Currently I am in practice in Melbourne work with people in a philosophical capacity regarding significant personal problems. I believe that many, if not most, problems at present referred to psychologists and even psychiatrists, are basically philosophical and as such would be better treated by a person whose professional training and special skills are better suited for solving these types of problem. As it stands at the moment having ‘Therapy’ invariably means ‘Psychotherapy’. The term ‘Philosotherapy’ has been employed firstly to point out that most of the problems that currently bedevil us can be seen to be philosophical and secondly to recognize the role of the philosopher in solving personal problems of this nature.
If someone is confused or unsure about what sort of world he can live in, or is troubled about whether are ‘real’ or not, or is depressed about an apparently absurd or worthless world, why send him to a psychiatrist? Why call his problems ‘Mental’. Problems about Reality and living have always been the subject of the philosophers’ concern. The problems of the modem day world are not symptoms of mental ill health but are an understandable reaction to be expected in the circumstances that surround us.
Many problems are philosophical in nature. How you see the world and your place in it; the changing values in society; morality, what is good or bad anymore?; life styles; spiritual outlook; relationships with others; meaningfulness and worth; self-identity; attitudes to living and death; anxieties over existence; social commitments and responsibilities and our future and if there is to be one I none of these are Emotional or ‘Mental’ problems although they may lead to them. Let us not confuse the effect with the cause. To get to the bottom of a philosophical problem requires a philosopher, thus philosotherapy. Philosotherapy may come to replace psychotherapy in many cases but I by no means wish to elevate the philosotherapist to any special status. I see him co-operating with many others in the ‘helping services’ for example Grief Therapy, Drug Advice Counselling, Marriage Guidance—wherever the skill of a trained philosophical counsellor may be required.
What qualifies the philosopher to be a therapist? How can he help? In many cases the philosotherapist would help the client examine his ‘philosophy’ or lack of one, to help him define his problem in terms of the values he holds and this talking out would in many cases be in itself therapeutic. He brings to the problem a trained mind free of psychological dogma. He will not try to tell you that all neuroses have a sexual origin or that your problems of dealing with the tricky issue of how you are to handle ‘forgiveness’ can be traced back to your childhood toilet training! The philosotherapist will not try to mould or change his client to fit some preconceived notion. His aim is to aid a person who at present may see the world as senseless and futile so that by getting back to basics he may once again discover a sense of purpose soundly based on his very own philosophical values. The therapist must however be more than just a good ‘ideas person’. Compassion, humanism, insightfulness, intuition, astuteness, resourcefulness, humour, imagination and good common sense, are just as—if not more important attributes, perhaps I should add modesty in the hope that I may lay claim to a modicum of these qualities. It may be that a good therapist is born not made but it is to be hoped that a practitioner can bring to his professional skills an element of genuine caring.
How do I practice philosotherapy? Let me first tell you what not to expect. There will be no drugs; either pharmaceutical or psychological. In fact dependencies of this sort are things to which I am keen to find a solution. Very often just exploring the problem proves in itself to be the therapy! That is why the treatment employs extensive conversations ~a two-way ex- change of ideas – NOT in the stereotyped 50 minute hour on the psychiatrist’s couch, but a freewheeling interchange in which-ever surroundings are most conducive to results. At your home; on a train journey, in the botanical gardens; or strolling along the banks of the Yarra; none of these are beyond the bounds of possibility for those who prefer an alternative to visiting my consulting rooms in Collins Street. Exploring the type of problems I am called upon to deal with is more than a formal matter of trying to achieve understanding in an office, it involves, as I see it, a far more comprehensive and realistic relationship between the therapist and the client in the latters lifestyle. To this end I tend to have longer meetings with my clients, often in a natural or public setting and I am available ‘after hours’ also doing home visits. I find such ‘external world’ orientations remarkably efficient in most problems of living and self, which is not surprising considering that such problems have to be ultimately faced and resolved in the world and not in the practitioners office. Thus it would not be unknown for me to have my consultations with someone on a train to Williamstown the banks of the Yarra, or in the foyer of the Arts Centre. In such circumstances the flexibility and opportunity to deal with a living problem in a living world has been, I have found, of immense benefit “to my client in coming to terms with his problem and working together to its solution.
From the above it will be seen that my aims include three main points:
1. To avoid the inappropriate referral of basically philosophical problems for lengthy and expensive psychological treatment.
2. To involve trained philosophers in dealing with commonly experienced problems of living, reality and the self. Problems which being philosophical very few therapists could thus claim special competence.
3. To myself pioneer in Melbourne a caring, helping service of this kind for which my professional training has especially suited me.
Finally on a practical note, what does a prospective client need to know? By appointment I am willing to see both individuals and groups (couples or families in my city office (third floor, 165 Collins St) or in the comfort of their own homes (at no extra charge). Although there is no Health Fund or Medicare cover as yet, my fee is reasonable by any professional standard with, at discretion, provision for a sliding-scale according to income. Clients should understand that I am not a psychological practitioner or engaged in the practice of psychology and may be asked to sign a form to that effect.