Wise Therapy: Philosophy for Counsellors


Tim LeBon

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  • Other Titles in the School of Psychotherapy and Counselling (SPC) Series of Regent's College:

    Heart of Listening Rosalind Pearmain

    Embodied Theories Ernesto Spinelli and Sue Marshall (eds)


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    Series Editor's Introduction

    It is both a great honour and a pleasure to welcome readers to the SPC Series.

    The School of Psychotherapy and Counselling at Regent's College (SPC) is one of the largest and most widely respected psychotherapy, counselling and counselling psychology training institutes in the UK. The SPC Series published by Continuum marks a major development in the School's mission to initiate and develop novel perspectives centred upon the major topics of debate within the therapeutic professions so that their impact and influence upon the wider social community may be more adequately understood and assessed.

    A Brief Overview of SPC

    Although its origins lie in an innovative study programme developed by Antioch University, USA, in 1977, SPC has been in existence in its current form since 1990. SPC's MA in Psychotherapy and Counselling programme obtained British validation with City University in 1991. More recently, the MA in Existential Counselling Psychology obtained accreditation from the British Psychological Society. SPC was also the first UK institute to develop a research-based MPhil/PhD programme in Psychotherapy and Counselling, and this has been validated by City University since 1992. Largely on the impetus of its first Dean, Emmy van Deurzen, SPC became a full training and accrediting member of the United Kingdom Council for Psychotherapy (UKCP) and continues to maintain a strong and active presence in that organization through its Professional Members, many of whom also hold professional affiliations with the British Psychological Society (BPS), the British Association of Counselling and Psychotherapy (BACP), the Society for Existential Analysis (SEA) and the European Society for Communicative Psychotherapy (ESCP).

    SPC's other programmes include: a Foundation Certificate in Psychotherapy and Counselling, Advanced Professional Diploma Programmes in Existential Psychotherapy and Integrative Psychotherapy, and a series of intensive Continuing Professional Development and related Adjunct courses such as its innovative Legal and Family Mediation Programmes.

    With the personal support of the President of Regent's College, Mrs Gillian Payne, SPC has recently established the Psychotherapy and Counselling Consultation Centre housed on the college campus which provides individual and group therapy for both private individuals and organizations.

    As a unique centre for learning and professional training, SPC has consistently emphasized the comparative study of psychotherapeutic theories and techniques while paying careful and accurate attention to the philosophical assumptions underlying the theories being considered and the philosophical coherence of those theories to their practice-based standards and professional applications within a diversity of private and public settings. In particular, SPC fosters the development of faculty and graduates who think independently, are theoretically well informed and able skilfully and ethically to apply the methods of psychotherapy and counselling in practice, in the belief that knowledge advances through criticism and debate, rather than by uncritical adherence to received wisdom.

    The Integrative Attitude of SPC

    The underlying ethos upon which the whole of SPC's educational and training programme rests is its integrative attitude, which can be summarized as follows:

    There exists a multitude of perspectives in current psychotherapeutic thought and practice, each of which expresses a particular philosophical viewpoint on an aspect of being human. No one single perspective or set of underlying values and assumptions is universally shared.

    Given that a singular, or shared, view does not exist, SPC seeks to enable a learning environment which allows competing and diverse models to be considered both conceptually and experientially so that their areas of interface and divergence can be exposed, considered and clarified. This aim espouses the value of holding the tension between contrasting and often contradictory ideas, of ‘playing with’ their experiential possibilities and of allowing a paradoxical security which can ‘live with’ and at times even thrive in the absence of final and fixed truths.

    SPC defines this aim as ‘the integrative attitude’ and has designed all of its courses so that its presence will challenge and stimulate all aspects of our students' and trainees' learning experience. SPC believes that this deliberate engagement with difference should be reflected in the manner in which the faculty relate to students, clients and colleagues at all levels. In such a way this attitude may be seen as the lived expression of the foundational ethos of SPC.

    The SPC Series

    The series evolved out of a number of highly encouraging and productive discussions between Publishing Director at Continuum Books, Mr Robin Baird-Smith, and the present Academic Dean of SPC, Professor Ernesto Spinelli.

    From the start, it was recognized that SPC, through its faculty and Professional Members, was in a unique position to provide a series of wide-ranging, accessible and pertinent texts intended to challenge, inspire and influence debate in a variety of issues and areas central to therapeutic enquiry. Further, SPC's focus and concern surrounding the ever more pervasive impact of therapeutic ideas and practices upon all sections of contemporary society highlighted the worth, if not necessity, of a series that could address key topics from an informed, critical and non-doctrinal perspective.

    The publication of the first three texts in the series during 2001 marks the beginning of what is hoped will be a long and fruitful relationship between SPC and Continuum. More than that, there exists the hope that the series will become identified by professionals and public alike as an invaluable contributor to the advancement of psychotherapy and counselling as a vigorously self-critical, socially minded, and humane profession.

