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date: 27 January 2020

Abstract and Keywords

Ethical issues involving autonomy, coercion, consent, boundaries, involuntary commitment, and others are inherent in the mental health field. These issues are complicated by the consideration of concepts such as the unconscious mind and transference that are principle components of psychoanalytic theory and practice. Ethical rules can provide a framework in which the practitioner may operate; however, these rules can come into conflict creating a dilemma for the therapist. In addition to ethical rules directing our action, virtues (habits of the heart and mind that are developed through effortful practice and lead to excellence in a defined realm of activity) ask us to adapt certain aspect of character. In virtue ethics, these aspects of character are given more weight in moral assessments relative to strict adherence to rules or outcomes. The authors discuss virtue ethics in the practice of psychoanalysis and illustrate these ideas with a discussion of informed consent.

Keywords: virtues, virtue ethics, psychoanalysis, rules (deontology), informed consent, unconscious, transference, countertransference, empathy, neutrality

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