About Philosophical Consultation

Is this the same thing as philosophical counseling?

In many parts of the country, the type of philosophical consultation I offer would be called philosophical counseling, and I would be referred to as a philosophical counselor. However, in Ohio we have some fairly strict regulations concerning use of the word ‘counselor’. Like most NPCA philosophical practitioners, I am not a licensed mental health professional, and I do not claim to provide a clinical mental health service. For this reason I avoid referring to myself as a philosophical counselor, preferring terms such as consultant, advisor, or perhaps coach.

Although the NPCA does now mark a distinction between philosophical “counselors,” who are also mental health professionals, and philosophical “consultants,” who are not, the NPCA also sometimes uses the terms such as ‘counselor’, ‘counseling’, and even ‘therapy’ with reference to all philosophical practitioners, as you will observe below.

Is this a form of philosophical practice?

Yes. The terms ‘philosophical practice’ and ‘philosophical practitioner’ refer to all philosophical consultants, counselors, coaches, advisors, or guides, regardless of whether or not they are mental health professionals.

So what is this individual philosophic consultation?

Answer 1: a unique problem-solving approach

The philosophical consultation I typically offer can be thought of as a unique approach to problem-solving. Rather than start by brainstorming swaths of ideas which may or may not work, philosophical consultation begins by constructing an overall picture of the problem, and then by zooming in on the little structural details, the nuts and bolts of the problem, in order to identify precisely the mechanisms of thought/belief/emotion/behavior which may be producing the problem. This is not a matter of digging into the past or speculating about subconscious drives. Instead it’s a close, logical examination of the patterns of practical reasoning that are involved with the problem. The reasoning may be cognitive, emotional, behavior, or some combination thereof.

Answer 2: from the National Philosophical Counseling Association (NPCA)

Please note that although in the following quotations, the NPCA uses the terms ‘counseling’, ‘counselee’, and ‘counselor’, it is using those words as blanket terms for all philosophical practitioners, and their use should not be taken to imply that a mental health service is being offered, or the the “counselors” in question are mental health professionals.

“In contrast [to psychological counseling], philosophical counseling applies training in philosophy (theories and philosophical ways of thinking) to human problems of living. They, therefore, tend to view mental processes in terms of epistemic justification, that is, the justification of beliefs or claims to know. For example, a philosophical counselor may help a counselee with a relationship problem apply standards of logic and critical thinking to correct fallacious reasoning. As such, the philosophical counselor specializes in the examination and analysis of arguments rather than in looking for the underlying causal etiology of dysfunctional mental processes.” [1]

“Philosophical counseling uses philosophy, its theories and ways of critical thinking, to help counselees address ordinary problems of living. Such problems include midlife crises, loss, career changes, moral problems, work-related stress, and a host of other common, human, life challenges. Often, these problems can be addressed philosophically by helping the counselee to examine and reassess his or her reasoning about such matters.” [1]

What is “Logic-Based Consultation,” and is it the same as “Logic-Based Therapy?”

Logic-Based Consultation (LBC) is a particular method, or modality, for doing philosophical practice. It is the method endorsed by the NPCA. There is a brief explanation of how it works here.

Logic-Based Consultation is also (in fact usually) called “Logic-Based Therapy” (LBT). However, I avoid using the term ‘therapy’ for the same reason I avoid using the terms ‘counselor’ etc. (See above).

Does philosophical consultation have anything to do with career counseling, career advising, career coaching, etc.?

It can. However, if your “problem” is somehow career-related, then methods used by career counselors, coaches, etc. may also be used in combination with LBC or other philosophical methods. Similarly, career-related concerns, such as finding the right career or deciding whether to change careers, may benefit from philosophical consultation methods. (And since the word ‘counselor’ has been mentioned, I should again clarify that I’m not a mental health professional and am not providing a mental health service.)

What are some examples of “everyday life problems,” “issues,” or “concerns” addressed by philosophical practitioners?

The NPCA publishes this very long list. [2] And it’s not exhaustive. As you can see, philosophical consultation is not defined by a particular subject matter. Its logical and creative method is relevant across-the-board when it comes to challenges, difficulties, and uncertainties we all may face in the course of ordinary life. (Note of course that none of the following examples should be interpreted as a mental health issue.)

  • Moral issues
  • Values disagreements
  • Political issues and disagreements
  • Writers block
  • Time management issues
  • Procrastination
  • Career issues
  • Job loss
  • Problems with coworkers
  • Disability issues
  • Financial issues
  • Retirement
  • Aging
  • End of life issues
  • Midlife issues
  • Adult children of aging parents
  • Problems with family
  • Family planning issues
  • In-law issues
  • Breakups and divorce
  • Parenting issues
  • Becoming a parent
  • Sibling rivalry
  • Finding out one is adopted
  • Falling in and out of love
  • Loss of a family member
  • Loss of a pet
  • Friendship issues
  • Peer pressure
  • Academic or school-related issues
  • Rejection
  • Discrimination
  • Religion and race-related issues
  • Entertainment-related issues
  • Technology-related issues

[1] From the NPCA website at http://npcassoc.org/philosophical-practice.

[2] From the NPCA website at http://npcassoc.org/practice-areas-boundaries.