    ProfessorErnestoSpinelliSeries Editor


    For the greeks, philosophy was a way of life, almost a religion, and after a hiatus of nearly 2,000 years it may be that philosophy is on the brink of once again making a significant contribution to human well-being. It might just turn out that a major contribution will come through the fruitful marriage of philosophy and counselling. The great ancient Greek philosopher Socrates engaged in philosophical dialogue in a way reminiscent of a challenging modern philosophical counsellor. Later, Stoics and Epicureans developed philosophical ‘spiritual’ exercises reminiscent of the homework exercises modern-day cognitive therapists hand out to clients. Some of this ancient wisdom has already been mined by counsellors: plenty remains waiting to be shown the light of day. Philosophy has come a long way since the Greeks' contribution, particularly in the last 50 years. Academic philosophers have advanced our understanding of many important topics such as the nature of right and wrong and well-being, and have developed fine-tuned philosophical techniques of analysis. Applied philosophers have increasingly been using these insights and techniques to help sort out ethical issues in the public domain, such as animal rights and euthanasia. A growing number of philosophers – philosophical practitioners – have taken this a stage further, and begun helping individuals use philosophy in counselling, management and educational settings.

    Modern philosophers have even more to offer than the great Greek philosophers. But do counsellors need philosophy? My view, confirmed by training and practice in existential, cognitive, philosophical and integrative forms of counselling, is that although Rogerian empathy helps people considerably, aided and abetted by philosophical insights and techniques it can help them even more. Equally, philosophers working in counselling can benefit considerably from the ideas and experience of those philosophically minded therapists – cognitive and existential counsellors and logotherapists – who have been applying philosophy to counselling for some time now. The time is ripe for a synthesis of the acceptable ideas of philosophers working in counselling, and counsellors working with philosophy. One of the aims of this book is to develop such a synthesis.

    On a more personal note, this book is a result of my desire to share and further explore what I believe are the exciting possibilities of both philosophy and counselling. Since my first ventures into philosophy as an Oxford undergraduate over twenty years ago, I have always felt that it is its practical potential that makes philosophy really important. My experience as a counsellor has confirmed both the need for helping people with ‘problems in living’ and the potential for the counselling room to be an arena where people can be helped. My experience suggested something else as well. The different approaches to counselling all seemed to help, but in different ways. What if a therapy could be developed which took the strengths of each, developing them into a coherent whole, applying only appropriate ideas and methods at the right time? The idea of integrative therapy is not a new one, but the idea of basing such an integrative therapy on acceptable philosophical theories and techniques may be. This is the project I set myself to develop in my counselling work. This book is a statement of where that project stands at the moment.

    There is a large number of people without whom this project would not have been possible. I am indebted to many at Regent's College. Most of all I must thank Ernesto Spinelli for his encouragement and ideas as Series Editor. I must also mention Simon du Plock, who first suggested the idea of the book and helped me create the BA module which set the ball rolling for this book. I would also like to thank all my tutors, students and clients, and my colleagues in the Society of Existential Analysis, for their stimulating contributions over the years. More recently my colleagues in the Society of Consultant Philosophy and those who contribute to its journal, Practical Philosophy, which I edit, have formed a constant source of stimulating discussion. Last, but certainly not least, particular thanks are due to the man whose inspiring tutorials made me realize the value of philosophy, Mike Inwood, my tutor at Trinity College, Oxford.

    I would also like to thank those at Continuum for their efficient and professional work, especially David Hayden for his fine editorial work and Robin Baird-Smith for his faith in the project in its early days. I would particularly like to thank my colleagues David Arnaud and Antonia Macaro for their enlightening discussions on various areas of counselling and practical philosophy. The Progress model, which features in this book, is very much a joint development, and I am grateful for their permission to use it in this book. I would also like to thank those who have read all or part of the book for their insightful comments, including Bill Anderson, David Arnaud, Shamil Chandaria, Robert Hill, Antonia Macaro and Freddie Strasser. The book is better for their comments, which is not to say that they agree with all of it! Some of the material used in this book has appeared before. I would like to thank The Philosophers' Magazine, Philosophy Now and Humanity for their permission to reprint these items. Finally, I would like to thank my family for their support and encouragement throughout this project, especially my wife Beata, to whom this book is dedicated.

    TimLeBonGuildford, SurreyJanuary 2001


    To Beata

  • Conclusion

    I hope to have shown that philosophy has much to offer the counsellor. Philosophy's role in assessing counselling from the safety of an armchair has been demonstrated by the critique of a number of counselling approaches, as well as the key concepts of ‘autonomy’, ‘well-being’, ‘the meaning of life’, ‘reason’ and ‘the emotions’. Philosophy can also help counsellors faced with dilemmas in their own work, by informing them about theories of right and wrong, and by supplying procedures to help with decision-making. But the greatest value of philosophy is, I believe, very practical. Philosophy is most potent in the front line, as it were, providing counsellors with powerful methods – the counsellor's philosophical toolbox – which can form a significant part of their repertoire of skills. RSVP, Progress, the Charles Darwin Method and the rest are the result of the fruitful marriage of philosophy and counselling.

    The advantages to clients from the use of these methods, and from philosophical approaches to counselling in general, are manifold. They include the opportunity for greater clarity, rigour and creativity. I have singled out three benefits that I believe are most important: enlightened values, emotional wisdom and good decisions. I hope that this book helps stimulate the development of values-focused counselling, emotion-focused counselling and decision counselling to promote each of them. A really wise counsellor – someone with the theoretical wisdom of Socrates, the practical wisdom of Aristotle, and the empathy of Carl Rogers – will of course do even more than promote enlightened values, emotional wisdom and good decisions in isolation. The ultimate reward for the client is a better chance to lead a more satisfying and meaningful life – no small thing. If counselling accepts all that philosophy has to offer, it can then, and only then, offer such wise therapy.


