OBJECTIVE: Theories of ethics and ethical reflection may be applied to both theory and practice in psychotherapy. There is a natural affinity between ethics and psychotherapy. Psychotherapy practice is concerned with human problems, dilemmas and emotions related to both one's own and other people's values. Ethics is also concerned with dilemmas in human thinking and with how these dilemmas reflect other individuals' values. Philosophical reflection itself is not a sufficient basis for the ethics of psychotherapy but it may aid in exploring attitudes related to psychotherapy, psychiatry and health care.
METHODS: PubMed, Web of Science and Scopus databases were searched for articles containing the keywords "psychotherapy", "ethics", "therapeutic relationship" and "supervision". The search was conducted by repeating the terms in various combinations without language or time restrictions. Also included were data from monographs cited in reviews. The resulting text is a review with conclusions concerning ethical aspects of psychotherapy.
RESULTS: The ability to behave altruistically, sense for justice and reciprocity and mutual help are likely to be genetically determined as dispositions to be later developed by upbringing or to be formed or deformed by upbringing. Early experiences lead to formation of ethical attitudes which are internalized and then applied to both one's own and other people's behavior. Altruistic behavior has a strong impact on an individual's health and its acceptance may positively influence the pathophysiological mechanisms underlying numerous diseases. Ethical theory and reflection, however, may be applied to both theory and practice of psychotherapy in a conscious, targeted and thoughtful manner. In everyday practice, psychotherapists and organizations must necessarily deal with conscious conflicts between therapeutic possibilities, clients' wishes, their own as well as clients' ideas and the real world. Understanding one's own motives in therapy is one of the aims of a psychotherapist's personal therapy and a frequent goal of supervision interventions. It is a psychotherapist's ethical obligation to do no harm, maintain clear therapeutic borders, not abuse patients, undertake supervision and learn good self-reflection.
CONCLUSION: Knowledge of ethical questions and related issues as well as continuous ethical self-reflection are essential components of high-quality psychotherapeutic management. This requires both good psychotherapy training and systematic supervision.