Wise Therapy: Philosophy for Counsellors
(Sage, 2001) by Tim LeBon
“Like Aristotle, LeBon examines what is said and extracts what is best from it …. There are many fascinating exercises designed to bring out and enlighten the client's values, conception of the good life, well-being, happiness, pleasure, and the proper place of reason in life … Wise Therapy is well written and engaging. The case histories are illuminating examples of therapeutic techniques at work, the thought experiments are well designed, and the philosophical position adapted from the internal debates of the philosophers is level headed. … I recommend it highly to philosophers with an interest in counselling, and psychological counsellors with an interest in philosophy. “ Jeff Mason in The Philosophers Magazine
Postscript (written September 2005)
I wanted to write the sort of book that I would myself find useful as a therapist and counsellor. Since reading Plato and J.S. Mill in my early undergraduate days in Oxford I have been convinced that philosophy has a big contribution to make to wise living. Although philosophy is notorious for providing more questions than answers, the deeper I looked into the main topic areas of relevance to psychotherapy and counselling, the more I became convinced that a coherent, plausible and illuminating answer to key questions could be derived. Each chapter of Wise Therapy begins with a survey of a philosophical topic - well-being, right and wrong, reason and the emotions and the meaning of life – with a view to mining – like Aristotle, as one very kind reviewer put it – an acceptable synthesis. But how to use these insights in counselling and psychotherapy? My key idea is that wise therapy occurs when one uses methods derived from wise philosophy, rather than, for example, merely instructing the client in philosophy. So in the second part of each chapter I describe methods that therapists can use that are consistent with the philosophically –acceptable answers. Some of these methods are adapted from existing therapies – such as existential therapy, logotherapy and cognitive therapy – others are new. In the final chapter the Counsellor’s Philosophical Toolbox, I collect all these methods together and describe them in more detail. This chapter is, if you like , the pay-off for all the hard – but hopefully stimulating – philosophical thinking that the reader is invited to carry out in the previous chapters.
Feedback from readers has been very encouraging, and I hope that the book provides ideas that can’t be found elsewhere. Looking back on the book four years later, I am fairly pleased with what I wrote, but have some regrets about what I left out. I would love to say more about the nature of wisdom, about how to do philosophical counselling and about how to apply these ideas as self-help rather than as a therapist. Perhaps I’ll write about these things in a follow-up book. But, for now, I hope that Wise Therapy forms a useful stepping stone in your journey as a therapist or counsellor.
Wise Therapy Contents listing
Chapter 1 Introduction
1. Wise Therapy
2. What is Philosophy and why is it Relevant to Counselling?
3. Philosophical Counselling and other philosophical forms of counselling
4. How to use this book
Part 1 Ethics
2 Metaethics : The foundations of ethics
Chapter 2 Well-being
1. Philosophical theories of well-being
2. Can counselling help?
Chapter 3 Right and Wrong
1. Starting Point - Counsellor's Own Ethical Dilemmas
2. Philosophical theories about right and wrong
3. Progress towards ethical decision-making
4. Decision Counselling
Part 2 The Emotions, Reason and the Meaning of Life
Chapter 4 The Emotions and Reason
1. Three theories about the nature of emotions
2. The Emotions, Rationality and Emotional Wisdom
3. Emotion-focused Counselling
Chapter 5 The Meaning of life
1. Philosophy and the Meaning of Life
2 Counselling and the Meaning of Life
Chapter 6 The Counsellor's Philosophical Toolbox
A) Critical thinking
B) Conceptual analysis
C) The Charles Darwin Method
F) The philosophical methods of CBT
Postscript: The Existentialist Greyhound or Jean-Paul Sartre goes to the White City (and loses all his money)
Bibliography & References
Web sites & Contact Details
1. Wise Therapy
Brian is sad and sometimes gets depressed, but most of all wonders how he has come to lose touch with all that he used to think important. Claire is a young psychology undergraduate with a career decision looming over her. Torn between pursuing a traditional career and trying to do something more meaningful with her life, such as becoming a counsellor, she is suffering much anguish and anxiety over the decision. Alex, a dying woman with six months to live, urgently wants the opportunity to take stock of her life.
In previous eras, Brian, Claire and Alex may well have gone to their priest or family for help. In the twenty-first century they are just as likely to seek help through counselling. These people do not need to have their unconscious interpreted, or be clinically diagnosed . A listening ear may help but is it alone sufficient to help them make good decisions, understand the language of their emotions and work out how to lead a meaningful and worthwhile life? More than anything, Brian, Claire and Alex are in need of wise therapy. But have counsellors got the tools and knowledge to be wise therapists?
Linda has been approached by a couple wanting to take advantage of the low-cost therapy she offers, and is unsure whether it is ethical to branch out into couple counselling, for which she has no specific training. The latest revelation of Ian's client's inner world leaves him with a dilemma about whether confidentiality extends to clients who are potential child-molesters. Both of these practitioners realise that to be wise therapists, they need an area of expertise not covered by training programmes focussing on communication skills and psychological theories alone.
Susan is a counsellor trying to defend counselling against the attacks of her smug anti-therapy psychiatrist friend, Graham. "Empirical studies show that counselling is a cost-ineffective way of helping people, and it would be quite wrong to provide public money to subsidise it" says Graham triumphantly. Susan is sure that there must be a good answer - but is lost for words. How she would like to be a wise therapist who could put such doubters in their place…
We would all like to be wise therapists. The question is - how can we achieve this? In this book I intend to show how philosophy can help ...
