Philosophical Counseling: The PROJECT@ Method
“Shall I tell you what philosophy holds out to humanity? Counsel” (Seneca)
Philosophical counseling, aconselhamento filosófico, philosophical practice, orientación filosófica, philosophische praxis und beratung, asesoramiento filosófico. Many expressions are used to describe this movement, in essence nothing more than the revival of the ancient view of philosophy as a practise instead of a theoretical system.
Popularized with Lou Marinoff’s book Plato, Not Prozac, the modern philosophical counseling movement was officially born in 1981, when Gerd Achenbach opened the first practise near Cologne, in Germany. Shortly after, he founded the German Association for Philosophical Practice. Dutch colleagues followed suit and the concept quickly started spreading in Europe and beyond. In the US, Paul Sharkey, co-founder of the National Philosophical Counseling Association, is the main reference since 1992. Nowadays philosophical counseling encompasses a variety of approaches and methods, always with the purpose of helping the client solve the problems which led him to seek counsel in the first place.
The PROJECT@ method
In Portugal, Jorge Humberto Dias, Ph.D., was one of the pioneers of philosophical counselling and the first academic to present a doctoral thesis on this theme. He developed a unique approach, the PROJECT@ method. Based largely on spanish philosopher Julían Marías’ projective theory of the best, this methodology views the pursuit of happiness as the essential goal of human life. Furthermore, it advocates that in order to be happy and fulfilled, people must engage in meaningful personal projects. This is summed up in the author’s own definition of happiness as the state of conscience that assesses the results of your projects throughout your life or the formula H = P + I, meaning “happiness equals projects plus implementation.”
Steps towards a happy life
Working with the PROJECT@ method, a philosophical counsellor would:
- Identify the client’s projects.
- Analyze their structure.
- Link them to the client’s life (values and sense of purpose).
- Sort them into categories and find ways to implement them.
- Reinforce the client’s philosophy of life.
- Verify how realistic and important each project is.
A good alternative
In our global and fast paced world, thinking about happiness is in itself a sign of mental health. From mindfulness techniques to life coaching and cognitive behavioural therapy, nowadays a myriad of options is available to the troubled self. Rooted in our natural tendency to question and investigate, philosophical counseling stands out as an alternative to traditional approaches. If you are experiencing a difficult moment in your life and feel the need to reach out for help, why not try Plato instead of Prozac? You might end up finding the solution for your problems after all!
Filosofia Aplicada à Vida, Jorge Dias
La Felicidad Humana, Julián Marías
Plato, Not Prozac, Lou Marinof
Tratado de lo Mejor, Julián Marías