The Clinical Stance and the Nurturing Stance: Therapeutic Responses to Harmful Conduct by Service Users in Mental Healthcare

Daphne Brandenburg, Derek Strijbos

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

5 Citations (Scopus)
151 Downloads (Pure)


In this article, we discuss what are ethical forms of holding service users responsible in mental health care contexts. Hanna Pickard has provided an account of how service users should be held responsible for morally wrong or seriously harmful conduct within contexts of mental health care, called the clinical stance. From a clinical stance one holds a person responsible for harm, but refrains from emotionally blaming the person and only considers the person responsible for this conduct in a detached sense. Her account is based on what are considered best practices in the treatment of people with borderline personality disorder and addiction. We ask if this account generalizes across different diagnostic criteria and different clinical contexts. To begin to answer this question, we compare the clinical stance to an account of what are considered best practices in the treatment of service users at a specialized clinic for people with autism spectrum disorder in the Netherlands. We refer to this alternative account as the nurturing stance and highlight relevant similarities and differences between the clinical stance and the nurturing stance. We conclude with suggestions for further research and theorizing.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)379-394
Number of pages16
JournalPhilosophy, Psychiatry, & Psychology
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Dec-2020


  • Philosophy of psychiatry
  • clinical ethics
  • responsibility
  • autism spectrum disorder
  • responsibility without blame
  • congruence

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