Individualistic values in psychotherapy: Are therapists more individualistic than the general public?

Date of Award




Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)

First Committee Member

Blaine Fowers - Committee Chair


There has been much recent concern about the promotion of individualism in psychotherapy. This study assessed the degree to which psychologists appeared to be guided by individualistic views of persons and their presenting problems, in comparison to the views of university professors and a sample representing the general public. The participants were given four choices, based on theoretical conceptualizations, and were asked to choose the best option to deal with the hypothetical client's presenting problem in each of six vignettes. The dependent variable was the four possible responses--utilitarian individualistic, expressive individualistic, communitarian, and collectivistic. The main independent variable was the three participant groups--practicing psychologists, university professors, and a student sample representing the general public. Also assessed were the effects of the sex of the participants, the sex of the hypothetical clients in the cases, the social involvement of the hypothetical clients, the religiosity of the participants, and the ethnicity of the participants, collected from 294 respondents, producing an overall 49% response rate--119 members of the general public, 97 professors, and 78 psychologists. The participants responded to an instrument which consisted of six vignettes by using a forced-choice response format.Participants in all three groups overwhelmingly chose individualistic responses. In addition, the predominant choice of individualistic case conceptualizations for both socially integrated and socially alienated clients illustrates the existence of an individualistic bias. The sex of the participants was not shown to alter the participants' pattern of responses. Similarly, the sex of the client did not alter the response patterns of the participants in the two vignettes which controlled for the sex of the hypothetical client. However, the results from the non-manipulated vignettes, where the sex of the client was not controlled for, suggest psychologists choose disproportionately more utilitarian responses for male clients when compared to the participants from the other two participant groups. Finally, the degree of religiosity among the participants did not appear to have an impact on the choices of the respondents among all three participant groups.


Education, Educational Psychology; Psychology, General; Psychology, Clinical

Link to Full Text


Link to Full Text