Academic journal article American Journal of Psychotherapy

Philosophy Practice: An Alternative to Counseling and Psychotherapy

Academic journal article American Journal of Psychotherapy

Philosophy Practice: An Alternative to Counseling and Psychotherapy

Article excerpt

SHLOMIT C. ScHusTER: Philosophy Practice: An Alternative to Counseling and Psychotherapy. Praeger Publishers, Westport, CT, 1999, 224 pp., $59.95, ISBN 0-275-96541-4.

The intersection of philosophy and psychotherapy is an interesting and important one. Both fields deal with the issues of meaning and metamorphosis, and yet in terms of study and practice, they are generally quite separate.

This book could have been about bridging that gap, about bringing philosophical discourse more into the realm of therapy, an idea that is the basis of others' work and several organizations. I have been particularly interested in further exploration of philosophy as the possible fount of the automatic thoughts explored in cognitive therapy (perhaps negative thoughts spring from an underlying nihilistic philosophy). Schuster, however, advocates the relatively novel use of philosophical discourse as an alternative to psychotherapy. As she makes quite clear in her book, she is not looking for a union with therapy. Although she begrudgingly acknowledges that some individuals may need therapy or medical treatment, she is antitherapy. Indeed, she posits that "a `learned ignorance' concerning therapy, in spite of knowing what goes on in the world of therapy, is ideal for the philosophical practitioner" (p. 89). A philosopher championing ignorance seems odd, and I think that this position cuts her approach off from what therapists have learned.

If it is not therapy, what is philosophical practice or counseling? It is based on academic philosophy, and on the assumption that people are often lost in a maze of confused beliefs. The practitioner engages the client in a conversation about philosophy that may help to clarify the person's thinking. Schuster argues that this practice is different from psychotherapy because of its basis in philosophical discourse, what I would call a lack of attachment to results (the philosophical practitioner looks for a high-quality discussion instead) and the avoidance of diagnosis.

I found myself wanting to point out that many practitioners of psychotherapy are troubled by the dogmatic structure of current nosology, and are focused more on process than results. Schuster also seems to assume that therapy continues to be primarily based on Freud, although she is clearly aware of some alternative schools of psychotherapy. …

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