Philosophical Therapy


Narrative Therapy is a form of philosophical therapy or clinical philosophy, a contemporary movement in practical philosophy.

Philosophical therapy is a collaborative and conversational activity between a trained philosopher therapist and a client in which their life-problems are worked through by identifying, examining, and revising as necessary the operating beliefs, values, stories, and habits of action that inform those problems.

A philosophical therapist approaches their client as a fully functioning individual with the courage to deal with the perplexities and struggles central to life by activating and cultivating the powers the client already possesses — critical thinking, imagination, empathy, desire, self-discipline, and creativity. 

A philosophical practitioner helps clients to clarify, articulate, explore and comprehend philosophical aspects of their belief systems or world views. Clients may consult philosophical practitioners for help in exploring philosophical problems related to such matters as mid-life crises, career difficulties or changes, stress, negative emotions, relationship struggles, sexual identity, assertiveness, physical illness, death and dying, aging, meaning of life, and morality.

Activities common to philosophical practice include:

  1. the examination of clients’ arguments and justifications
  2. the clarification, analysis, and definition of important terms and concepts
  3. the exposure and examination of underlying assumptions and logical implications
  4. the exposure of conflicts and inconsistencies
  5. the use of philosophical tools to increase self awareness and to overcome problems
  6. the use of philosophical tools to forge better relationships
  7. the use of philosophical tools to achieve well being and wholeness.


A philosophical therapist does not diagnose or treat emotional or behavioral disorders, and if problems arise of a medical or mental health nature, the philosophical therapist will help the client seek an appropriate health care professional. 

Psychologists are social scientists and are, therefore, interested in causal explanations. As such, psychological counseling tends to view mental processes in causal terms. Clinical psychologists (and other licensed mental health practitioners) use this body of knowledge and theories about the underlying causes of mental processes to help their clients manage their psychological problems (mood disorders, anxiety, psychoses, etc.).

In contrast, philosophical therapy applies training in philosophy (theories and philosophical ways of thinking) to human problems of living. For example, a philosophical therapist may help a person with a relationship problem apply standards of logic and critical thinking to correct fallacious reasoning, cultivate better relationship skills, and reset expectations. As such, the philosophical practitioner specializes in the examination and analysis of arguments, personal beliefs, and narratives.

Philosophical counseling uses philosophy, its theories and ways of critical thinking, to help people address ordinary problems of living. Often, these problems can be addressed philosophically by helping the client to examine and reassess his or her reasoning about such matters. As such, it takes a humanities perspective, not a social science one.

For more information, visit the National Philosophical Counseling Association.