    The existentialist greyhound or Jean-Paul Sartre goes to the White City (and loses all his money)13 (with apologies to P. G. Wodehouse)

    It was one of those Saturday nights between the Boat Race and the Lords' Test when Yours Truly was at something of a loose end. Out of the b., Pongo Twistleton rang me to say that he and his Uncle Fred were going to the dog track that night, and would we care to join them? Well, as the poet said, you only live once, so off we toddled to the jolly old White City.

    As it happened, Jeeves had invited a couple of French chums over for the weekend – cheerful chaps, ate lots of fish, so they came with us. Pongo's Uncle Fred got us all in for nothing by claiming they were visiting French diplomats, he and Jeeves were members of the Cabinet, and me and Pongo were their assistants. Not a bad start, eh what?

    Everything was going swimmingly until after the first race. Then all of a sudden one of the French coves, Albert ‘the Cat’ Camus, came over in what seemed to young Bertram like a fit of hysterics. ‘Mad dogs and Englishmen! I always thought that this country was strange, with your ridiculous pinned-stripe suits and your fox-taunting and inedible chips and fish. But now I see that even the animals are mad in this country. How can they chase after a hare that isn't real, even though they never catch it, week after week? It is unbelievable!’

    The other French chappie, Jean-Paul, ‘George and Ringo’ Sartre, joined in the attack.

    ‘Mon Dieu, you are right, Albert. They all have the free will to make no exit from the starting trap, but they do not use it. They are in bad faith – a bit like that waiter over there …’

    ‘Well steady on, old beans,’ I interrupted. The Woosters can get quite stirred when the old Mother C's honour is at stake. ‘I mean, eh what, steady on!’

    As usual, the sharp intellect of young Bertram stopped them in their tracks.

    ‘In fact, Jean-Paul – isn't life one big dog race?’ continued Camus excitedly. ‘Aren't we all like those poor greyhounds? Don't we seek things like happiness and meaning which we can never get? And don't we still keep trying for them?’

    After that there was no stopping them, all night. I didn't catch much of the rest, but I think it was all about Exi-something and the myth of Sissy-somebody-else. To be honest it all went a teeny bit over young Bertram's head, but Jeeves seemed most interested – so much so he was no b. help at all picking the winners.

    Time passed, and Dame Fortune continued to give us a wide berth. Jeeves seemed unusually agitated though. ‘I do believe, sir, that we may have witnessed tonight some developments in the field of philosophy that will not go unnoticed,’ he remarked.

    ‘Never mind Phil O'Whatsit and his field – who is going to win the last race?’ I bellowed, slightly irritably, trying to turn his attention to more pressing concerns.

    ‘I will endeavour to discover the solution to your conundrum, sir,’ he replied, and shimmered off.

    Meanwhile Uncle Fred was telling anyone who would listen that he had a hot tip for trap 6, who rejoiced in the name of ‘Freddie's Superman.’ Pongo and Sartre were both persuaded to put their hard-earned on it, though Camus insisted on betting the outsider.

    Just in the nick of time I managed to find Jeeves. ‘Put this on Freddie's Superman,’ I shouted, handing him next year's subscription to the Drones.

    ‘Very good, sir, if that is sir's wish.’

    Well, blow me but trap 6 ran as if it was my Aunt Agatha, while trap 1 ran as if it had Aunt Agatha chasing it. A few minutes later, to my great surprise and delight, Jeeves handed me a large bundle of notes, as juicy as one of Anatole's steaks.

    ‘I thought I told you to bet trap 6!’

    ‘Yes, sir, you did. But I chanced upon Lord Russell's butler on the way to the bookmakers. His lordship, you understand, is connected with the winning greyhound. He conveyed to me the suggestion that an investment in trap 1 might in the long run transpire to be the more prudent option.’

    On the way home I couldn't stop beaming to myself. I kept asking everyone to confirm my feeling that everything was indeed for the best in the best of all possible worlds. Unfortunately this seemed to make Camus and Sartre even more miserable. They seemed totally transformed – couldn't get a laugh out of them all the way home. According to Jeeves, they never ever recovered their previous bon viveur. And all because of one of Uncle Fred's lousy tips. Funny old world, eh what?


    1 This is not to deny that other people who are severely depressed or anxious may benefit from diagnosis and medication.

    2 Throughout this book, as is common (but not universal) practice in the UK, I use the words ‘therapy’ and ‘counselling’ synonymously.

    3 Critical thinking is sometimes referred to as ‘informal logic’ or ‘critical reasoning’.

    4 Phenomenologists are however interested in a person's reasons, which makes the ‘Why?’ question very tempting. A question like ‘Why are you so upset by your husband?’ is just as likely to get a response in terms of causes (‘I was really tired after looking after the baby all day’) as reasons (‘It's wrong that he should stay out drinking all night’). So it is important to rephrase such questions explicitly in terms of reasons, e.g. ‘What are your reasons for being so upset by your husband's behaviour?’

