Agents of change or maintenance men?

Authored by: Ole Jacob Madsen

Handbook of Critical Psychology

Print publication date:  April  2015
Online publication date:  April  2015

Print ISBN: 9781848722187
eBook ISBN: 9781315726526
Adobe ISBN: 9781317537182


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Psychotherapists occupy an ambiguous position in late modern Western societies. On the individual level, they are entrusted agents of change when the outcome of therapy is efficacious. Yet on a societal level, psychotherapy may unwillingly function as an allying conservative institution for forces adrift in late capitalism. This latent conflict both between the individual and society, and between professional ethics and social responsibility is in this chapter discussed through the process of individualization, as it illustrates the dilemmas surrounding individual interventions as Western societies’ preferred answer to human suffering under shifting living conditions. In particular, previous responses from feminist therapists are discussed, and I maintain that some of the challenges they have struggled with are vital for anyone wanting to act ethically and think critically about psychotherapy both inside and outside the office door.

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