Date of Award


Publication Type

Doctoral Thesis

Degree Name




First Advisor

Minton, Henry,


Psychology, Clinical.




Psychotherapy's impact on society is examined by comparing the relevant literature on the issue with themes generated from 24 semi-structured interviews with practising psychotherapists. The process of transforming the interview material into a hierarchical arrangement of themes is based on Rennie's (1992) version of Grounded theory. The study is also based on Lather's (1991) attempt at combining critical theory with social constructionist inquiry. Generally, the main purposes of this study are: (1) to better understand how psychotherapists make sense of their role in society; (2) to assist psychotherapists in thinking about these issues; and (3) to incorporate the experiences of real life psychotherapists with the literature on the topic. There have been a number of criticisms of mainstream clinical psychology that point to its role in perpetuating the present societal power structures thereby acting as a barrier to the mental health of its clients as well as society at large. I will argue that clinicians should become more aware of the powerful effects of their work to better facilitate their clients empowerment through emancipatory means. This entails helping clients choose their own course of action, based partly on an understanding of the societal causes of their powerlessness. According to the themes that emerged from the interviews, the most prevalent view is that therapy has an individualistic focus. This view stresses the importance and possibility of not imposing values on clients who are believed to be powerful themselves. Alternatively, a less widely held position is a critical reading of the social effects of therapy's almost exclusive focus on the individual. In order to combat these negative affects, this view is consistent with the belief that therapists should be more pro-active agents of social change. In addition to the role of contextual factors in the research process, some of the differences between the critical literature and the thematic presentation of participants' pronouncements might be due to the critical literature s adherence to a more socialistic perspective and to a mix of Foucauldian and Gramscian conceptions of power, compared to the participants' adherence to a more liberal-humanist perspective and to more mainstream conceptions of power. A dialectical perspective that incorporates individual and societal considerations meets most of the concerns of the critical literature and of the participants. It ensures that clients are respected while at the same time promotes the well-being of society.Dept. of Psychology. Paper copy at Leddy Library: Theses & Major Papers - Basement, West Bldg. / Call Number: Thesis1995 .C62. Source: Dissertation Abstracts International, Volume: 56-11, Section: B, page: 6384. Adviser: Henry Minton. Thesis (Ph.D.)--University of Windsor (Canada), 1995.