Should physicians and psychotherapists be the only ones involved in the diagnosis and treatment of patients? And can philosophy really be used to improve the quality of our daily lives? Frantisek Anderko, a leading academic in the field of philosophical counselling, was on campus January 25 to share some of his knowledge and ideas on these very topics. He addressed the audience eloquently on the subjects of philosophy, psychology, psychotherapy, and the modern treatment of mental illness. The event was hosted by UFV’s Student Association of Philosophical Counselling – one of the few organizations of its kind in North America – and was well-attended by students from a variety of disciplines, as well as UFV philosophy faculty members Peter Raabe and Moira Gutteridge-Kloster.
Anderko, who immigrated to Canada in 2010 and is currently working for the Italian-Canadian Family Counselling Association, has studied in multiple countries including Ireland, Italy, and his native Slovakia, and has earned degrees and diplomas in philosophy, theology, and counselling. In addition to serving public research through various initiatives, Anderko was also formerly employed by the Vatican.
The philosophical counselling movement was born out of the idea that philosophy can and should be used to assist people with their problems in living, be they the stresses of everyday life or the issues arising from mental illness. Philosophical counsellors are philosophers who have received additional training in counselling, but who are dedicated to assisting clients in using the tools provided by philosophy to improve the quality of their lives and help them better understand themselves. Most issues can be solved relatively easily by the individual or his or her support network, but from time to time, issues arise that are broader and more complex, and the philosophical counsellor can facilitate the resolution of these less clear-cut questions.
Anderko used the example of one of his clients, “Ana,” who came to him seeking assistance with a diagnosis of depression. At one point in their therapy, Ana was very distressed by a dilemma that had presented itself: on a job application, it requested an evaluation of the applicant’s mental health history. Ana was reticent to reveal her diagnosis of depression, should it affect her opportunity to be hired, but as a very honest person, she was also uncomfortable with the idea of lying. Anderko pointed out that this problem would pose a difficulty to the typical psychotherapist, as it is an ethical dilemma, not a physical or psychological problem.
In addition, Anderko identified the fact that he does not believe that diagnosis is always necessary. In the case of Ana, Anderko refused to give her a diagnosis even when she requested one, instead asking her to decide whether or not she considered herself to be depressed (she had been diagnosed by a physician). Philosophical counsellors believe that the individual should first and foremost be responsible for their diagnosis and treatment, and that it is not always up to the medical system to identify the cause of one’s psychological issues.
Anderko presented this new wave of philosophy not as a replacement for psychotherapy, counselling, or psychiatry, but as a vital accompaniment to these forms of diagnosis and treatment of mental illness. A holistic perspective is required to fully assist clients in dealing with their issues and returning to a balanced and healthy lifestyle. According to Anderko, the most effective counsellor will have a thorough knowledge of both the medical model and the philosophical approach to therapy and mental illness. A good counsellor will focus on a patient’s abilities, rather than his or her disabilities, and will assist the patient in achieving personal growth and development.
UFV’s own Peter Raabe is a certified philosophical counsellor, and his website can be found at http://www.ufv.ca/faculty/philosophy/raabep/index.html