Philosophical consultancy

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Philosophical Consultancy is a relatively new movement in philosophy which applies philosophical thinking and debating to the resolution of a person's problem. Gerd B. Achenbach and Ad Hoogendijk are two, German and Dutch philosophers who established themselves as consultant philosophers in the 1980s (Achenbach 1984, 2002; Hoogendijk 1988) and led the way to a number of other developments all over the world. They proposed an alternative to psychotherapeutic culture by working exclusively within the field of existential investigation with clients or patients, whom they called 'visitors.'

Achenbach argues that it is life that calls to thinking, rather than thinking that informs life. The act of philosophising can, therefore, give direction in its own right, as living precedes thinking and practice precedes theory.

The movement is sometimes referred to as philosophical counselling and it is also connected with and related to Existential Therapy, which has thrived in the United Kingdom since the establishment of the Society for Existential Analysis (SEA) in London in 1988. This was based on the work of Emmy van Deurzen, also a philosopher who has applied philosophical thinking to the practice of psychotherapy. Philosophical consultancy is often applied to business consultancy as well as to individuals, as it frequently involves a rethinking of values and beliefs and is also a method for rational conflict resolution.

Philosophical practice has continued to expand and is attractive as an alternative to counselling and psychotherapy for those who prefer to avoid a medicalization of life-problems. Numerous philosophical consultants have emerged and there is a strong international interest and a bi-annual international conference. There are a number of important publications in the field (Lahav and Tillmans 1995, Curnow 2001, Herrestad et al. 2002, Marinoff 1999, Rochelle 2008, 2011).


  • Achenbach, G. B. (1984) Philosophische Praxis, Köln: Verlag für Philosophie Jürgen Dinter.
  • Achenbach, G.B. (2002) Philosophical Practice opens up the trace to Lebenskönnerschaft, in Herrestad H., Holt A., Svare H. Philosophy in Society, Oslo: Unipub Forlag.
  • Curnow, Trevor, ed. (June 2001). Thinking through dialogue: essays on philosophy in practice. Practical Philosophy Press. p. 256. ISBN 978-0954178307.
  • Deurzen, E. van (1984) Existential psychotherapy, in W Dryden (ed.) Individual Therapy in Britain, London: Harper and Row.
  • Deurzen, E. van (1988) Existential Counselling in Practice, London: Sage Publications.
  • Deurzen, E. van (1991) Ontological insecurity revisited, Journal of the Society for Existential Analysis 2: 38-48.
  • Deurzen, E. van (1992) Dialogue as therapy, Journal of the Society for Existential Analysis 3: 15-23.
  • Deurzen, E. van (1994x) Does Counselling Help?, Durham: Durham University Publications.
  • Deurzen, E. van (1994c) If Truth were a Woman.. . , London: School of Psychotherapy and Counselling Publications.
  • Deurzen, E. van 1998) Paradox and Passion in Psychotherapy, Chichester: Wiley.
  • Deurzen, E. van (2002) Existential Counselling and Psychotherapy in Practice, Second Edition, London: Sage Publications.
  • Herrestad H., Holt A., Svare H. (2002) Philosophy in Society, Oslo: Unipub Forlag.
  • Hoogendijk, A. (1988) Spreekuur bij een filosoof, Utrecht: Veers.
  • Lahav, R. and Tillmanns, M. da V. (eds) (1995) Essays in Philosophical Counselling, Lanham, MD: University Press of America.
  • LeBon, T. (2001) Wise Therapy, London: Continuum.
  • Marinoff, L. (1999) Plato not Prozac, New York: Harper Collins.
  • Rochelle, G. (2012)
  • Rochelle, G. (2012) Doing Philosophy, Edinburgh, Dunedin.