Skip to main content

Research Repository

Advanced Search

Psychotherapy in old age: ethical issues

Cheston, Richard; Hughes, Julian


Julian Hughes


Manuel Trachsel

┼×erife Tekin

Nikola Biller-Andorno

Jens Gaab

John Z. Sadler


Old age brings challenges which affect the process and content of psychotherapy; not that older people should be thought of as being the same, for they are individual. There are particular cohort effects and contexts that might affect the ways in which older people react to stressors in old age. Cognitive impairment and dementia will sometimes be a consideration. Good psychotherapeutic approaches to older people tend to reflect good ethical approaches. These can be described by the main ethical theories: utilitarianism, deontology, and virtue ethics. But a better and more nuanced way is perhaps to use ethical approaches that stress narrative, communication, interpretation, and meaning, as well as care and relationships. These approaches seem more realistic: they accommodate the real situation for the person concerned, recognizing him or her as a situated and embodied agent. This chapter uses vignettes to highlight the usefulness of these nuanced approaches to ethical problems.


Cheston, R., & Hughes, J. (2019). Psychotherapy in old age: ethical issues. In J. Z. Sadler, J. Gaab, N. Biller-Andorno, ┼×. Tekin, & M. Trachsel (Eds.), The Oxford Handbook of Psychotherapy Ethics, (1 - 16). Oxford: Oxford University Press (OUP).

Acceptance Date Mar 1, 2019
Online Publication Date Nov 7, 2019
Publication Date Nov 7, 2019
Deposit Date Nov 7, 2019
Publisher Oxford University Press (OUP)
Pages 1 - 16
Series Title The Oxford Handbook of Psychotherapy Ethics
Book Title The Oxford Handbook of Psychotherapy Ethics
ISBN 9780198817338
Keywords ageism, communicative ethics, dementia, deontology, ethics, older people, narrative ethics, psychotherapy, utilitarianism, virtues
Public URL