    5 The case vignette of Claire (pp. 73–7) illustrates an example of the Life Design in action.

    6 Utilitarianism is explored in more detail in Chapter 2.

    7 It should not necessarily be inferred that the more philosophical an approach is, the better. Whether or not an approach is better depends both on the philosophical question of whether its aims are worthwhile, and the empirical question of whether it actually achieves its aims.

    8 Plato's earlier dialogues (Charmides, Crito, Euthydemus, Euthyphro, Gorgias, Hippias Major, Hippias Minor, Ion, Laches, Lysis, Menexenus, Meno, Protagoras, Republic I) are more normally taken to be attempts to recapture Socrates' own philosophy; in the later dialogues Plato increasingly uses Socrates as a mouthpiece for his own views.

    9 See the resources section on p. 185 for details.

    10 A version of this case vignette first appeared in Humanity (14: February/March 2000), Newsletter of the British Humanist Association.

    11 Socrates himself imposed a method, the elenchus, on clients.

    12 There are many cognitive and behavioural therapies, which makes terminology confusing. I reserve the term CBT to talk about the (mainly cognitive) therapy invented by Beck, and REBT to refer to Rational Emotive Behavioural Therapy associated with Ellis and Dryden. When talking more generally, I use the term ‘cognitive therapy’.

    1 God, it might be answered in reply, is not any old authority. God would only command us to do things that really are good, because God himself is good. But then we need to ask what the statement ‘God is good’ amounts to. If it is saying anything more than that God approves of God, it must be saying that goodness depends on other things, which leads us back into the horns of the dilemmas posed in Euthyphro.

    2 These mistaken types of relativism are not to be confused with the correct theory which says that what we should do is relative to the situation; these theories say that what we should do is relative to the person or society.

    3 The qualifications ‘simply’ and ‘straightforwardly’ are very important here. One major modern theory about ethical statements, moral realism, states that ethical statements are in some sense matters of fact. We will in fact be endorsing Michael Smith's realist view.

    4 More precisely, ‘strong’ versions of relativism and emotivism overstate their case. ‘Weak’ versions, which allow for a place for reason in ethics, are not necessarily guilty of this mistake.

    5 A second historical benefit of the emotive theory was that it led to theorists paying more attention to ‘the language of morals’, which is actually the title of an important book by R. M. Hare which was influenced by, but argued against, the emotivist's view.

    6 Note that giving a reason is very different from identifying a cause, although this is often blurred since we use the word ‘because’ in both cases. Reasons are grounds for doing or believing something; they are meant to convince us; causes are merely an historical fact which has led to something. In ethics we justify choices by giving reasons, not by identifying causes.

    1 The position under discussion is sometimes referred to as ethical hedonism – the view that all we ought to pursue is our own pleasure. This is to distinguish it from another (false) view called psychological hedonism, which is the view that all we in fact pursue is our own pleasure.

    2 This is not to take sides in the debate over whether states of mind are, ultimately, the only things that matter. The Cambridge philosopher G. E. Moore thought that a world containing one beautiful object but no people would be good. He thought that there are some states of the world that are good or bad completely independently of states of mind. But the distinction between states of mind and states of the world does not rely on this.

    3 Interestingly, some people respond that they would like to save up their time in the Experience Machine for when they are very ill or old. This suggests that happiness may become more of a priority when we are in pain, or incapable of achieving any changes to the world. However Freud, famously, refused pain-killers in the last days of his life as he preferred the ability to think to a pain-free life without the ability to think clearly.

    4 The term ‘Objective List theories’ is used instead by some writers, including James Griffin and Derek Parfit. A value is something whose fulfilment we take to be a good thing, other things being equal; objective theories say these are objective, others disagree.

    5 These values are chosen for being interesting rather than for being examples of ‘objective’ theorists; of the three Finnis is the only clear objectivist.

    6 Plato's theory of the Forms has been roundly criticized by nearly all commentators, from Plato's pupil Aristotle onwards. Yet its influence – partly through its absorption into Judeo-Christian thought where it is expressed in terms of God and heaven – is immense.

    7 They are also sometimes called ‘intrinsic preferences’. Kekes (1988) calls them ‘ideals’.

    8 It would be technically correct to group informed and rational preferences together, since fully rational preferences will also be well-informed ones. I chose to describe the two criteria separately because of the importance of well-informed desires which are nonetheless irrational because of the strength of the desire and the failure to take future desires into account properly.

    9 A difference between IPT and totally objective theories is that IPT still leaves open the possibility that you and I might have different lists of values. It is an empirical question whether the values people come up with when they think through their values in ideal conditions are similar to each other. As we shall see, RSVP is a method for coming up with such a list. It would be fascinating to compare different lists of the values generated by RSVP.

    10 The view that emotions can be irrational as well will be argued for in Chapter 4.

    11 Crumbaugh uses the term ‘logoanalysis’ to differentiate it from the more psychiatric logotherapy.

    12 One road this can take the existentialist down is that of making authenticity an overriding value, which, on one interpretation of authenticity, makes it open to Taylor's objections.

    13 In philosophical counselling's defence, it could be argued that Socrates proceeded in the same way, i.e. trying to work out the answers from scratch. At least Socrates had the excuse that he thought that he knew nothing, and also provided a focus (compare with the Socratic method that follows). See also my paper in Curnow, T. (ed.) (2001) for a further discussion of these issues.

