We’ve come a long way in how we conceptualize the Self, says professor and couples therapist Bill Doherty.

But in a new era often marked by uncertainty and anxiety, clarifying purpose gets a whole lot tougher. “With terrorism, immigration, income insecurity, and police shootings, some people are pointing to demagogues and strongmen,” Doherty says, “without the necessary sacrifice, introspection, and openness to the other. This is a scary time.”

However, he adds, therapists are uniquely suited to addressing the anxieties of the 21st century. And in the process, we can shape the future.

In this video clip from his 2016 Networker Symposium Keynote address, he explains how.

As regular witnesses to human suffering, capability, and hope, Doherty explains that clinicians can act as wise stewards, guiding the public toward embracing this new, more optimistic view of Self.

“We have learned that relationships are not just chosen one by one,” Doherty says. “They constitute us, they are part of our makeup. We are all dance partners. None of us are soloists.”


William Doherty

William Doherty, PhD, is professor of family social science and director of the Minnesota Couples on the Brink Project at the University of Minnesota. He’s the author of the forthcoming book, The Ethical Lives of Clients: Transcending Self-Interest in Psychotherapy