International Journal of Existential Positive Psychology

Virtue Ethics in Psychotherapy: A Systematic Review of the Literature

Carmel Proctor, Ph.D

Positive Psychology Research Centre


A number of current theoretical psychologists and philosophers have begun to consider the application of virtue ethics in psychotherapeutic practice. Emerging fields of study, such as positive psychology, and renewed interest in traditional fields of study, such as humanistic psychology, have resulted in a revival of interest and enthusiasm with regards to virtue ethics. Primarily based in Aristotelian (c. 330 BCE/1980)philosophy, virtue ethics in psychotherapy brings ancient philosophy into modern day practice. A systematic review of the extant literature was conducted, resulting in seven publications for review. Presented is a review and critique of the yielded literature. The work concludes with a discussion of virtue ethics in psychotherapeutic practice, which is demonstrated by way of two brief vignettes. Aristotle’s virtue ethics is demonstrated as being unquestionably worthy of our consideration and application in facing the existential givens presented for examination and exploration in psychotherapy.

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