    14 This vignette is based on an article in The Philosophers' Magazine (LeBon, 1999).

    1 Earlier proto-utilitarians include Protagoras and Hume.

    2 All these criticisms apply to Benthamite act-utilitarianism. Other forms of utilitarianism, including Mill's and Hare's, can be defended against some – but not all – of them.

    3 According to Kant, moral principles are imperatives, because they are commands to behave in a specified way, and they are categorical, because they must be obeyed in all circumstances, not only when they are in accord with your own or other people's preferences. There are actually several versions of the Categorical Imperative – the one given is known as the ‘formula of Universal Law’.

    4 Hare suggests that apparent contradictions between the theories are resolved when we realize that they operate at different levels of moral thinking. Hare (1981) argues that there are two levels of moral thinking, the intuitive and the critical. Were we superior creatures with the capacity to do instantaneous reasoning and calculations, and no propensity to favour ourselves, we should try to work out what to do from scratch in each situation we find ourselves in. Utilitarianism's mistake, according to Hare, is to think that we need to operate at this level – the critical level of moral thinking – all the time. In fact, it would be disastrous if we tried to do utilitarian calculations all the time, for all the reasons listed above. Given our limitations, we shall not achieve the best outcome by doing a utilitarian calculation each time. Instead, we should cultivate in ourselves a set of principles which in general lead to the best outcome. These principles will become second nature to us – they are our moral intuitions. At the intuitive level, we behave much like Kantians – sticking to principles and virtues whatever the consequences, and only departing from doing our duty with the greatest reluctance and guilt. Critical reasoning should be used only to select the best set of principles for use in intuitive thinking and to resolve conflicts between principles. Hare thinks that utilitarianism operates at the critical level. His argument for this conclusion, based on a complex conceptual analysis of the moral words, is not ultimately persuasive (LeBon, 1984). Hare's theory about the two levels of moral thinking means that we can ignore the second set of objections, based on the difficulty of calculating consequences. Our discussion in Chapter 2 helps us base it on well-being rather than pleasure or happiness. Utilitarianism is a much more plausible theory if it is reframed as one which produces a set of virtues and principles to impartially maximize well-being. Yet there is still the suspicion that even modified utilitarianism is too thin – it does not capture everything that matters. In particular, concerns that the distribution of well-being and duties to specific people will be underestimated by utilitarianism suggest that we need a procedure at the critical level to take everything that matters ethically into account rather than just the maximization of well-being.

    5 Weston does not, as far as I am aware, explicitly identify himself as a virtue ethicist. However, his insights into the virtues required to be a skilled ethical decision-maker justify him being classified as such.

    6 The theory that perhaps best combines utilitarianism, Kantianism and virtue ethics is that of the twentieth-century Oxford philosopher R. M. Hare. See Note 4 above.

    7 I owe the idea of applying critical thinking methodology to decisionmaking to David Arnaud.

    8 The Epicurean idea described on page 35 is in effect enhanced by CDM.

    1 See Damasio (1994) and LeDoux (1999) for lucid accounts of developments in this area.

    2 See Lazarus and Lazarus (1994) for a particularly clear introduction to the psychological literature on emotions.

    3 If indeed we have no control over tickles, aches and pains.

    4 This is not to say that drugs like Prozac work purely physiologically; they may have an effect on mood and cognitions as well.

    5 These considerations can be strengthened by arguments about the logic of emotional words. For example, the judgement that someone has committed a wrong is central to the concept of anger. Without this judgement an emotion would not be called ‘anger’ – whatever the bodily feeling that occurred.

    6 Ryle, as a logical behaviourist philosopher, argues that, conceptually, emotions are only dispositions to behave. Skinner and Watson, as behaviourist psychologists, are much more interested in discovering how the manipulation of external stimuli can affect emotions. There is a link between the two; if, as Ryle thinks, emotions are behaviour, then the same principles of learning theory, which apply to behaviour, can also be applied to emotions.

    7 Moods too are often, if not always, intentional, e.g. a child sulking about not getting the present he wanted.

    8 George Kelly turned this Kantian insight into a whole approach to counselling, Personal Construct Therapy.

    9 The Serenity Prayer is of course associated with Alcoholics Anonymous (AA); my point is that it has a much broader application.

    10 The downward arrow technique would only be recommended to be carried out by the client themselves with great care, since by definition it can uncover some scary material which the therapist needs to know will be challenged effectively.

    11 The Stoics made a distinction between those things that were absolutely good and those things that were merely preferred. They placed most conventional goods (including health and wealth) in the latter category.

    12 This also illustrates the point that PC can take any idea as a source for philosophical discussion, not just those traditionally taught at universities! The contrast between Aristophenes and St Exupéry was suggested to me by an entertaining talk on love given by Peter Rickman to the Society for Existential Analysis.

    13 In a response to this suggestion, Cohen states that ‘I use critical thinking didactically. I teach clients to recognise many different informal fallacies, and yes, it is effective with clients having the requisite cognitive abilities. As for research to see which fallacies are represented, the most frequently in client thinking, my clinical experience has informed me that this depends upon the client population and is quite variable between individuals. While some generalizations are possible, it is still better to gear didactic counselling to the individual rather than to make assumptions about what regime of logic is best to teach in advance of exploring the individual client's belief system.’ (Personal correspondence, 25 October 2000.)

