The philosopher’s couch

The philosopher’s couch – philosophical counseling

THE PERSONAL PREDICAMENTS MOST people take to psychotherapy these days tend to have a philosophical cast: What does it mean to be in a relationship? Why do I react in this way in that situation?

So it’s only logical that the newest entrants into the therapy biz are philosophers. Philosophical counseling, which started in the early ’80s when a German philosopher got frustrated with modern psychology’s vision of “normality for all,” is gaining a toehold in America.

Instead of using specific theories and methods to “cure” patients’ symptoms and “bring them back to health,” philo-counselors help clients (not patients) critically examine their basic assumptions, interpret their problems, and plan reactions in light of the assumptions.

Everything you do and feel–your hopes, fears, desires–expresses an understanding of the world, observes Israeli philosophical counselor Ran Lahav. Philocounseling tries to uncover these ideas, not as symptoms of some underlying problem, but as the issue at hand.

Of someone who is afraid of getting old, a psychologist might ask, “Why do you fear aging?” A philosoher might pose, “What is fearful about aging?”

Lahav identifies two types of clients: people who have visited psychologists and want to explore a more philosophical side, and those with a deep resistance to psychotherapy who “want someone to look at their thoughts, not what happened when they were five.”

Thoughts are, after all, the basis for both psychology and philosophy. “The goal of philosophical counseling,” says Lahav, “is to reach a very deep insight about the nature of life and the world, to tie together many small details until suddenly you see your life in a different way.”

COPYRIGHT 1994 Sussex Publishers, Inc.

COPYRIGHT 2004 Gale Group