What is Philosophical Counseling?

Philosophical Counseling has been around for thousands of years, although many of us don’t realize this.

In Ancient Athens, Socrates would invite friends, acquaintances, even enemies to talk with him about justice, knowledge, love, goodness, and any other topic that concerned human existence. While Socrates wasn’t always celebrated for his persistent questioning by his contemporaries, the methods that he used to push people towards deeper thinking and self-introspection inspired many of them to make positive and impactful changes in their lives.

After Socrates, philosophers would often be called on to help rulers make sense of a problem that they couldn’t figure out on their own. The Greek philosopher Aristotle advised the Macedonian king Alexander the Great for example. In the later Roman Empire, Stoic philosophers like Epictetus, drew crowds of followers who came from all over with their personal problems, searching for answers to help them resolve what they couldn’t on their own.

Key to the methods used to help people, was the use of reason, or rationality. Rather than simply telling people what to do, philosophers utilized reflective thinking and interpersonal dialogue to help people come to their own conclusions about what direction they should take with their lives.

Philosophy seems so abstract from real world problems though. How can it be applied to my own problems?

Unfortunately, over the last two hundred years, Philosophy became more of a theoretical discipline far removed from the everyday. It seemed like the only place that Philosophy really mattered was in the university classroom. But this is slowly being reversed today by the practitioners of Philosophical Counseling.

Philosophy is defined by the pursuit of wisdom and wisdom is not just limited to ideas, but also to the real world, to how we lead our lives day to day, how we relate to others, and also how we relate to ourselves. Given this, Philosophy should not be something limited to the university classroom and only spoken about by trained individuals. It should be practiced by and be of benefit to everyone, no matter what their walk of life is.

So is this just therapy? Or life coaching?

There is some overlap between Philosophical Counseling and some forms of contemporary mental health disciplines. For example, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) is partially based on some practices that were developed by the Ancient Stoics. However, Philosophical Counseling has its basis in methods of inquiry that precede all of our current mental health disciplines.

In many ways, Philosophical Counseling can at times appear to be similar to life coaching as well. We are after all, also in the business of helping individuals find fulfillment in their lives. And the same as in the mental health disciplines, there are life coaches who also make use of philosophical insights to help their clients. So, Philosophical Counseling can also include lifestyle advice, but it goes further still.

Fundamentally, Philosophical Counseling can empower you with a way to think clearly about the deeper problems that affect you. Here are some examples:

If you are unsure about the meaning of life, of what you are supposed to do with yourself, Philosophical Counseling might be able to help you navigate rationally through such an existential crisis.

If you are struggling with your relationships with others or yourself, Philosophical Counseling might be able to help you make sense of how to resolve that by providing ethical frameworks by which to navigate those relationships.

If you are contemplating your own mortality, or attempting to make sense of a tragedy that has occurred, Philosophical Counseling is here to assist as well by providing you with ways to interpret what is happening.

How do we “do” Philosophical Counseling? Do I need to become a Philosopher myself to even sit down and have a session?

The great thing about Philosophical Counseling is that since it draws from disciplines that are thousands of years old, there are a variety of ways that it can be conducted and a variety of topics that can be talked about. Not only that, the key method of Philosophy has always been and will continue to be dialogue founded on reason.

Over the thousands of years that Philosophy has existed, many different schools of thought and viewpoints have been taken up. That means that every Philosophical Counselor you meet is different and unique in how they approach whatever problem you may have. But we are here for your benefit, to help you get clarify your thoughts and feelings. So no, you don’t have to become a Philosopher or even have had to read any Philosophy books in order to have a session with a Philosophical Counselor.

Okay, let’s do it. I want to give try receiving some Philosophical Counseling, how do I sign up?

All Philosophical Counseling sessions are conducted via Zoom and single-person. If you are located in the San Francisco Bay Area and are interested in conducting an in-person session, please get in touch with me via e-mail. For any other inquiries contact me via e-mail as well.