Mental health counseling is in high demand. A majority of psychologists surveyed last year by the American Psychological Association reported an increase in referrals, and many reported lengthening waiting lists for their services. But as millions of Americans turn to psychologists to help them make sense of and improve their lives, is the field of psychology oriented to provide a care that addresses the deeper questions of human living? Psychologist David Goodman fears it is not—at least not yet.
As psychology has developed as a discipline over the past 150 years, says Goodman—an associate professor of the practice in the Lynch School’s Counseling, Developmental, and Educational Psychology Department and the school’s associate dean for strategic initiatives and external relations—the field has become narrowly focused on methods of managing and reducing symptoms while neglecting larger questions of ethics, character, and human potential.
“I want psychology to be a true gift to humanity and not just a set of technical tools that are merely helping to alleviate some suffering,” he says. “Psychology needs to have greater capacity to recognize the full dimensionality of human personhood and to maintain fidelity to the complexity of human experience.”
In hopes of expanding and strengthening his field, Goodman is launching the Center for Psychological Humanities and Ethics at Boston College. The center aims to broaden the discipline of psychology by fostering connections with fields such as philosophy, theology, sociology, history, literature, the arts, and political studies. The center will be home to an interdisciplinary research lab and a scholarly journal, will publish a book series, and will host public lectures and workshops. In November, for example, the center will host a lecture by Syracuse University Professor of History Elisabeth Lasch-Quinn comparing contemporary psychology with ancient Greek wisdom traditions such as Platonism and Stoicism.