Moral responsiveness and discontinuity in therapy: A qualitative study

Jason B. Whiting, R. Scott Nebeker, Stephen T. Fife

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

13 Scopus citations


Phenomenological qualitative methods were used to identify and describe moral elements in therapeutic relationships. Using the relational philosophy of E. Levinas (1961/1969, 1979/1987) as a base, data in which therapists and clients identified and described morally responsive experiences in therapy sessions were analyzed. These moments were often unexpected and included categories of surprise, interruption, willingness to change, and clarifications/repairs. Additional moral phenomena related to therapists’ attitudes included asymmetrical indebtedness, attitude of serving, and tentativeness of diagnosis. Identified moments of moral responsiveness were frequently associated with clients’ progress in therapy. This suggests that conceptually smooth and uninterrupted therapy may be less helpful than therapy that is discontinuous and able to change in the moment.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)20-37
Number of pages18
JournalCounseling and Values
Issue number1
StatePublished - Oct 2005


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