A therapeutic alternative

I read with delight the September Monitor article "Therapy gone wild." As a practitioner of Equine Facilitated Psychotherapy for the past 15 years (and a clinical psychotherapist for over 40), I have witnessed again and again the power of the natural world to produce remarkable insight and change. The pastoral calm of a horse farm and the earthiness of the sensory environment lead to psychophysiological diminishment of those troublesome anxieties that our clients suffer. Of course, it is especially the interactions with my equine co-therapists that have the biggest impact. They provoke psychological issues, heal trauma wounds and produce the best evidence of healthy relationships. So nice to see the emergence of the field as a valid, perhaps even preferred, therapeutic alternative!

I encourage readers also to see the latest issue of VOICES: The Art and Science of Psychotherapy, published by the American Academy of Psychotherapists, Spring 2013, which focuses on ecopsychology, and the APA Section of Div. 17 (Society of Counseling Psychology) Human-Animal Interaction resources.

Marilyn Sokolof, PhD
Gainesville, Fla.

Psychology and the death penalty

I was pleased to see APA president Donald N. Bersoff raising arguments against the death penalty. He points out the possibility of executing innocent persons, that the death penalty has no deterrent value, and finally, that since the death penalty is really retribution, it depends on the improbable idea of free will.

However, although each of these arguments carries some weight, none of them are definitive. Nor do they expose the confused thinking behind the death penalty. This is because they imply that if we were certain that the accused had murdered, or if the death penalty did work as a deterrent (perhaps public and more sadistic executions are needed), or if determinism were false (and there are some powerful arguments against determinism), then the death penalty would be acceptable.

However, even in such cases the death penalty still embodies a contradiction. This is because the death penalty, which is typically employed as a punishment for murder, is itself an instance of murder. It is like trying to show a child that hitting is not acceptable by hitting the child. Of course, advocates of the death penalty do not want to call "executions" murder, but they are murder nonetheless. Like all murders, executions are the willful killing of a person with premeditated malice. By employing the death penalty, a government undermines its own prohibition against taking life with willful and premeditated malice by itself taking life with willful and premeditated malice.

James Giles, PhD
Roskilde University

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