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date: 15 May 2021

Abstract and Keywords

Personal autonomy describes the exercise of self-determination through informed and rational decisions that reflect an agent’s authentic values. The nexus between autonomy and psychotherapy is broad, with both respect for client autonomy through informed consent, and promotion of client autonomy through therapy itself representing key instances of the significance of autonomy in the consulting room. While inadequate disclosure of information poses a major threat to personal autonomy, so too do unjustified paternalism, coercion, and the injudicious use of therapeutic privilege. The capacity of psychotherapy to promote client autonomy, evidenced by more effective decision-making during periods where the risk of recurrent illness is high, is argued to be a key advantage of psychotherapy over treatment with medication alone. Ultimately, enhanced autonomy is a goal of treatment grounded in a more defensible conception of well-being for people with psychological disorder and, it is concluded, should be sought specifically through psychotherapy.

Keywords: autonomy, paternalism, informed consent, prudential value, cognitive behavioral therapy

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