@ Tim LeBon Sage 2001
Critical acclaim for Wise Therapy
“Like Aristotle, LeBon examines what is said and extracts what is best from it …. There are many fascinating exercises designed to bring out and enlighten the client's values, conception of the good life, well-being, happiness, pleasure, and the proper place of reason in life … Wise Therapy is well written and engaging. The case histories are illuminating examples of therapeutic techniques at work, the thought experiments are well designed, and the philosophical position adapted from the internal debates of the philosophers is level headed. … I recommend it highly to philosophers with an interest in counselling, and psychological counsellors with an interest in philosophy. “
Jeff Mason in The Philosophers Magazine
"It would be difficult indeed to envision a book on this subject less obscure and more readable. We have in our hands a primer that offers tools counselors can put right to work in their Practice"
"The reader can find things easily, return to items needed with clients, and note essentials. Also, the style is conversationally direct. When LeBon means "I think", he says "I think" not "... it can be inferred..." or whatever is often seen when ideas meet the publisher."
"Wise Therapy, the book, is part of a series aimed at promoting an integrative attitude as its ethos. Among all the many perspectives of psychotherapists and counselors, philosophy needs to take its place and needs to find its voice. LeBon has provided an effective means by which counselors can bring philosophy into their work with clients."
"It does a fine service very well. It's a pleasure to read, and it will provoke serious questions among counselors about their role, their methods, and the efficacy of their own work with and without philosophy included"David M. Wolf in The APPA journal, July 2005
“Provides some additional and valuable arrows for the therapist's quiver "
Irvin Yalom, author of Love’s Executioner
“Tim LeBon with his book illustrates that philosophy has much to offer to counselling and psychotherapy… As a counsellor I found in the book new paths for my relationships with the clients. The using of simple language by the writer in order to explain difficult philosophical concepts, the style of writing, the originality and the applicability of the ideas, the very good structure and the sequence of "Wise Therapy", makes it a highly readable and innovative source. Apart from the text, the book as a whole is a rich source itself, including bibliography references, recommended reading, interesting websites and e-mail addresses. It is a very good choice for libraries and counselling centers from different orientations. For these reasons, I strongly recommend it for philosophers as well as practitioners, teachers, students and supervisors in counselling and psychotherapy."
Grigoris Mouladoudis in Self and Society
“The task LeBon has set himself is not simply the explication of various philosophically oriented approaches to therapy, but an attempt to present a form of ‘integrative therapy’ based on acceptable philosophical theories and techniques … I think there are potentially three audiences for this book. Firstly there are those who want to gain a critical overview of philosophy and counselling. Secondly there are those who want to gain some practical tools for applying philosophical ideas with clients. The final group are those that are interested in the application of a coherent philosophical model to their work. There is no doubt that the book provides for the first two audiences admirably. For those in the third group, there is going to be a period of waiting. This is a book that of necessity sets the scene, provides the rationale and suggests ways of integrating philosophical insights and practical therapy. As the beginning of a project it is an admirable start.”
Robert Hill in The Journal of the Society for Existential Analysis
“LeBon has … authored a text which should become a staple on the philosophical counsellor’s bookshelf… Wise Therapy is a concise, well-written book … His ability to relate philosophical concepts to counselling concerns is admirable and attests to the skill and knowledge he possesses as a working counsellor. But, by far the most important part of LeBon’s book to PC is the last chapter, “The Counsellor’s Philosophical Toolbox”.
Craig Munns in The Examined Life
“LeBon has done a good job of offering practical approaches to some of the most important and vexing issues that arise in counselling … LeBon’s book contains helpful suggestions, practical information, and useful examples, and would make a good addition to the library of any counsellors willing to allow philosophy to turn mere client sessions into wise therapy.”
Peter Raabe in Practical Philosophy
"Wise Therapy is an accessibly pitched and clearly written introductory book on the application of philosophy to counseling, a specialty which Le Bon, in several places, traces right back to the practice of Socrates (in Plato's dialogues)....
Wise Therapy is a comprehensible and well argued book dealing with the practical therapeutic applications of philosophical research that may well be of interest to philosophers but - as the author himself intends - will be of most obvious benefit to therapists and counselors, both by informing their dialogue with clients in new ways and by helping them become more informed about ways to resolve the ethical dilemmas arising within the context of their own work"
Matthew Ray in MetaPsychology
“Wise therapy provides a lucid, original and very practical guide to how philosophy can help counsellors. The author argues that in order for therapy to be wise, it should help clients gain enlightened values, make better decisions and achieve emotional wisdom. To do this a sound philosophical base is essential. Theories about each key topic - well-being, right and wrong, the emotions and reason and the meaning of life - are discussed critically yet constructively, with a view to arriving at an overall understanding that can inform good counselling practice. The second half of each chapter goes on to extract these practical methods and insights. Of central interest to all counsellors and psychotherapists will be RSVP, a method to help clients develop enlightened values, and Progress, a procedure to help facilitate good decision-making. The author, a practising counsellor, also shows how insights gained from cognitive-behavioural therapy, logotherapy, existential-phenomenological counselling and philosophical counselling can be integrated in a coherent manner. The resulting methods are drawn together usefully in a final section, The Counsellor's Philosophical Toolbox. As well as providing ideas to help clients, the book also shows counsellors how to make good ethical decisions themselves, and discusses the value of counselling as a whole. Punchy, practical and original, Wise Therapy is essential reading for all counsellors who wish to place their practice on a sounder footing.”
From the back cover of Wise Therapy
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