Philosophy is often thought of as a boring course in college, or something that only eccentric intellectuals study. But you could say that everyone is a philosopher in that we all have a set of beliefs and values that guide us over the course of our lives. And sometimes we experience important or life shaking events that cause us to change our course and adopt new beliefs.
When it comes to psychotherapy, you could say that part of what a therapist does is philosophical in that they introduce ideas and strategies to clients to help them cope and change. Further, each therapy approach is based on certain assumptions that could be considered as a philosophical foundation. But philosophy is being used more directly to help people better understand themselves and their lives, and provide them with insights about how to change and adapt to their life circumstances. Following are excerpts from an article written by Emily Wax for the Washington Post. The full article can be viewed at http://www.washingtonpost.com/lifestyle
Patricia Anne Murphy is a philosopher with a real-world mission. Murphy may have a PhD and an intimate knowledge of Aristotle and Descartes, but in her snug suburban bungalow, she’s helping a broken-hearted patient struggle through a divorce.
Instead of offering a prescription for Effexor – which she’s not licensed to do anyway – she instructs the wounded wife to read Epictetus, the original cognitive therapist, who argued that humans often mistake their feelings for facts and suffer as a result.
Murphy is one of an increasing number of philosophical counselors, practitioners who are putting their esoteric learning to practical use helping people with some of life’s persistent afflictions. Though they help clients cope with many of the same issues that conventional therapists do – divorce, job stress, the economic downturn, parenting woes, chronic illness and matters of the heart – their methods are very different.
“Not everyone needs to be medicated,” Murphy said. “Whereas drugs can treat the body . . . there may be other things that the soul needs.”
The field is still in its early stages. There are about 300 philosophical counselors in 36 states and more than 20 foreign countries who are certified by the American Philosophical Practitioners Association, along with another 600 who practice but are not certified, said Lou Marinoff, president of the organization and author of the international bestseller “Plato, Not Prozac! Applying Eternal Wisdom to Everyday Problems.”
The bushy-bearded Marinoff is the public face of philosophical counseling. Dispensing his rapid-fire Socratic-shrink shtick, he could be a cross between Woody Allen and Sigmund Freud.
Trying to overcome the grief of losing your job in a bad economy? “Read the Chinese philosopher Lao Tzu, founder of Taoism, who taught that every loss comes bundled with gain, for they are inseparable manifestations of yin and yang,” offered Marinoff. “Instead of focusing on the loss, focus on the gain: Losing a job, you have just gained an opportunity to develop a latent talent and to enter a more suitable career path.”
Those mired in depression and anxiety over weight gain should turn to the French existentialist philosopher Sartre, who has much to say on the art of self-deception. Suffering from a midlife crisis? Try Friedrich Nietzsche, who wrote in his autobiography of creating an inner 25-year-old superhero in middle age.
… The advent of this new therapy is well-timed, since many philosophers are out of work – or more out of work than usual. Colleges and universities responding to the demand for majors that students can bring to the bank have cut philosophy departments and classes. As Marinoff puts it: “What are the first words a philosophy graduate utters? ‘Would you like fries with that, sir?’