Emotional Well-being and Mental Health: A Guide for Counsellors & Psychotherapists


Digby Tantam

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    About the Author

    Digby Tantam is Emeritus Professor at the University of Sheffield, an honorary visiting senior research fellow at the University of Cambridge and a director of the Septimus Group of companies. He has been a psychiatrist in the NHS for most of his working life, and was the first Professor of Psychotherapy to be appointed to a UK University. He is married to Emmy van Deurzen, and they share the joys and occasional tribulations of their four children, and a love of the British countryside, where they live.

    Foreword by Emmy van Deurzen

    Many of us are preoccupied with the question of how to live our lives well. We know that it will involve knowing more about health, happiness and well-being but we get confused by the sheer contradictions between the contentions of authors in that field and might conclude it is best just not to think about it all too much and live from day to day.

    This book tackles the age-old question of how to live in a direct and pragmatic manner. It seeks to find answers to existential questions by gathering the facts and making sense of them whilst weeding out the myths that still abound around these matters.

    More books have been written about this subject than any of us could ever read. Digby Tantam’s savvy summary of contemporary knowledge in this confusing field is concise and compelling in its clarity. From one chapter to the next he will guide you through the quagmire of fact and fantasy with the sure footedness of a highly experienced explorer and pathfinder.

    Reading this book may therefore save you much trouble in your search for an authoritative text on the subject of well-being. It cuts right across the many different approaches to the science of happiness and gives you access to the different perspectives and angles that have evolved over the years. It summarizes the findings of philosophers, health economists, positive psychologists, health workers, politicians, religions and psychotherapists, showing you how to compare and contrast these views and go beyond them so that you begin to get a sense of what it all means.

    When Digby and I started on a decade of happiness studies at the end of the nineties, as we co-directed the Centre for the Study of Conflict and Reconciliation at the University of Sheffield, we engaged in four funded projects to develop online masters programmes in existential psychotherapy in Europe together with many academic colleagues across the European Union. It soon became obvious that Digby’s vision of existential investigation was uniquely challenging. It was always securely tethered in scientific research, careful observation and diligent reasoning and yet it was invariably given powerful wings by his unstoppable intellectual energy and commitment to philosophical enquiry and his capacity for synthetic meta-understanding.

    This book, which was to be a handbook for the course, started out as a joint project, but I soon realized that I would be unable to keep up with the breadth, depth and speed of his investigation and analysis, as he filled the pages with great panache and certainty of purpose.

    Much of his writing formed the basis of the online course we teach at the New School of Psychotherapy and Counselling on Health and Well Being, but for this manuscript he has augmented the original project and gone beyond it. It is a pleasure to be able to express my admiration for the excellence of his work as well as my gratitude for the steadiness and incisiveness of his exploration of these issues. Our collaboration has touched my own thinking greatly and he has stimulated me to conceive of existential psychology in a new and more contemporary way. Existential therapists have often had great insights into the philosophical aspects of human living, but they have often neglected to combine these insights with the lucidity of psychological, political or economic thinking. The mastery we can achieve when combining all these different methods, is displayed in this volume.

    Digby weaves his canvas tightly, as he deftly pulls together strands derived from many different branches of investigation. You will find here a kaleidoscopic and erudite exploration of happiness, health and well-being, which will enlighten and enliven your thinking. If you follow these various threads and allow yourself to question your previous assumptions, you will start seeing the unfolding of a new canvas on which to redraw your own therapeutic practice as well as the way in which you are living.

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