In this issue
The philosophy gap: there’s no treatment for life (free article)
Therapists may frequently struggle to respond adequately to the existential questions and dilemmas that students express, argues Julian Baggini. While therapy and philosophy may have quite different goals, might they also cross-fertilise to create a richer offering?
Philosophy as education and mental healthcare
Peter Raabe argues that the study of philosophy is essential if we are to avoid unhelpful reductionism in our work
Building resilience and improving wellbeing in pharmacy students: a collaborative approach
Mark Evans and Nicola Ward describe an innovative collaboration between the Coaching Service at De Montfort University and academic staff on the Pharmacy degree programme
Using online resources for students: which ones to trust?
As her four-part series exploring online work comes to a close, Sarah Worley-James explores the dilemmas that arise when
trying to decide whether online apps are safe, effective and ethical
Collaboration bears fruit in British Columbia
Louise Knowles and Rob Barnsley reflect on the learning from a two-campus visit to Canada
Notes from FE
Notes from the chair
Notes from HUCS
From the editor
What am I here for? What does it mean to lead a good life? Why do bad things happen to good people? What is life all about?
Questions such as these, albeit in different guises, frequently find their way into our counselling rooms. Students not only seek counselling when they have mental health problems or when they are struggling with academic issues (a deficit understanding of counselling), but also when they have genuine questions about life, death and moral concerns. How well are we equipped as therapists to respond to the existential challenges which have engaged individuals throughout the ages and which continue to drive clients to us? I’ve seen counsellors roll their eyes as if in disbelief that young people should be worried about existential issues at such an early stage in life. Should we even try to respond to such issues? In an era where therapists may – to some extent at least – have stepped into a gap left by formal religion with its considered, preformed responses to the human condition, are counsellors equipped to help clients grapple with their big life issues?
Philosophy – the love of wisdom – tends not to feature strongly in UK therapy training (apart, perhaps, from existential trainings). And yet behind each model of therapy there are, to a greater or lesser extent, philosophical underpinnings. Different schools of philosophy, from stoicism to humanism, inform the tenets of various models of therapy. Some of these, such as rational emotive behaviour therapy (REBT), are clearly linked to the stoic belief that what causes distress in life is destructive emotion which has not been examined and overcome. Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT), with its use of Socratic questioning, again clearly draws on philosophical foundations. One aspect of philosophy which may help to enrich therapy is the simple acknowledgement that we need to ask good questions before we can find satisfactory answers.
In this issue, two contributors – Julian Baggini and Peter Raabe – explore how a deeper understanding of philosophy can enrich and enliven our work with clients, and help us to engage meaningfully with the challenging life questions that drive so many to seek our support. Perhaps if we are clearer about the philosophical needs of all human beings – primarily the search for meaning in the face of an apparently indifferent and often hostile universe – we can devise new ways of engaging with students that move away from individual encounters where such questions can become pathologised simply because they are experienced as individual issues. Can we, instead, embrace those issues and questions as common to everyone, and find ways to explore them as part of the universal process of maturation? Peter’s description of a philosophy café is food for thought and a potential model for engaging with students in their explorations of life in a positive, inclusive manner, while Julian’s suggestion that counsellors incorporate aspects of philosophy into their CPD merits serious consideration.
Philosophy may seem superfluous to the imperatives of daily life: but as our contributors in this issue reveal, it may, in fact, be one of the most important areas for exploration and integration in our collective search for ‘the good life’.