By Sheetal Deo (Contributor) – Email
Date Posted: October 25, 2011
Print Edition: October 19, 2011
The past week was Mental Health Awareness week at UFV. The fact that such events are held at all begs the question: how aware are we of issues surrounding mental health? For one, are we aware that the current model to “treat” mental illnesses is based on a biological medical model even though there has yet to be any evidence that mental illnesses are in fact a biological condition?
In an attempt to bring awareness to this issue and create a paradigm shift in how we understand mental illness, several students (with the support of UFV Philosophy professor Dr. Peter Raabe) have created the Student Association of Philosophical Counselling (SAPC), a division of the Association of Students for Philosophy. This association, which was founded last year, is currently the only one of its kind in Canada. It is dedicated to generating discussions regarding the applications of philosophy in mental health, and also allows some members to apply their knowledge by taking on clients in a pseudo-practicum. These students have received training from Dr. Raabe and completed a course periodically offered by UFV called “Philosophy for Counsellors.” They have found clients who are aware they are students in training and are open and willing to undergo philosophical counselling.
So what is philosophical counselling? As the name suggests, philosophical counselling is an application of philosophy to counselling, a form of what some call “talk therapy.” Philosophy is foundational in reasoning, logic and the pursuit it entails – hence the “love of wisdom” that the literal translation of the Latin terms “philo” and “sophos” suggests. Philosophical counselling uses said reasoning and logic to identify the initial premise upon which a person’s thoughts, beliefs, values and assumptions are founded. The thought processes of an individual are followed and “examined” for fallacies or inaccuracies, just as a logician would follow premise after premise to determine the validity of the conclusion and discover where any discrepancies lie.
It seems like a rather analytical approach, but in order to accurately “treat” the distress facing the individual, it is necessary to validate and address the cause of the distress. Philosophical counselling attempts to resolve the core issue, not the symptoms or other issues that attempt to mask it.
Philosophical counselling has been treated as a last resort for many, primarily due to the skepticism which anything “philosophy” related is often subjected to, as well as the unfamiliarity of the approach and the time commitment required to pursue it. Moreover, our society has so many distractions and pills to provide quick fixes that dedicating time to something unfamiliar and perhaps uncomfortable is less than appealing to some.
Nonetheless, the students at UFV and several other pockets of philosophers around the world are adamant on shifting both the approach to mental illness and the notion that a degree in philosophy is of little use in the working world. They are confident that the way in which the world understands mental health is going to change. For them, philosophy is the answer.
In upcoming issues, the SAPC will now be writing a regular column in which they address the questions and concerns of students using philosophical counselling. Though submitted questions and their responses will be published, the names of submitters will be kept confidential.
To submit a question or problem for advice from the SAPC, contact firstname.lastname@example.org – to find out more about philosophical counselling or the SAPC, (including meeting times and agendas) contact Sheetal.email@example.com