    1 Should Tolstoy and those like him commit suicide on the basis of authenticity rather than nihilism? Personally, I would need a lot of convincing that authenticity is the only positive state of mind or state of the world, i.e. I believe it is one of a plurality of values. But even if one could consistently hold that authenticity is the only value (or perhaps an overriding value), given that nihilism no longer holds, just why is it authentic to commit suicide?

    2 But even this subjective meaning is insecure, because we may discover that our life is objectively meaningless. Casaubon might find out that someone else has already found the key.

    1 The technical term ‘cogent’ is sometimes used instead of ‘good’ to describe a sound argument.

    2 The critical thinking literature also contains a good deal of material about bad arguments, and there are many books which list types of fallacies to be avoided (see for example Warburton (1996) and Thouless (1930)). For example: the ‘Fallacy of equivocation’ happens when we use ambiguous language so that there are different senses of the same word in a premise and the conclusion.

    3 Govier calls the ‘Pros and Cons’ argument the less obvious name ‘conductive’. It is also sometimes called a ‘good reasons’ type of argument.

    4 In particular see Govier (1992), Thomson (1999) and Johnson and Blair (1994).

    5 These three criteria apply to all the types of argument mentioned (‘Pros and Cons’ arguments, arguments from analogy, inductive and deductive arguments) and are particularly helpful when dealing with ‘Pros and Cons’ arguments.

    6 The particular criteria given for rationality are my own, adapted for the purposes of counselling. For a somewhat more complex account, see Govier (1992).

    7 As we shall see, moral statements are partly a matter of evaluation as well as fact, therefore the criterion ‘acceptability’ may be preferable to ‘truth’ when discussing moral statements.

    8 This might actually be false, if computer programs like Eliza are considered to be counsellors!

    9 This method owes much to John Wilson in Thinking with Concepts. See also Chapter 6 of Philip Cam's Thinking Together: Philosophical Inquiry for the Classroom. Note that the term ‘concept’ is used rather than ‘word’ because it applies to words (e.g. autonomy) and phrases (e.g. ‘meaning of life’).

    10 RSVP stands for ‘Refined Subjective Value Procedure’. My thanks to all those who have helped improve RSVP, including Antonia Macaro, Bill Anderson, Shamil Chandaria and David Arnaud.

    11 Progress was developed by David Arnaud, Tim LeBon and Antonia Macaro.

    12 The list of errors in thinking are a composite of Burns (1990) and Blackburn (1987).

    13 I would like to thank Alan Harlow for suggesting this title. A different version of this piece first appeared in Philosophy Now.

