Ethical Issues Surrounding Psychologists’ Use of Neuroscience in the Promotion and Practice of Psychotherapy

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Abstract

Advances in neuroscience research are often enlisted as evidence for the belief that mental disorders are biologically based diseases of the brain, and have contributed to the continued prominence of the biomedical model within the field of mental health. Psychologists’ use of neuroscience in marketing their services, explaining behavioral phenomena, and legitimizing the efficacy of psychotherapeutic treatments may contribute to “neurocentric” understandings of psychology, at the expense of a more comprehensive biopsychosocial model of mental disorders. These issues raise concerns about the ethical and responsible use of neuroscience language and research findings by psychologists in the promotion and practice of psychotherapy. This article reflects critically on the ethical principles and standards of the ethics code of the American Psychological Association (2010a) regarding competency, the basis of professional judgments, and the veracity of statements about psychotherapy, and provides considerations and recommendations for practicing psychologists, faculty, and graduate students when making use of neuroscience research.

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