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Value neutrality requires that therapists respect the client centered philosophy. In their practice, therapists must avoid any form of judgment regarding client’s attitudes, beliefs, values and behavior. The place of values in psychotherapy has generated a debate amongst many psychoanalysts (Johnson, 2007). However, there is a general agreement that the therapist’s values should be kept out of the therapeutic relationship. This means that every therapist should never intentionally or unintentionally impose his/her values on his client. Therapists must therefore be aware of their own value system to be able to keep them out of the therapy. This will enable them avoid the deliberate or unintentional indoctrination of their client. However, it may be difficult with the current realization that the therapist’s own values can not be kept out of the therapeutic relationship (Johnson, 2007).
The Need and Importance of Value Neutrality in Therapy
Value neutrality in therapy grants the client the needed autonomy from the therapist. This ensures that the client’s democratic rights are respected. The principles of therapy hold that man is the master of his own destiny and that the worth of each person shall be respected at all times and under all conditions. Value neutrality also allows the individual client to exercise his/her own freedom. Being value neutral also minimizes the possibility of an occurrence of conflict between the therapist and the clients by reducing the chances of the client developing any guilt. It also helps the client to develop his/her self-esteem by laying emphasis on respect for an unconditional acceptance. Finally, it allows the client to learn how to be responsible and independent as well as to develop his own value system and to mature emotionally (Wilde, 2009).
The Harmful Effects of One’s Own Value
The failure to keep the counselors values out of the counseling relationship has been attributed to different harmful effects on their clients. It has resulted into clients incorporating a new superego patterned after the character of the therapists as perceived by their clients. Any attempt to impress on moral values in psychotherapy without success interferes with the freedom of the patient’s communication. It also strains the strength of the relationship between the client and the therapists. Some patients may also find themselves inevitably accepting many of the values their therapists communicated during interpretation and through direct suggestions (Wilde, 2009).
An example is a study of 12 patients by Rosenthal who presented a wide variety of diagnoses. The respondents were given a test of moral values both at the beginning and at the end of the treatment period. The patients who were rated as improved were those who became more like their therapists, while those rated unimproved tended to become less like their therapists. Such methods lead to convergence between the clients’ values and that of their therapists (Wilde, 2009).
Examples of Ethical Practices with other Cultures
The cultural aspects of psychotherapy may lead to difference in the perception of what is wrong and how best the therapist can correct the client. This may lead to the therapist seeking to influence the process. In such situations, the goals of the therapist may be counterproductive for a cultural well being and value orientations of the patient. It may result into too much pain by the client resulting from the therapeutic decisions. The argument is that the value sensitive therapist must protect the larger value grounded interests of the client. This is often recommended even if doing so would conflicts with the goals of therapy. In such situations, the therapist may not seek to settle the problem in totality (Wilde, 2009).
Heiman and Witztum reported by Wilde gave an example involving therapy clients from ultra-orthodox Jewish backgrounds. According to this group’s culture, pursuing goals such as open acceptance of homosexual feelings is unaccepted. This means that any advice towards accepting such practices may cause the client worse harm than his original problem. Therapists must therefore understand and be sensitive to the issues which are sensitive to their clients (Wilde, 2009).
In conclusion, the concept of value-neutrality in therapy has created a dilemma which is yet to be resolved. A section of scholars have argued that it is practically impossible for therapists to avoid communicating their values to their clients. They point out that though the ultimate goal requires freedom and autonomy for the client, the client does not choose the goal or methods and is both exposed to and influenced by the procedures. This is a dilemma that must be resolved.