    Bibliography and References

    Aristotle (various) Nicomachean Ethics (trans. W. D.Ross).
    Arnaud, D. and LeBon, T. (2000) Towards Wise Decision-Making in Practical Philosophy. London: SCP.
    Arnaud, D., LeBon, T. and Macaro, A. (2000) Progress: A Procedure for Wise Decision-making, on www at http://www.decision-making.co.uk.
    Beck, A. (1976/1991) Cognitive Therapy and the Emotional Disorders. London: Penguin.
    Bentham, J. (1948/1789) Introduction to the Principles of Morals and Legislation. New York: Hafner.
    Blackburn, I. (1987) Coping with Depression. Edinburgh: Chambers.
    Bloch, S., Chodoff, P. and Green, S. A. (1999) Psychiatric Ethics. Oxford: OUP.
    Bond, T. (2000) Standards and Ethics for Counselling in Action. London: Sage.
    Burkhardt, F. and Smith, S. (ed.) (1986) The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, Vol. 2. Cambridge: CUP.
    Burns, D. (1990) The Feeling Good Handbook. London: Penguin.
    Calhoun, C. and Solomon, R. (1984) What Is an Emotion?: Classic Readings in Philosophical Psychology. Oxford: OUP.
    Cam, P. (1995) Thinking Together: Philosophical Inquiry for the Classroom. Sydney: Hale and Iremonger.
    Camus, A. (1942/1975) The Myth of Sisyphus. London: Penguin.
    Cohen, E. (1992) Caution: Faulty Thinking Can Be Harmful to Your Happiness. Fort Pierce, Florida: Trace-Wilco.
    Cohen, E. (1995) ‘Philosophical counselling: some roles of critical thinking’, in R.Lahav and M.Tillmans, Essays on Philosophical Counselling. Lanham: University Press of America.
    Cohen, E. and Cohen, G. (1999) The Virtuous Therapist. Belmont, CA: Brooks/Cole.
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    Hoogendijk, A. (1995) ‘The philosopher in the business world as a vision developer’, in R.Lahav and M.Tillmans, Essays on Philosophical Counselling. Lanham: University Press of America.
    Howard, A. (2000) Philosophy for Counselling and Psychotherapy. Basingstoke: Macmillan.
    Inwood, B. and Gerson, L. P. (1994) The Epicurus Reader: Selected Writings and Testimonia. Indianapolis/Cambridge: Hackett.
    Inwood, M. (1997) Heidegger. Oxford: OUP.
    James, W. (1948) Psychology. New York: World Publishing.
    Johnson, R. H. and Blair, J. Anthony (1994) Logical Self-defense. New York: McGraw Hill.
    Kant, I. (1785/1948) Groundwork of the Metaphysics of Morals. London: Routledge.
    Kekes, J. (1992) The Examined Life. Pennsylvania: Pennsylvania State University Press.
    Klemke, E. D. (ed.) (1981) The Meaning of Life. New York: OUP.
    Klinger, E. (1977) Meaning and Void: Inner Experiences and the Incentives in People's Lives. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.
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    Lahav, R. (1995) ‘A conceptual framework for philosophical counselling: worldview interpretation’, in R.Lahav and M.Tillmans, Essays on Philosophical Counselling. Lanham: University Press of America.
    Lahav, R. (1998) ‘On the possibility of a dialogue between philosophical counselling and existential psychotherapy’, in Journal of the Society for Existential Analysis, Vol. 9, No. 1, pp. 129–44.
    Lahav, R. and Tillmans, M. (1995) Essays on Philosophical Counselling. Lanham: University Press of America.
    Law, S. (2000) The Philosophy Files. London: Dolphin.
    Lazarus, R. and Lazarus, B. (1994) Passion and Reason: Making Sense of Our Emotions. Oxford: OUP.
    LeBon, T. (1984) ‘Hare's Moral Thinking: A Critique’ (M.Phil, dissertation for London University).
    LeBon, T. (1994) ‘The existentialist greyhound’, in Philosophy Now, Issue 9.
    LeBon, T. (1999/2000) ‘The clinic’ series, in The Philosophers' Magazine.
    LeBon, T. (2000) ‘6 months to live’, in Humanity, Issue 14.
    LeBon, T. (2001a) ‘Philosophical counselling: an introduction’, in T.Curnow (ed.) Thinking Through Dialogue: Proceedings of the 6th International Conference on Philosophy in Practice. London: SCP.
    LeBon, T. (2001b) ‘Socrates, philosophical counselling and thinking through dialogue’, in T.Curnow (ed.) Thinking Through Dialogue: Proceedings of the 6th International Conference on Philosophy in Practice. London: SCP.
    LeDoux, J. (1999) The Emotional Brain. London: The Phoenix Press.
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    Marinoff, L. (1998) Interview by Tim LeBon in Philosophy Now, 20, Spring, pp. 7–10.
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    Recommended Reading

    General Introductions to Philosophy

    Nigel Warburton's Philosophy: The Basics and Philosophy: The Classics are lucid and well-written introductions from a thematic and historical perspective respectively. Thomas Nagel's What Does It All Mean? is shorter, and very good. Stephen Law's The Philosophy Files is meant for children, but contains a better introduction to key issues than most books aimed at adults. Stevenson and Haberman's Ten Theories of Human Nature is very well structured, and includes chapters on Sartre and Plato. Ted Honderich's The Oxford Companion to Philosophy is perhaps the best reference book available. Of course, Plato's dialogues remain one of the best introductions to philosophy – Euthyphro, Meno, Symposium and The Republic being good ones to start with.

    Philosophical Counselling

    Essays on Philosophical Counselling (edited by Lahav and Tillmans) remains the seminal work on philosophical counselling. Thinking Through Dialogue: Essays on Philosophy in Practice (edited by Trevor Curnow) provides a more up-to-date survey of the field and includes not only many papers on philosophical counselling but also covers philosophy in education and business.

    Lou Marinoff's Plato Not Prozac! includes a presentation of many cases in the manner of a self-help book. Shlomit Schuster's Philosophy Practice: An Alternative to Counselling and Psychotherapy is a more academic treatment; as the title suggests, Schuster is less sympathetic to psychological models of counselling than the present writer. Peter Raabe's Philosophical Counseling: Theory and Practice came out as this book went to press, and is written by one of the leading writers on the subject. David Lodge's novel Therapy is recommended both as an entertaining novel about the contemporary ‘therapy-culture’ and also as a description of how philosophy – in this case Kierkegaard – can be of practical importance.

    Existential-Phenomenological Counselling

    Emmy van Deurzen Smith's Existential Counselling in Practice and Irvin Yalom's Existential Psychotherapy are two classics in the field. Yalom's Momma and the Meaning of Life and Love's Executioner and Ernesto Spinelli's Tales of Unknowing show how it works in practice. Strasser and Strasser's Existential Time-Limited Therapy is a coherent synthesis of existential ideas. Michael Inwood's Heidegger is recommended as an introduction to Heidegger; Sartre's Essays in Existentialism is a good collection of Sartre's works.

    Cognitive Therapy

    Aaron Beck's Cognitive Therapy and the Emotional Disorders remains a good overview of CBT, Albert Ellis's Reason and Emotion in Psychotherapy of REBT. However, David Burns' The Feeling Good Handbook is perhaps the best introduction to cognitive therapy. The works of Windy Dryden are also recommended, as is his Individual Therapy in Britain which provides an excellent overview of counselling as a whole in the UK.


    Frankl's Man's Search for Meaning is a good introduction to Frankl and logotherapy, Crumbaugh's Everything to Gain is hard to obtain, but very good.

