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Motivated Moral Reasoning in Psychotherapy John D. Gavazzi, Psy.D., ABPP Samuel napp, !d.D.

, ABPP "n the research literature on psychology and morality, the concept o# motivated moral reasoning is relevant to psychotherapy. Motivated moral reasoning occurs $hen a person%s decision&ma'ing s'ills are motivated to reach a speci#ic moral conclusion. Research on motivated moral reasoning can (e in#luenced (y #actors such as the perception o# intentionality o# others and the social nature o# moral reasoning )Ditto, Pizarro, * +annen(aum, ,--./. "n this article, $e $ill #ocus on the intuitive, automatic, and a##ective nature o# motivated moral reasoning as these types o# 0udgments occur in psychotherapy. +he goal o# this article is to help psychologists remain vigilant a(out the possi(ilities o# motivated moral reasoning in the psychotherapy relationship. "ndividuals typically (elieve that moral 0udgments are primarily principle&(ased, $ell& reasoned, and cognitive. "ndividuals also trust that moral 0udgments are made #rom a top&do$n approach, meaning moral agents start $ith moral ideals or principles #irst, and then apply those principles to a speci#ic situation. "ndividuals typically (elieve moral decisions are (ased on $ell& reasoned principles, consistent over time and relia(le across situations. "ronically, the research reveals that, unless primed #or a speci#ic moral dilemma )such as serving on 0ury duty/, individuals typically use a (ottom&up strategy in moral reasoning. Research on sel#&report o# moral decisions sho$s that individuals see' 0usti#ications and ad hoc con#irmatory data points to support the person%s re#le1ive decision. 2urthermore, the reasoning #or moral decisions is conte1t&dependent, meaning that the same moral principles are not applied consistently over time

and across situations. 2inally, individuals use automatic, intuitive, and emotional processes $hen ma'ing important decisions )Ditto, Pizarro, * +annen(aum, ,--./. 3hile the comple1ity o# moral reasoning depends on a num(er o# #actors, individuals tend to ma'e moral 0udgments #irst, and ans$er 4uestions later )and only i# as'ed/. Psychotherapy is uni4ue social relationship $here individuals directly or indirectly (ring moral concerns, dilemmas, and con#licts into the consultation room. 5onsistent $ith the research on motivated moral reasoning, many patients utilize #aulty moral decision&ma'ing strategies, o#ten to 0usti#y inappropriate (ehavior. A #irst step in using motivated moral reasoning in psychotherapy is to recognize it $hen it occurs. 5onsider a simple case o# road rage. Similar to the Fundamental Attribution Error, the patient ascri(es an intention to harm onto the o##ending driver $ithout ta'ing much situational data into consideration. 2urthermore, even though the patient has no in#ormation a(out the other driver%s intent, the patient creates a moral narrative in $hich the other driver intended to in#lict harm or is incompetent to operate a vehicle sa#ely. "n either case, the patient 0usti#ies aggressive driving to teach the other driver a )moral/ lesson. 3as the other driver%s intent really to harm the patient6 Given that the driver%s intent is un'no$n, is the moral outrage and aggressive driving 0usti#ied6 +he therapeutic interventions can help patients #ind alternative strategies to handle their #rustrations )rather than searching #or con#irmatory evidence to support aggressive driving/ and to help patients recognize that a moral in0ustice did not occur. Perhaps the other driver $as rushing to get to the (edside o# a seriously ill #amily mem(er. Psychotherapy is also a place $here patients address speci#ic moral dilemmas. During therapy, patients contemplate signi#icant li#e decisions, such as ending a pregnancy, engaging in an e1tramarital relationship, or moving #or$ard $ith a divorce. no$ing that individuals

typically engage in (ottom&up moral decision&ma'ing and the decision may have already made prior to therapy, one strategy is to slo$ do$n the decision&ma'ing process and appeal #irst to the patient%s moral values. A#ter the patient clearly identi#ies the moral values involved, the psychologist can help a patient use a thought#ul and $ell&reasoned decision&ma'ing process consistent $ith e1pressed moral values. Psychologists also need to (e $ary o# their o$n motivated moral reasoning in psychotherapy. Because o# the po$er im(alance, psychotherapy is a place $here the psychologist%s motivated moral reasoning can (ecome particularly pro(lematic. +he psychologist has a #iduciary responsi(ility to use a patient&centered approach. 3hen a moral dilemma arises in psychotherapy, a psychologist may intuitively assess the patient%s dilemma. +he psychologist may 4uic'ly conclude $hat is in the patient%s (est interest $ithout understanding the patient%s moral model or $or'ing through the moral dilemma colla(oratively. "nstead o# recognizing the patient%s sense o# moral agency and responsi(ility, the psychologist can misuse motivated moral reasoning to in#luence psychotherapy in a paternalistic manner. Intrusive advocacy is speci#ic $ay in $hich psychologists can inter#ere $ith the patients% autonomy and moral decision&ma'ing s'ills )Pope * Bro$n, 7..8/. 3ith intrusive advocacy, psychologists advocate )or continue to advocate/ #or a moral course o# action to patients, even a#ter patients have made a moral decision. As one e1ample, a psychologist may continue to prompt a patient, $ho $as se1ually a(used (y another psychologist, to #ile a complaint $ith the State Board o# Psychology. "n spite o# the patient%s repeated declarations o# not $anting to #ile a complaint, the psychologist might repeatedly attempt to #orce their moral $ill onto the patient. +he psychologist may reason that i# the patient does not ma'e a report, then others may (e harmed in the #uture. 3hile this reasoning may (e true, the psychologist o$es a primary duty to

the patient, not necessarily to #uture patients. +he psychologist%s insistence to #ile a complaint li'ely re#lects the psychologist%s moral disgust $ith the situation more than the patient%s sense o# harm or urgency. "ntrusive advocacy may disrupt the therapeutic relationship, leading to a negative outcome. 3ithin the psychotherapy relationship, (oth psychologists and patients are vulnera(le to the pit#alls o# motivated moral reasoning. "# psychologists do not understand the importance o# motivated moral reasoning, then opportunities may (e lost and errors in 0udgment may occur in psychotherapy. 3hen psychologists understand the comple1ities o# motivated moral reasoning, a strong relationship o# trust can (e grounded in respect #or the patients% morals and values. Additionally, psychologists may (etter recognize and incorporate the patients% values into psychotherapy, potentially leading to (etter outcomes in psychotherapy. Re#erence Ditto, P. 9., Pizarro, D. A., and +annen(aum, D. ),--./. Motivated moral reasoning. "n D. Bartel, et al. )!ds./, Psychology o# :earning and Motivation, ;olume <-= Moral Judgment and Decision Ma'ing. )>-?&>>@/ Boston= !lsevier. Pope, ., * Bro$n, :. S. )7..8/. Recovered memories o# a(use= Assessment, therapy, #orensics. 3ashington, D5= American Psychological Association.