In India, mental health problems are rising at an alarming rate. This fact calls into question the efficacy of prevailing modalities of counseling. The pandemic has shifted previously abstract concerns into more concrete problems: it is now essential to rethink our lives through a different lens. Thus, it is imperative to introduce an alternative process that works at the root of pressing issues, where doubts, confusion, and thoughts can be communicated and discussed with an expert.
Philosophical counseling is a contemporary counseling approach where the concerns of the counselee (client) are resolved using different philosophical tools and methods, enabling clients to cultivate what may be described as their inner philosopher. It is an integrated process of humanistic practice and rationality. This process works through an extensive exchange of dialogues and discussions about clients’ beliefs, actions, values, purposes, and commitments, not only what they presently are but also whether and to what extent they may or can be altered or strengthened.
“Philosophy” is a word we use in our day-to-day language, but do we understand this subject’s real essence? It encompasses the topics of epistemology (what is knowledge?), metaphysics (what is real?), aesthetics (what is beauty?), logic (what is identity, actuality, possibility, necessity?), and ethics (what is value?).
These domains of inquiry allow us to explore diverse ways of understanding human life. Philosophy has much to offer when it comes to improving mental health and well-being, helping us find meaning, purpose, and value, and guiding us on our journey through these challenging times.
The Aims of Philosophical Counseling
This practice aims to identify the problem, dilemma, inquiry, or puzzle at hand with an insightful discussion about the issue, which eventually helps the counselee recognize incorrect, inaccurate, maladaptive, or impractical beliefs. With counter-questioning and explanation, the counselee discovers, uncovers, and otherwise creates a self-realizing solution, which helps cultivate a personal philosophy.
This concept of personal philosophy is synonymous with a conscious articulation of one’s all-things-considered personality, and articulating it will help the counselee implement this theory in every aspect of life. This articulation is a very intrinsic process where the counselee might have some internal perception about what this personal philosophy is, but they do not feel connected with it.
This connection could have been lost due to time, or maybe the counselee is not yet aware of its existence. When we hear that ancient call to “know thyself,” we often dismiss it because we do not know if it is worth the knowing, nor do we know how to realize it.
But one of the effects of the pandemic is that it created an isolated environment which has literally forced people to live with themselves. This isolation has automatically revoked some various internal concerns which were suspended deep within for a long while. Thus the need to understand personal conflicts, emotions and questions is now more than ever.
How It Works
Briefly, philosophical counseling works in two different stages. The first step is a process of analysis and clarification and the second stage is the stage of self-transcendence . The former seeks to clarify the misconceptions, confusions, concepts and outlook which maybe causing some hindrances for further development in life. This stage helps to untangle the causes of distress which might be arising out various interwoven factors.
The second stage is mostly concerned with the growth and development of the individual after the clarification of their doubts. The word transcendence is not entirely used here in respect to spirituality, but it is a guided medium to help the counselee practice their personal philosophy, so they can become a better evolved person. If the counselee does not have any strong belief towards any fundamental philosophies, then the process of transcendence can also provide an alternative course of action which may extend beyond the network of thoughts which the counselee is currently living.
In the end, philosophical counseling eventually helps the counselee become a self-reliant person, rather than dependent upon the counselor. The counselor’s primary role is facilitating this self-discovery, self-realization, and self-actualization process. With the help of philosophical tools and methods, counselees can gradually interpret their life situations from their own self-defined and self-understood philosophy of life.
 Blass B. RR. (1996). On the possibility of self-transcendence. Journal of Chinese Philosophy, 23, 277.