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.

David Goodman

David Goodman

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.

I want psychology to be a true gift to humanity and not just a set of technical tools that are helping to alleviate some suffering.
David Goodman, Associate Professor of the Practice and Associate Dean for Strategic Initiatives and External Relations

The center will also expand Goodman’s popular Psychology & the Other Conference, creating an overseas version of the conference that has been held biennially in Massachusetts since 2011. The conference explores connections between psychology and other fields as well as people’s connections to others in society. Last year it drew nearly 700 attendees, and its listserv has 20,000 subscribers—a mix of academics and clinicians, says Goodman, many of whom are “hungry for deeper levels of meaning that they are not seeing in mainstream psychological training programs.”

Much of the center’s initial funding comes from the John Templeton Foundation, which recently granted Goodman nearly $1 million for his Cura Psychologia project. The project will bring together scholars in theology, philosophy, and psychology from Boston College and five other Jesuit universities to conduct joint research and examine the various ways their disciplines approach human suffering, identity, and potential. Goodman sees this collaboration as a pilot project of sorts: he hopes it will result in positive changes in psychology departments at the six partner universities, which will then influence the studying and teaching of psychology more broadly.

Boston College and like-minded Jesuit schools are excellent places to begin broadening the discipline of psychology, says Goodman, because of their emphasis on the humanities and on the Jesuit ideal of cura personalis (care for the whole person).

“I first came to Boston College because its Philosophy and Theology Departments are among the very best in North America,” Goodman says. “Given the richness of those resources and BC’s commitment to the humanities, this environment is ripe for conversations about the human condition, human suffering, human identity, and human potential that should take us to the next level.”




Ph.D., Fuller Graduate School of Psychology
M.A., Theology, Fuller Theological Seminary
M.A., Clinical Psychology, Fuller Graduate School of Psychology
B.A., Azusa Pacific University


Cognitive and Social Development
Formative and Whole Person Education
Health and Well Being
Social & Emotional Development


Goodman, D. and Freeman, M. (Eds.) (2015). 

Psychology and the Other

Oxford University Press


Psychological Humanities and Ethics

Series Editor
Psychology and the Other Book Series

Society for Theoretical and Philosophical Psychology (Div. 24)
American Psychological Association