: Psychological Discourse and the Status Quo (1994, State University of New York Press), and co-editor of Critical Psychology: An Introduction (1997, Sage). Correspondence should be sent to Isaac Prilleltensky, Department of Human and Organizational Development, Peabody College, Box 90, Vanderbilt University, Nashville, TN 37203 USA.


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