VALUES, BELIEFS, RELIGION AND THE PERSUASIVE INFLUENCE OF PSYCHOTHERAPY

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Abstract

Psychotherapy has been conceptualized as a process of interpersonal persuasion. An often unrecognized implication of such an assumption, however, is that the therapist's values and beliefs are transmitted to patients during the course of successful treatment. Significant issues of ethics and responsibility are introduced by this suggestion and necessitate close evaluation of the persuasive influences in psychotherapy. The current paper investigates the basis for assuming a correspondence between persuasion and psychotherapy. A review of available literature provides sufficient reason to believe that patients' values, attitudes, and beliefs change in psychotherapy and that to some degree, these changes are associated with the degree to which therapy is successful. Likewise, research evidence suggests that there is reason to believe that patients acquire the specific values and attitudes of their own therapists rather than simply a more mature or adaptive set of beliefs. And finally, there appears to be some similarity between those parameters which affect therapeutic gain and those which affect persuasion in the social psychology laboratory. Such positive findings from the literature underline the importance of therapists taking cognizance of their own personal values as determiners of therapeutic gain. Likewise, the findings highlight the necessity of research designed to investigate the role of specific values in this process.

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