While I was finishing my undergraduate degree in philosophy, a friend of mine majoring in biology joked that I would have no trouble finding employment—he’d checked the yellow-pages, and there was no competition for philosophers. But according to Emily Wax at the Washington Post , vengeance is mine:
“Murphy may have a PhD and an intimate knowledge of Aristotle and Descartes, but in her snug Takoma Park bungalow, she’s helping a broken-hearted patient struggle through a divorce. Instead of offering the wounded wife a prescription for Effexor (which she’s not licensed to do anyway) she instructs her to read Epictetus, the original cognitive therapist, who taught that humans often mistake their feelings for facts and suffer as a result.
“Murphy is one of an increasing number of philosophical counselors, practitioners who are putting their esoteric learning to practical use helping people with some of life’s persistent afflictions. Though they help clients cope with many of the same issues that conventional therapists do (divorce, job stress, the economic downturn, parenting woes, chronic illness, and matters of the heart) their methods are very different.”
The movement, founded by chair of philosophy Lou Marinoff at City College of New York, is certainly in its nascent stage and is not without its detractors. But philosophical counseling does not seek to remedy what it cannot; clients expressing depression or suicidal thoughts are immediately referred to psychiatrists. Still, there are over 300 philosophical counselors in thirty six states and more than twenty foreign countries who are certified by Marinoff’s American Philosophical Practitioners Association.
The prospect of philosophical counseling may or may not give the worried parents of philosophy majors some comfort. But it also reflects what might be the hopeful sign of individuals seeking a more transcendent purpose.