    Philosophy in Practice

    Alain de Botton's The Consolations of Philosophy is a very well-written book about the practical application of the ideas of six philosophers, including Seneca, Epicurus, Socrates and Nietzsche. Alex Howard's Philosophy for Counselling and Psychotherapy provides an historical account of the major philosophers and their connection with counselling.

    General Counselling Skills

    Of many books, Sue Culley's Integrative Counselling Skills in Action and Gerald Egan's The Skilled Helper are among the best.

    Part 1: Ethics

    Peter Singer's Ethics: The Oxford Reader is an indispensable collection of essays. J. Mackie's Ethics: Inventing Right and Wrong is a classic, if somewhat partisan, account of metaethics.

    James Griffin's Well-being is a classic, if difficult, survey of ideas about well-being. John Kekes' The Examined Life is an excellent, easy-to-read book, to which I owe much. Richard Robinson's An Atheist's Values is a third book which I found very useful. Holmes and Lindley's The Values of Psychotherapy attempts to defend therapy in terms of autonomy and is very well written.

    Aristotle's Nicomachean Ethics remains the classic work of virtue ethics and is very easy to read, if rather dry. S. Covey's The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People is a modern, American neo-Aristotelian self-help book. de Bono's Thinking Course is one of many books where the lateral thinking master explains his ideas. Peter Singer's Practical Ethics is a modern utilitarian treatment of practical issues, Geoffrey Scarre's Utilitarianism is a thorough and readable treatment. J. S. Mill's Utilitarianism is still well worth reading. R. M. Hare's Moral Thinking provides the mature philosophy of one of the leading moral philosophers of the twentieth century. Anthony Weston's A Practical Companion to Ethics is both easy to read and an enjoyable read, and much recommended. Anne Thomson's Critical Reasoning in Ethics is also very useful. Hammond et al.'s Smart Choices provides a self-help and sophisticated account of decision-making. Tim Bond's Standards and Ethics for Counselling in Action is a solid and reliable guide to counselling ethics in the UK. Elliot and Gale Cohen's The Virtuous Therapist has the added virtue of being written jointly by a philosopher and a counsellor, and has a North American perspective.

    Calhoun and Solomon's What Is an Emotion? is a very useful collection of short philosophical essays on the emotions. Solomon's classic The Passions is a readable account of his own ideas. Lazarus and Lazarus's Passion and Reason: Making Sense of Our Emotions is a good psychological overview of theories. Richard Sorabji's Emotions and Peace of Mind is a masterful account of philosophy and the emotions from the Stoics to St Augustine. Freddie Strasser's Emotions: Experiences in Existential Psychotherapy and Life contains an existentialist perspective. Nisbett and Ross's Human Inference: Strategies and Shortcomings of Social Judgement is a classic on the sort of cognitive mistakes people can make. Stuart Sutherland's Irrationality is a less academic treatment and Nicholas Rescher's Rationality a philosophical overview. The November 2000 edition of Practical Philosophy is a special edition devoted to reason, the emotions and philosophy in practice.

    The Meaning of Life (edited by Klemke) is an invaluable collection, containing essays by Tolstoy, Camus and Hare.

    Johnson and Blair's Logical Self-defense, Trudy Govier's A Practical Study of Argument, Nigel Warburton's Thinking from A to Z and Anthony Weston's A Rulebook for Arguments are all recommended. John Wilson's Thinking with Concepts is one of a small number of books actually telling you how to do conceptual analysis.


    British Humanist Associationhttp://www.humanism.org.uk
    New School of Psychotherapy & Counsellinghttp://www.nspc.org.uk
    Philosophical Society of Englandhttp://www.philsoc.co.uk
    Philosophy Nowhttp://www.philosophynow.demon.co.uk
    Practical Philosophyhttp://www.practical-philosophy.org.uk
    Progress decision procedurehttp://www.decision-making.co.uk
    Society of Consultant Philosophershttp://www.society-of-consultant-philosophers.org.uk
    Society for Existential Analysishttp://www.existential.mcmail.com
    The Philosophers' Magazine (TPM)http://www.philosophers.co.uk
    The School of Psychotherapy and Counselling at Regent's Collegehttp://www.spc.ac.uk
    The Stoic Foundationhttp://members.aol.com/cyberstoic
    Tim LeBon's site (includes information on this book)http://members.aol.com/timlebon
    E-mails/Phone Numbers
    British Humanist Associationmembers@humanism.org.uk
    New School of Psychotherapy & Counsellingadmin@nspc.org.uk
    Philosophical Society of Englandthephilosophicalsociety@yahoo.co.uk
    Philosophy Nowrick.lewis@philosophynow.demon.co.uk
    Practical Philosophyeditor@practical-philosophy.org.ukProgress decision procedure (decision counselling and training)davidarnau@aol.com
    Society of Consultant Philosophersenquiries@society-of-consultant-philosophers.org.uk
    Society for Existential Analysisexist@cwmcom.net
    The Philosophers' Magazine (TPM)editor@philosophers.co.uk
    The School of Psychotherapy and Counselling at Regent's CollegeTel: 0207 487 7446; spc@regents.ac.uk
    The Stoic Foundationcyberstoic@aol.com
    Tim LeBontimlebon@aol.com

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