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Tim LeBon's Wise Therapy is
an accessibly pitched and clearly written introductory book on the application
of philosophy to counseling, a specialty which LeBon, in several places,
traces right back to the practice of Socrates (in Plato's dialogues). Though
viewed with intense suspicion in some quarters (often seen as a kind of modern
day sophistic movement which tells people what they want to hear regardless of
truth considerations), LeBon in Wise Therapy makes not just a sane case
for the therapeutic benefits of a philosophical brand of counseling but also
presents us with a kind of handbook for how philosophy should actually be
practically applied by therapists (I am thinking here particularly of the exercises
found in the sixth chapter). The main target audience for this text is,
therefore, counselors wishing to be informed by philosophy, rather than
professional philosophers wishing to be trained as therapists. Both counselors
and philosophers, however, can read the book with some profit, although the
latter will no doubt skip or skim the early pages devoted to trying to
'demystify' philosophy and also those pages devoted to explaining what
inductive arguments and arguments from analogy are whilst perhaps spending more
time on the specific characterizations of philosophical counseling,
existential-phenomenological counseling, cognitive therapy and logotherapy.
Philosophers and therapists alike will be happy to learn that according to the
program outlined in this book philosophical theories -- such as those
concerning what the good life consists of -- are to be 'put forward tentatively
as part of a genuine dialogue with clients' (p.8, see also the reiteration on
p.138), rather than totally accepted at the very outset and only needing to be
applied to one's life. Philosophers in particular will be happy to learn this
as they will no doubt be the most acutely aware that there is no shortage of
competing and conflicting positions on every philosophical topic.
After a brief chapter on the
philosophical foundations of ethics, LeBon considers the notion of the good
life and introduces a rigorous method, which he calls RSVP (p.48; we are only
informed in a note on p.175 that this stands for 'Refined Subjective Value
Procedure'), which one can follow to explicitly think of and assess one's most
important values. The following chapter then tries to apply ethical theories to
the issue of ethical dilemmas that crop up for the therapist him- or her-self
in his or her practice. LeBon here introduces an ethical decision making
procedure which he calls 'Progress' (p.63). A third method of decision
counseling, involving critically measuring the pros against the cons, completes
the triumvirate of methods outlined here. These methods are reintroduced and
looked at in more length in a later chapter.
After these looks at ethics and at
decision counseling comes a discussion of the emotions. The main philosophical
theories of the emotions are outlined and explained very well by LeBon and
some very difficult material indeed is rendered accessible in this part of the
book. LeBon himself advances a view of the emotions that draws on aspects of
various theories but the present reviewer would not easily accept his claim,
later qualified but not abandoned, that 'Emotions result only when an event is
evaluated to be of personal significance' (p.89). Some explanation of why we
can feel very strong emotions toward or for people we see on television footage
from other countries (or even toward fictional characters) appears to be
lacking from LeBon's presentation here.
The next chapter deals in a secular
manner with how the idea of the meaning of life might impact on therapy and
then the final chapter offers a resume and more fine grained description of the
kinds of specific exercises which philosophy can offer in counseling and
In sum, then, Tim LeBon's Wise
Therapy is a comprehensible and well argued book dealing with the practical
therapeutic applications of philosophical research that may well be of interest
to philosophers but -- as the author himself intends -- will be of most obvious
benefit to therapists and counselors, both by informing their dialogue with
clients in new ways and by helping them become more informed about ways to
resolve the ethical dilemmas arising within the context of their own work.
Ray, Bristol, UK
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