Deutsch: Fürsorge / Español: Beneficencia / Português: Beneficência / Français: Bienfaisance / Italiano: Beneficenza

Beneficence in the psychology context refers to the ethical principle of acting for the benefit of others, promoting their well-being, and contributing to their welfare. This principle is foundational to ethical practice in psychology and underscores the commitment of psychologists to do good, maximize positive outcomes, and minimize harm to those they work with. Beneficence goes beyond avoiding harmful actions; it involves actively contributing to the health, welfare, and comfort of clients and participants in psychological research and practice.


The principle of beneficence is central to the ethical guidelines that govern the conduct of psychologists. It compels psychologists to consider the potential impacts of their research, assessments, therapies, and other professional activities on the well-being of individuals and communities. In practice, beneficence involves making evidence-based decisions, ensuring competence, and employing interventions that are most likely to benefit clients while minimizing potential risks of harm.

Application Areas

Beneficence is a guiding principle across various areas within psychology, including:

  • Clinical Psychology: In therapeutic settings, beneficence drives the selection of treatments that are in the best interest of clients.
  • Research Psychology: When conducting studies, researchers ensure that their work aims to advance knowledge in ways that can benefit society, while protecting participants from harm.
  • Educational Psychology: In schools and educational programs, psychologists apply beneficence by advocating for practices that enhance learning and mental health.

Well-Known Examples

An example of beneficence in action is the development and implementation of interventions for depression that are supported by research evidence, ensuring that they are both effective in alleviating suffering and minimizing the risk of negative side effects.

Treatment and Risks

While beneficence focuses on promoting good and preventing harm, it must be balanced with respect for individuals’ autonomy. This means that psychologists must also respect clients' rights to make informed decisions about their care, even when these decisions may not align with the psychologist's recommendations. The ethical challenge is to navigate the tension between beneficence and autonomy, especially in cases where clients' capacity to make informed decisions is impaired.

Similar Terms or Synonyms

  • Nonmaleficence: Often discussed alongside beneficence, nonmaleficence is the principle of doing no harm, ensuring that interventions do not intentionally or unintentionally cause damage or harm to clients.


Beneficence is a core ethical principle in psychology, emphasizing the professional obligation to act in the best interests of clients and participants, promoting their well-being, and contributing positively to their lives. It requires a careful balance of providing benefit while respecting individuals’ autonomy and making informed, ethical decisions in all professional activities.


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