Irrational Ethics

Irrational Ethics

Curt and Katie chat about how current ethical standards fail to recognize culture and humanity. We talk about how the ethics codes were initially created, looking at the racist, sexist, classist roots. We also discuss the problems in how ethics are usually taught and the lack of focus on ethical thinking and decision-making, rather than rigidly following rules based in oppression.

It’s time to reimagine therapy and what it means to be a therapist. To support you as a whole person and a therapist, your hosts, Curt Widhalm and Katie Vernoy talk about how to approach the role of therapist in the modern age.

In this episode we talk about:

  • The gaps in the ethics codes, looking at the historical roots of the current codes
  • How ethics codes were initially created – racist, sexist, classist roots
  • The systemic implications related to continuing to refine the codes, rather than re-norming or recreating starting with the current people in the profession
  • Thoughts around fixing the codes to be more representative and inclusive
  • The challenges that ethics committees face in considering a new ethics code
  • The aspirational aspects of the “shared values”
  • The problems with how we teach ethics in grad school
  • “We were taught ethics as laws.”
  • The need to think ethically, not blindly follow rules out of context
  • The problem with rigidly holding to imperfect ethical codes
  • Authoritarian practices of holding each other to ethics codes
  • “We’re perpetuating oppression and disguising it as morality” – Curt Widhalm
  • Principle ethics – bare-minimum guidelines to protect against the lowest common denominator
  • Aspirational ethics – and why we should move in this direction
  • The willing ignorance of other cultures within the ethical codes
  • Our requirement to hold to white Eurocentric ideals
  • What we can do to improve the codes
  • Looking at ourselves as individuals and having guidance on how we can be better
  • The failure of the codes to consider how therapists show up in the room
  • The importance of having best practices for optimizing performance for therapists
  • The problem with not clearly distinguishing between principle versus aspirational codes
  • Posing the question on what an ethics code would look like when it isn’t tied to a professional association

Our Generous Sponsors:


Running a private practice is rewarding, but it can also be demanding. SimplePractice changes that. This practice management solution helps you focus on what’s most important—your clients—by simplifying the business side of private practice like billing and scheduling.

More than 60,000 professionals use SimplePractice —the leading EHR platform for private practitioners everywhere – to power telehealth sessions, schedule appointments, file insurance claims, communicate with clients, and so much more—all on one HIPAA-compliant platform.

Get your first 2 months of SimplePractice for the price of one when you sign up for an account today. This exclusive offer is valid for new customers only.

Go to to learn more.

Resources mentioned:

We’ve pulled together resources mentioned in this episode and put together some handy-dandy links. Please note that some of the links below might be affiliate links, so if you purchase after clicking below, we may get a little bit of cash in our pockets. We thank you in advance!

Association of Black Psychologists

The Society of Indian Psychologists

Complaints about the ethics codes from ethnic minority psychological associations

Therapy Reimagined 2020:

Therapy Reimagined 2020 Conference

Relevant Episodes:

That’s Unethical

Nam Rindani: Therapy with an Accent

Dr. Sonya Lott: Cultural Humility and White Fatigue

Connect with us!

Our Facebook Group – The Modern Therapists Group

Get Notified About Therapy Reimagined 2020 (and TR2019 Virtual Conference)

Our consultation services:

The Fifty-Minute Hour

Who we are:

Curt Widhalm is in private practice in the Los Angeles area. He is the cofounder of the Therapy Reimagined conference, the CFO of the California Association of Marriage and Family Therapists, an Adjunct Professor at Pepperdine University, a former Subject Matter Expert for the California Board of Behavioral Sciences, and a loving husband and father. He is 1/2 great person, 1/2 provocateur, and 1/2 geek, in that order. He dabbles in the dark art of making “dad jokes” and usually has a half-empty cup of coffee somewhere nearby. Learn more at:

Katie Vernoy is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist, coach, and consultant supporting leaders, visionaries, executives, and helping professionals to create sustainable careers. Katie, with Curt, has developed workshops and a conference, Therapy Reimagined, to support therapists navigating through the modern challenges of this profession. Katie is also President of the California Association of Marriage and Family Therapists. In her spare time, Katie is secretly siphoning off Curt’s youthful energy, so that she can take over the world. Learn more at:

A Quick Note:

Our opinions are our own. We are only speaking for ourselves – except when we speak for each other, or over each other. We’re working on it.

Our guests are also only speaking for themselves and have their own opinions. We aren’t trying to take their voice, and no one speaks for us either. Mostly because they don’t want to, but hey.

Stay in Touch:

Our Facebook Group – The Modern Therapist’s Group


Voice Over by DW McCann

Music by Crystal Grooms Mangano

0 replies

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *