Vasile Petru Hațegan
Rev. Roum. Philosophie, 62, 2, p. 191–212, București, 2018
PHILOSOPHICAL PRACTITIONER OR PHILOSOPHICAL
COUNSELLOR, OPTIONS FOR A NEW PROFESSION
VASILE PETRU HAȚEGAN
Abstract. From the founding of the first offices of philosophical practice in Europe, there
has been a controversy regarding which persons could carry out such activities and what
would be the necessary qualification needed in this new applied field of philosophy. This ar-
ticle presents these divergences, through two distinct standpoints, that of philosophers who
can become practitioners in philosophy, versus philosophical counselling specialists who use
the tools provided by philosophy. We assume the role of mediator between the two currents
of opinion and propose a solution that can be used in training programs in this new profes-
sion of philosophical counselling that is now emerging in Romania. In the end, we schemati-
cally present our proposal regarding the organization of professional training for the speciali-
zation in this new field, which will address both philosophers and other specialists interested
in a specialization in philosophical counselling, alongside future directions of action in order
to regulate this new qualification in philosophical practice.
Keywords: philosophical practice, philosophical counselling, mediation, profession
In this paper we will study the role of philosophy in human life and seek to an-
swer the following question: is it useful for the entire knowledge accumulated in philo-
sophical writings, where philosophy is considered to be the guardian of the wisdom of
humanity, to be put into practice for the benefit of the human being, thus exiting the
academic area built by philosophers?
Ever since antiquity, starting with Socrates and continuing with the Stoic philos-
ophers, philosophy was present in the agora, among people, but later on it retreated into
an exclusive area, that of philosophers, to the detriment of ordinary people who did not
attend schools or lacked studies of philosophy. Through this withdrawal from the ag-
ora, the writings of the philosophers only addressed other philosophers, within an aca-
192 Vasile Petru Hațegan 2
demic environment, which led to a theoretical manifestation of philosophy, to the det-
riment of any form of practice initially manifested in antiquity.
We can say that philosophy is now trying to become useful to the people again,
by attempting to recover the role it held during the antiquity of being a guide of the
knowledge of human existence, in the form of philosophical practices originally mani-
fested in the agora or in the schools founded by the ancient philosophers.
With the emergence and development of science and the introduction of specific
research methods, philosophy has become more concerned with a soul therapy, which
has revived the interest in practice, and has later led to the development of practical
skills derived from the philosophical knowledge accumulated by philosophy over the
centuries. We will analyse the philosophical trends manifested in the application of
philosophy for the benefit of people, since they differ from other professions in the
field of therapies, in the formative and educational field, or from those specific to coun-
selling and personal development.
These specific forms derive from philosophical practices and manifest them-
selves in the form of philosophical reflections that can take place while discussing
with a practitioner of philosophy or while studying a philosophical paper. In this
context, philosophy can manifest itself as a practice or as a non-academic exercise,
thus emerging from the so-called “ivory tower” in which it has been isolated for
many years, even by philosophers themselves. Starting with the appearance at the
end of the 20th century of several offices of philosophical practice, later defined as
specific to a new occupation, philosophical counselling, which was initially practiced
by philosophers and later by other specialists as well, we can say that this applied
trend of philosophy has also generated a debate on the need to create a new
profession, specific to applied philosophy.
This paper will present the arguments found on the topic of this debate,
which is still open and takes place between philosophers, or philosophers and other
specialists in philosophical counselling, regarding the professionalization or
non-professionalization of philosophy, whether it should remain an exclusive
attribute of philosophers or not. The analysis is based on the options expressed by
brand practitioners who participated in an investigation regarding their work and
future intentions in the field of philosophical practice or philosophical counselling,
according to their expressed orientation. Initially, we will also analyse the stand-
points of academic philosophy towards the new practices of philosophy,
manifested as philosophical counselling, in order to highlight the link between
them and their potential for collaboration.
At the end of the paper we will present several important elements of the profes-
sionalization process started in Romania in order to recognize and regulate philosophi-
cal counselling as a new occupation and profession, distinct from that of philosopher,
as well as the directions that can be followed in order to complete the regulation pro-
3 Philosophical Practitioner or Philosophical Counsellor 193
THE CONNEXIONS BETWEEN ACADEMIC PHILOSOPHY
AND PRACTICE, MANIFESTED AS PHILOSOPHICAL COUNSELING
If we look at philosophical practice from an epistemological point of view, we
must also consider some questions that require an answer, which is why we use a
study conducted by practitioner Augusto Cavadi, published in 2010, on the concept
of “philosophy in practice”1. The first from a series of questions analysed is whether
the concept thus called can be integrated into philosophy? Cavadi’s answer is that
putting philosophy into practice could simply mean to make philosophy, thus assim-
ilating the philosophical specialist to the fact that they must be both a philosopher
and a counsellor.
The next question in the study refers to how it could become a practice, and the
answer is that practice is an exercise of philosophy, being a practical declination of
philosophy. To these arguments the practitioner formulates two objections, namely
whether philosophy can be subordinated to a practice and whether philosophy can be a
paid activity. Regardless of the pros and cons expressed by philosophers or
non-philosophers, other questions arise from the debates generated, such as whether it
is possible for philosophy to yet be put into practice, and if a postponement of this
opportunity or requirement could benefit humanity?2.
In the same study we find another question: could philosophical practice make
use of the dialectical methods of philosophy? Cavadi names several models of
dialectics that can be used by the philosophical counsellor, nominating Hegel and his
work Spirit Phenomenology and before them Aristotle and his Dialectics, the author
starting from the premise that a philosophical counsellor can work with their client
just like a philosopher does. The resulting conclusion is that the dialectical method
chosen for counselling is not influenced by the beliefs of the person and has another
characteristic of the practice that makes it different from philosophy, which is the
fact that it is carried out through a dialogue between the practitioner and the coun-
But all these questions may remain as forms of reflection for those who support
or hinder the implementation of philosophy in any of its forms. Analysing the role
that philosophical practice can play as an instrument used in people's lives, there is
also a certain tension between the theoretical philosophy, initiated in search of truth,
and its practical tendencies, and it is therefore necessary to eliminate these tensions,
as concludes the British practitioner, Janis Langdon, in his paper published in 2000:
“If philosophical counselling is to do with helping a client to live well by examining
his life, then it will surely do well to address the tensions within philosophy itself”3.
1 A. Cavadi, Filosofia di strada. La filosofia-in-pratica e le sue pratiche, Trapani: Di Giro-
2 Ibidem, p. 81.
3 J. Langdon, “Philosophical Counselling and The Role of Philosophy”, Practical Philosophy, July
2000, pp. 33–35.
194 Vasile Petru Hațegan 4
Another specialist in Cognitive Behaviour Therapy, Sara Waller, in her study on
philosophical counselling4, says that the client is a person who can examine his be-
liefs about himself.
This is also the opinion of other supporters of the delimitation between philo-
sophical practice, especially that of philosophical counselling, from the traditional
theoretical philosophy, which must be separated by a fair distance, seen from the point
of view of its action on people and their problems, as well as from the point of view of
the vision about the world and life5. By analysing the philosophical practice, we ob-
serve a certain epistemology of practice, where philosophy has its established place of
reflection and theoretical elaboration, and philosophical practice becomes a way of
professional exercise of philosophy, conducted outside the academy.
A reference to the philosophical competences derived from the philosophical
knowledge acquired by the philosophical counsellor is made by Italian practitioners
devoted to this new concept, they affirm that competences are different from the com-
petencies of other therapies, training or counselling professions, which can also be con-
sidered by the practitioner in philosophy, who can become a facilitator within a group6.
PREMISES TO APPEARANCE OF A NEW OCCUPATION
SPECIFIC OF PHILOSOPHICAL PRACTICE
It is unanimously recognized that the first philosophical practice [Philosophische
Praxis] was initiated in 1981 in Germany, at Bergish Gladbach, near the city of Co-
logne, by philosopher Gerd Achenbach, who held philosophical counselling sessions
with people he called "guests". This movement was accused by journalists of the day
who wrote ironically about the event, saying that Socrates was in Germany or asking
whether philosophy could be a business?
The following year, the German philosopher established the first philosophical
practice association in Germany under the name of Gesellschaft für Philosophische
Praxis, and later granted it an international nature open to other practitioners in other
countries as well, given that the phenomenon was taken over and developed in other
countries in Europe, such as Austria, the Netherlands, France, England, Norway, Swit-
zerland, Belgium, Italy, Canada, USA and many other countries7.
A first collection of studies and conferences held by Achenbach published in
Germany brings the first clarification of his intention8, in which he claims the necessity
4 S. Waller, “A Working Ontology for REBT, CBT and Philosophical Counselling”, Practical
Philosophy, March 2001, p. 31–39.
5 T. Possamai, „Tra filosofia e consulenza”, Observatorio critico sulle pratiche filosofiche. Consu-
lente e filosofo, P.A. Rovatti (Ed.) Milano: Mimesis, 2009, pp. 13–28.
6 S. Contesini, e.a., Fare cose con la filosofia, Milano: Apogeo, 2005, p. 78–81
7 V. Hategan, Consilierea filosofică: de la practică la profesie, București: Ars Docendi, 2018.
8 G.B. Achenbach, Philosophische Praxis. Vorträge und Aufsätze. Köln: Dinter, 1984.
5 Philosophical Practitioner or Philosophical Counsellor 195
for philosophical counselling to be carried out by a philosopher who can also become a
practitioner for the benefit of their guests, who thus become clients and beneficiaries of
a philosophical counselling service. The volume has also been translated into Italian,
and the German practitioner presents certain correspondences he has identified be-
tween writing philosophy and practicing it orally, in the form of philosophical counsel-
ling, as a “reminding of Socrates”9.
The German philosopher is considered by most practitioners to be “the father
of philosophical counselling”, as he constantly supported an open counselling,
without the constraints of a particular method, being the promoter of liberties given
to the practitioner in philosophy to adapt their working method depending on each
Returning to the writings in this new and applied field of philosophy, we identify
as a first reference to the concept of counselling philosopher, seen as a four-stage pro-
cess, the statement made by American philosopher Seymon Hers, who published in
1980 an article on this subject in The Humanist magazine, with the following defini-
tion, which we fully reproduce in order to emphasize once again the start of this new
„The counselling philosopher helps clients to pursue repeatedly a four phase process:
1. to awaken to the nature of their currently held philosophy;
2. to relate it to their current life situation;
3. to became familiar with alternative viewpoints;
4. to introduce personally successful alternatives into their philosophy”10.
We see in this context a definition of the philosopher who has become a practi-
tioner, as well as the character of this new philosophical counselling process, that is
to be a service addressed to a beneficiary, called the “client”, who is helped in this
process. Preliminary to this first standpoint on this new concept, another American
philosopher, Pierre Grimes, who studied Plato's writings, and who, starting from the
Socratic dialogue, especially Theaetetus, has since 1978 developed a program called
„the art of philosophical midwifery”, under the patronage of the Noetic Society,
which he founded11. The program was validated by a representative of the American
Psychological Association (APA), by Regina Uliana, who became co-author of the
book published under the title Philosophical Midwifery 12.
Philosophical practice or counselling has been described by philosopher Lydia
Amir, as a method for everyday problems, using the philosophical means, and the
“demarcation between psychological and philosophical counselling on the theoretical
9 Idem, La consulenza filosofica, Milano: Feltrinelli, 2009, pp.163–195.
10 S. Hersh, “The counseling philosopher”, The Umanist (3) 1980 apud E. Ruschmann,
Philosophische Beratung, Stuttgart: Kohlhammer, 1999, p. 33.
11 A se consulta https://noeticsociety.org/pierre-grimes/
12 P. Grimes, R. Uliana, Philosophical Midwifery: A New Paradigm for Understanding Human
Problems With Its Validation, Costa Mesa, CA: Hyparxis Press, 1998.
196 Vasile Petru Hațegan 6
level is reflected in practice“13. In the same way, American philosopher Elliott Cohen
makes a metaphorical reference to a marriage between philosophy and counselling, in
the area of praxis, regarded as an applied counselling, using both philosophy and coun-
A reference to the proactive nature of philosophical counselling is also presented
by practitioner Peter Raabe, who speaks of the effect obtained through counselling,
including its preventive aspect, but also of the limits he identifies to philosophical
counselling, which are extensively presented in the model for practice proposed in his
book, Philosophical counselling. Theory and practice15.
The practitioner continues this approach, presenting the concept he calls “The In-
dependent Philosopher”16 characterized as autonomous, with some accumulated
experience and brave in his actions. Raabe offers a useful recommendation to those
who want to become practitioners: „The philosophers wishing to become a philosophi-
cal counsellor must also learn to overcome any professional jealousy and competitive-
ness acquired in academic institutions and the combative attitude so prevalent within
philosophy faculties and associations”17.
In the same volume edited by Peter Raabe, we also find Vaughhana Feary, prac-
titioner and vice president of APPA, who presents her suggestions on organizing the
philosophical counselling activity, which we recommend that they be included in all
training programs for the new profession18.
STANDPOINTS ON THE NECESSITY
TO RECOGNIZE A NEW PROFESSION
The first different standpoints regarding the emergence of a new philosophical
practice and of philosophical counselling as a distinct form of work belonged to practi-
tioners in various therapies, which perceived them as a violation of their territory by
philosophy. They were joined by practitioners in the field of counselling and personal
development or in other areas that interacted with philosophy.
In an analysis defined by authors Samuel Knapp and Alan Tjeltveit19 as a criti-
cism of philosophical counselling, they support clinical psychological counselling in
13 L.B. Amir, “Three Questionable Assumptions of Philosophical Counseling”, International
Journal of Philosophical Practice 2 (1) 2004, pp. 1–32.
14 E.D. Cohen, Philosophers at work. Issues and practice of philosophy, 2nd Edition, Orlando:
Harcourt, 2000, p. 459.
15 P. Raabe, Philosophical couseling. Theory and practice, Westport CT: Praeger, 2001, pp. 191–192.
16 Idem, Issues in philosophical counseling, Westport CT: Praeger, 2002, pp. 219–228.
17 Ibidem, p. 221.
18 Ibidem, pp. 225–226.
19 S. Knapp, A.C. Tjeltveit, “A review and critical analysis of philosophical counseling”,
Professional Psychology: Research and Practice, Vol.36, No.5, 2005, pp. 558–565.
7 Philosophical Practitioner or Philosophical Counsellor 197
particular, and refute the need to apply philosophical counselling, thinking that it has a
limited space of action that they call "narrow-scope", while psychological issues are
related to clinical advice, which has a much wider area, called "broad-scope", where
some tools and methods offered by philosophy could be included without justifying the
need for a distinct professionalization of philosophical counsellors20. In their opinion,
the role of philosophical counselling, limited to the narrow domain they defined, is
indeed recognized, which is why a practitioner in philosophy does not require mental
health training as well21, but they can collaborate with other psychotherapists in order
to define their working methods but also to „make clear to the client the limits of philo-
Analysing this situation in 1999 regarding the training in philosophical counsel-
ling, when there were no specific training programs containing mental health-specific
clinical counselling elements, Jon Mills comes with a recommendation for philosophy
practitioners who intend to act within an ampler field previously called “broad-scope”,
claiming the need for them to undergo clinical training in addition to training in philos-
ophy, going as far as claiming that they required a doctorate in either of the two areas
of training: “The trained professional should have a graduate degree in each discipline
or its equivalent, such as an appropriate certification; and it would be preferable if the
counsellor had at least one doctorate in either discipline”23. Mills acknowledges that
psychotherapists and other clinical practitioners often use their work and instruments
taken from philosophy, without having a philosophy-based training, while “these ap-
proaches to counselling are often adjudged simply to be a veil of psychology masquer-
ading as philosophy”, and they “are seldom reproached by other mental health profes-
sionals”24, while philosophers disagree with their use by non-philosophers.
We observe from these opinions the existence of a dispute between philoso-
phers and psychotherapists regarding the exclusivity of using the instruments of phi-
losophy, and demanding the enforcement of certain restrictions to those who have
generated them, in this case philosophers, in order to restrict their area of action,
requesting that they study a dual specialization in order to be recognized as counsel-
We consider this approach excessive and we therefore refer to “The Mission
Statement of the APPA Constitution“, which specifies that the professional activi-
ties of philosophical practitioners are “non-medical, non-iatrogenic and not allied
intrinsically with psychiatry or psychology”, in order to emphasize this nature that
does not interfere with other fields which in fact consider themselves threatened by
20 Ibidem, pp. 560–561.
21 Ibidem, p. 564.
22 R. Paden, “Defining philosophical counseling” International Journal of Applied Philosophy, (12)
1998, p. 14.
23 J. Mills, “Ethical considerations and training recommendations for philosophical counseling”,
International Journal of Applied Psychology, (13) 1999, p. 160.
24 Ibidem, p. 159.
198 Vasile Petru Hațegan 8
the appearance of practitioners in the area of philosophy, where “these activities
are educational, axiological and noetic”25. In what regards the discussions between
practitioners on the need to professionalize philosophical counselling, following
the model of licenses issued to psychiatrists, psychologists and other aid therapies,
various opinions have been expressed, both for and against, one of them belonging
to Michael Davis, who shows that professionalization is useful for defining philo-
sophical counselling as a service to people, but also in order to place it in relation
to other competing domains26.
In Romania, a recent support for the need to reinvent philosophy comes from
philosophy professor Claudiu Mesaroş, who refers to “building a labour market for
philosophy specialists by involving them in the public service sector by developing
skills, techniques and counselling and consultancy offers”27. The proposed solution is
to train philosophy practitioners “through programs offered by professional organiza-
tions”, another alternative being universities that “can offer long-term master training
programs that enable the development of high-quality skills together with their theo-
retical foundation”28. Another reference is given by a graduate of the Master’s Program
in Philosophical Counselling at Ca' Foscari University in Venice, who writes about a
new and curious insertion of philosophy into the labour market29. Practitioner Neri
Pollastri has a similar view, and specifies that it is not necessary for the philosopher,
who has become a practitioner, to be a “great philosopher”, viewed from the point of
view of his academic specialization, but they can offer the person counselled a new
way to “think well”30.
Another confrontation of ideas deals with the necessity of transforming philoso-
phy into a counselling service for which the practitioner perceives a fee for their prac-
tice, at which point the counselling process may be considered purely commercial,
where the specialist provides a paid service or otherwise put, the person counselled
pays for the wisdom sought.
A question that arises from this is whether philosophical counselling would thus
only address those who have the money to reward the specialist’s effort or the pro-
The answer comes from another Italian practitioner, Matteo Papini, who pro-
poses the following solution: that the philosophical counselling service be offered to
25 Article I of the APPA Constitution, 1998. American Philosophical Practitioners Association, The
City College of New York, Lou Marinoff, President.
26 M. Davis, “Licensing, Philosophical Counselors, and Barbers: A New Look at an Old Debate
about Professions”, International Journal of Applied Philosophy vol. 24(2) 2010, pp. 225–236.
27 C. Mesaroș, Filosofia în universitatea contemporană, Timișoara: Editura Universității de Vest,
2017, p. 209.
28 Ibidem, p.210.
29 M. Salemi, „Per una filosofia concreta”, Tra il dire e il fare. Saggi e testimonianze sulla
consulenza filosofica, U.Galimberti (ed.), Milano: Mimesis, 2011, p. 477.
30 N. Pollastri, D. Miccione, L’uomo e cio che pensa, Trapani: Di Girolamo, 2008, p.74–75.
9 Philosophical Practitioner or Philosophical Counsellor 199
people free of charge if the practitioner becomes part of an organization or institution
delivering such services, which rewards the specialist for the work they carry out in this
process, but which is offered free of charge to the receiver31.
Finally, we return to philosopher Achenbach, the father of philosophical coun-
selling, who, in his speech during the 2018 international congress in Mexico, sends a
message of encouragement to all practitioners, which we rewrite here:
“Philosophical practice is all about getting people to understand what they them-
selves say. This takes place when they themselves begin to understand which
spirit reveals itself “behind (or: in) their sentences” and which is initially hidden
in them. If we succeed in bringing that spirit to light so that our guest be able to
judge their spirit, they will see what made them decide what matters, what is
truly important and what is crucial in the end. Only then can the revision begin.
We shall accompany and support our guest on their path and we shall do so
according to what has become our measure by which we live. Often what we re-
quire the most here is courage, the courage to trust our own convictions. And be-
lieve me, the discouraged do not achieve anything and they certainly cannot
reach out to their guest who turns to them for help during a most substantial, ex-
COMPARATIVE STUDY ON THE PRACTITIONERS ORIENTATION
BETWEEN A PRACTITIONER PHILOSOPHER
AND A SPECIALIST IN PHILOSOPHICAL COUNSELING
In order to conduct this study, we analysed the answers given by several philoso-
phers and practitioners of philosophical counselling in different countries of the world,
who responded to a set of questions published in 2013 in the form of an interview
book, entitled: Philosophical practice. 5 questions.33
In the table 1, we present several ideas ensued from the answers given by 13
practitioners, related to their activity in the field, the criticism they endured and the
directions they suggest for the future.
This study contains, on each column, the question posed by the editors and the
ideas resulting from the interview, and in the last column we list the orientation ex-
pressed by each practitioner.
31 M. Papini, La consultazione dell’anima. Consulenza filosofica e direzione spirituale, Melegnano:
Montedit, 2014, p. 72–76.
32 G. Achenbach. “What matters? What is important in truth? What is crucial in the end? Leading
principles in philosophical practice”, in Philosophical Practice, November 2018, 13.3: 2171–81.
33 J.B.L. Knox, J.K.B.O. Friis, Philosophical practice. 5 questions, Copenhagen: Automatic
200 Vasile Petru Hațegan 10
Table 1: Comparative study about orientation of philosophical practitioners
11 Philosophical Practitioner or Philosophical Counsellor 201
Table 1 (continued)
202 Vasile Petru Hațegan 12
Table 1 (continued)
13 Philosophical Practitioner or Philosophical Counsellor 203
This research, conducted in the form of an interview addressed to practitioners
from different countries of the world shows that most of them come from a context
of philosophers, having an initial degree in philosophy and who have also been inter-
ested in specializing in philosophical counselling, or have attended various postgrad-
uate studies in related fields, such as psychology, communication or counselling. The
common trait of these practitioners is that they have trained in philosophy, regardless
of their initial or subsequent training, and that they use in their philosophical practice,
methods and instruments specific to philosophy, applied to the benefit of the person
counselled. In what regards the existence of training courses dedicated to this new
field, we notice that there are few countries that have developed special training
courses, such as Spain, which elaborated a master’s program, followed by Norway,
and later on Italy (which was not included in the study). As a continuation to the
above table, we present the ideas and methods used by each practitioner, which grant
uniqueness to each of them, followed by some criticism that each of them had to
If we look at their answers regarding future directions, they support the recogni-
tion of philosophical practice, the organization of training and specialization programs,
the development of applications in several fields, from individual to group level, fol-
lowed by institutions or organizations where philosophical practice can be successfully
applied by specialists. In conclusion, we observe that the guidelines of the respondents
were predominantly in favour of maintaining these practices in the field of philoso-
phers, resulting from the fact that more than ¾ of them came from this field, while only
¼ of the practitioners opted for training a specialist, but who required some knowledge
of applied philosophy, necessary for an optimum philosophical counselling service.
The study we have presented contains important information needed to establish a
strategy dedicated to the recognition of the importance of philosophical practices and
also provides arguments that may be particularly useful for the future regulation of this
field. In Italy, another analysis was conducted regarding the profession of philosophical
counsellor, presented by Giorgio Giacometti in his paper, La consulenza filosofica
come professione34 [Philosophical counselling as a profession] which reflects both
identities of the practitioner's, that of a philosopher and that of an expert in philosophi-
cal counselling. Carlo Basili also supports the role of the philosophical practitioner,
based on the original concept of praxis, initially presented by Gerd Achenbach and
translated into Italian, and emphasizes that the philosopher is the one who can give
value to philosophical practice through their experience and motivation to practice
philosophy35. Another Italian practitioner, Giacomo Pezzano, in 2008 conducts a study
on the practices of famous practitioners in the world and in Italy, grouping them ac-
cording to their choice as philosophers or experts in philosophy, metaphorically under-
lining the "crossroads" between these two options of professionalization at which the
34 G. Giacometti, „La consulenza filosofica come professione”, Phronesis, no.7, 2006, p. 37–99.
35 C. Basili e. a., Filosofia praticata. Su consulenza filosofica e dintorni, Trapani: Di Girolamo,
2008, p. 49–57.
204 Vasile Petru Hațegan 14
philosophical counselling is standing.36 His study analyses the standpoints of six practi-
tioners in relation to the following evaluation criteria: the justification of a philosophi-
cal specificity, the research principle used, the protection of philosophy against the
tendency of instrumentation; based on which the author places them in the groups from
the following figure:
Figure 1: Study confronting the practitioners’ standpoints
From the analysis presented, Pezzano concludes that philosophy should neither
be absorbed by the philosophical practice, nor identified with it, but noticing that in
practice there is a tendency to “refresh” the philosopher, who can become a profes-
sional and who can be rewarded for “making philosophy” in this new form of philo-
The conclusion of the study conducted in Italy presents the philosophical con-
sultant as a “professional expert in philosophy”37, and in order to make philosophical
counselling a distinct profession, the author considers that a true process of profession-
alization is required, which must be put into practice.
THE FIRST STEPS TOWARDS REGULATION,
WORLDWIDE AND IN ROMANIA
A preliminary presentation of the legal elements needed to regulate the philo-
sophical counselling profession in the US has been made since 1995 by two lawyers
publishing the article entitled Legal issues in philosophical counselling38, who list the
rules and regulation governing the profession, elements that will later help define the
profession, in order not to interfere with other professions already protected by law.
The authors point out the risks of self-regulation and they present some “issues of mal-
practice, ethical violations, and other laws and regulations that may be relevant to the
practicing philosophical counsellor”.39
36 G. Pezzano, La consulenza filosofica di fronte a un bivio. Il consulente filosofico: esperto in
filosofia o filosofo?, Roma: Il Filo, 2008.
37 Ibidem, p. 153.
38 B.E. Bernstein, L.S. Bolin, “Legal issues in philosophical counseling”, Essays on Philosophical
Counseling, R. Lahav (ed.), Lanham MA: University Press of America, 1995, pp. 195–204.
39“Introduction” in Essays on Philosophical Counseling, R. Lahav (ed.) Lanham MA: University
Press of America, 1995, p. xix .
15 Philosophical Practitioner or Philosophical Counsellor 205
If initially Gerd Achenbach was against recognition and qualification require-
ments for the philosophical practice, being a supporter of the idea that only some phi-
losophers can do it, he later on reconsiders his attitude, especially after an exchange of
views in 1998 with American practitioner Lou Marinoff, who had already attempted to
promote the regulation of philosophical counselling, at that time obtaining a draft
called The Diaz Law40, and which could have been a model for Germany. In the
Netherlands access to the practitioners' association is only allowed to licensed philoso-
phers who can prove a certain practical experience.
The existing model of association in Germany and the Netherlands has led to a
similar one in the USA, where an open academic society is founded by three philoso-
phers and practitioners, namely Elliott Cohen, Thomas Magnell and Paul Sharkey,
society that issues a standard of certification in philosophical counselling and a code of
From Lou Marinoff's story42, we find out the entire history of APPA, the Ameri-
can Philosophical Practitioners Association, presented in his Philosophical Practice
textbook, where he explains how APPA takes over the certification of practitioners in
philosophy and the association previously established by Elliott Cohen maintains its
academic orientation, and is to deal with the standards of certification and the theoreti-
cal development of philosophical counselling through their own training programs.
To the same end, Marinoff will develop three training programs within APPA
for philosophy practitioners, access to these programs being granted only to gradu-
ates in philosophy or to people with other studies specializing in philosophy. The
requirement of these necessary studies in philosophy was included for practitioners
following an experiment reported by Marinoff in his handbook43, conducted at the
Felician College in New Jersey, where he carried out an on-going training program
with a group of mixed training, made of philosophers and specialists in other fields
with no studies in philosophy, the conclusion being that „it is far easier to famil-
iarize philosophers with counselling than non-philosophical counsellors with phi-
losophy”44. Marinoff is still waiting for the endorsement of a master’s program he
has submitted to The City College of New York, which he referred to long ago in
his textbook. Currently, the American associations have on-going training pro-
grams for practitioners or philosophical counsellors, and each specialist is certified
based on three specializations, respectively: client counselling, group facilitation
and organizational consulting45, and after learning a program, the practitioner be-
comes an active member of the professional organization and has the obligation to
respect the ethics rules issued by the organization.
40 L. Marinoff, Philosophical practice, New York: Academic Press, 2002, p. 204.
41 Ibidem, p. 207.
42 Ibidem, pp. 210–212.
43 Ibidem, p. 187–188
44 Ibidem, p. 189.
45 Ibidem, p. 190.
206 Vasile Petru Hațegan 16
This association of practitioners operating on the US territory is considered suffi-
cient to allow the deployment of a philosophical practice, recognized and certified as
such, with the additional requirement of complying with existing tax rules. In order to
satisfy the non-maleficence principle, the American Associations require its members
to also conclude a professional insurance policy required in order to grant their clients
confidence and safety.46
In Europe, Italy is the country with the highest number of philosophical coun-
sellors specialized through various training programs organized by professional associ-
ations and which compete with graduates of masters or postgraduate programs spe-
cializing in philosophical practice. Practically, the large university centres in Italy have
been preoccupied with starting such programs, which now function as specializations
The practitioner Davide Miccione47 also writes about training programs, and re-
members 2001 as the beginning of a training process where the first participants were
self-taught, using translations from other international programs. Miccione wonders
what good is this training for, if others can also be recognized without express training,
referring to practitioners coming from philosophy specialties. The arguments brought
by the Italian author in favour of training show that it is an act of recognizing an ex-
plicit specialization, to other practitioners, while the following argument is given by the
fact that the participant to the program has the opportunity to reflect on their training
and to make them move on to an active philosophical role, and the last argument pre-
sented is given by the theoretical and professional identity offered by the training pro-
gram in this new profession48.
In Romania, it is only after 2010 that we have the first opinions on this issue, which
follow the same trend of different debates and standpoints in favour of one or other of the
two options analysed49. The philosophy professor Valentin Mureşan, who is in favour of
training specialists in this new profession of counselling, stands out in what regards the
necessity of setting up a profession of philosophical counselling, distinct from that of the
philosopher50, while Professor Cristian Iftode supports the philosophers who believes that
they can “provide individual and group counselling and assistance”51.
The same standpoint is assumed by philosophy professor Laurenţiu Staicu,
who starts a philosophical practice in Bucharest, and who later on, changed his
opinion by becoming a teacher within a master’s program specialized in philosoph-
ical counselling, started in Timișoara in 2015.
46 Ibidem, p. 178.
47 D. Miccione, Lezioni private di consulenza filosofica, Bologna: Diogene Multimedia, 2018, p.
48 Ibidem, pp. 76–77.
49 V. Hațegan, „Philosophical counseling, premises and trends in Romania”, Studii de știință și
cultură, XIV (3), 2018, p. 170–171.
50 V. Mureșan, Un filosof rătăcit în agora, București: ALL, 2013, p. 134.
51 C. Iftode, Filosofia ca mod de viață. Sursele autenticității. Pitești: Paralela 45, 2010, p. 24.
17 Philosophical Practitioner or Philosophical Counsellor 207
The program we are referring to was founded at the initiative of philosophy pro-
fessor Florin Lobonţ, being the first master’s program started in Romania in this ap-
plied field, entitled in English Philosophical Counselling and Consultancy52, in
partnership with other specialized institutions worldwide. The program has students
from the country and abroad, already having its first graduates in 2017, who have ac-
quired professional skills and competences required by a philosophical advisor, who
can practice both individually and in groups. In our previous research, we have identi-
fied the requirements and stages needed in order to acknowledge a new profession in
Romania53, as well as the necessity to start a new professional association, which is
why The Professional Association of Philosophical and Ethics Counsellors was
founded in 2017, which operates for the recognition and regulation of the professions
of philosophical counsellor and ethics counsellor in Romania.
Starting from these prerequisites, but also by considering the models of other
practitioners in the world, which we have presented in the paper, especially the model
of professional association and certification employed by the APPA American associ-
ation led by Lou Marinoff, we propose the following procedure for entering this new
profession which is to be recognized and regulated in Romania as well. The next figure
schematically lists this procedure.
Figure 2: The procedure of entering a new profession
The already initiated Master’s Program of Philosophical Counselling allows ac-
cess to training or specializing in this new applied field both to those holding a univer-
52 V. Hațegan, loc. cit, p. 31.
53 Ibidem, pp. 251–260.
208 Vasile Petru Hațegan 18
sity degree in philosophy and those with university studies in other humanities majors,
who can choose to train in a Master’s program or in another postgraduate program in
the field; or they can access a training version certified and recognized by the profes-
sional association, which would certify their initial training in philosophical counsel-
ling. The second option of training and specialization will be conducted under the aegis
of the professional association, after the approval of the program themes and of the
team of trainers, and which will issue certificates of entrance into the profession for
both training variants, after checking that the training conditions are met. Depending on
the initial studies and specializations attended, all members of the association, follow-
ing their enrolling in the organization and their acceptance of the ethical rules of this
profession, they can act as either a philosopher practitioner or as a specialist in philo-
sophical counselling. In the following figure we present the steps that we have referred
to, chronologically, indicating their importance in the process of carrying out a practice
in accordance with the training and legal rules related to the counselling process, in-
cluding the tax obligations arising from this activity.
Figure 3: The organizing philosophical counselling as a legal activity
From the above figure, we notice that the first stage of vocational training and
specialization is followed by the registration stage, which includes adherence to the
professional organization, which is then followed by the registration with the National
Trade Register Office of the occupation under which the person will practice, that of
philosopher or that of philosophical counsellor, and then the tax statement related to
this activity. The next step is the actual activity, manifested through the philosophical
practice within an individual office or within a specialized counselling company. As
19 Philosophical Practitioner or Philosophical Counsellor 209
any other recognized professional activity, we believe that the professional organiza-
tion should organize on-going training programs to support practitioners, as well as
events for the members of the association, in various forms of participation.
These proposed forms of organization remain open to the choice of each practi-
tioner who may or may not work in these forms of certification and professional recog-
nition, but which can indirectly grant their clientele a certain confidence given by their
belonging to an associative group which supervises the observance of professional norms
of ethics, as well as the training and specialization in the field, based on the approved
training programs. This continuing training also comes in support of graduates of short
training programs who, although they did not initially receive a lasting academic training
in philosophy, they can learn philosophy tools in order to develop their practice.
In what regards the practitioners who participated in the study conducted as an
interview, we notice from their answers to the first question about how they came into
contact with the philosophical practice54, that they stated to either have an initial train-
ing in philosophy, continued with other related specializations, or to come from other
specializations continued with various specializations in philosophy, such as a master’s
or a doctorate program. In this study we noticed a dominant majority of philosophers
who want to keep the direction and who rebut professionalization, which they consider
an alienation from philosophical practice through the introduction of philosophical
counselling. They often remain individual practitioners, who work erratically, who lack
a group vision and who develop their work at random.
If we take a look at those who support philosophical counselling as a distinct pro-
fession, we observe that they have developed bodies which regulate or certify the
training programs, they can offer membership to an association or professional organi-
zation; they adopt an ethical code and a certification system recognized by society. In
Romania, maintaining solely the direction of theoretical or academic philosophy has
only closed and blocked any initiative for practice. There have been only sporadic
standpoints or timid practical applications of philosophy, both in individual procedures
or in groups. The formula we suggest, through the initiative launched by the already
founded professional association, is to promote new training programs at a similar
standard to other countries, and to create new specialists who would successfully work
in philosophical counselling.
Should we maintain this trend of a single academic program in the field, that
generates small groups of specialists, they could be at risk of getting lost as practition-
ers, since they work under the larger umbrella of counselling, without being interested
in a distinct identification, which could hinder even more the process of professionali-
zation. We notice that the government is not yet involved in this regulation, leaving
54 J.B.L. Knox, J.K.B.O. Friis, op. cit., p. 1.
210 Vasile Petru Hațegan 20
open only the means to associate, which is why the alternative of training through
programs certified and recognized by the legally established association could generate
confidence, making this new specialization more attractive for people interested in a
new qualification and profession. We are aware that the emergence of these programs
may also attract some criticism on behalf of the philosophers from the academic area or
on behalf of those who have re-qualified in other fields, as has already happened when
the master’s program appeared, which has also included people who initially trained in
other fields, but which also included in its curriculum elements of philosophical theory,
considered to be useful to a practitioner.
We believe that an intermediate solution may be beneficial and, depending on the
philosophical training of the participants, the training programs may lead to debates of
ideas or the assumption of philosophy concepts, which will contribute to the training of
new specialists in philosophical counselling. Starting from the still small number of
practitioners in Romania and bypassing the inherent criticism, we discover new stand-
points in several university centres in the country, that there are papers written on this
applied field, which confirms the increase of interest in studying and researching these
trends, which manifested themselves much earlier in other countries.
The same interest appears in other fields which become interested in elements
and concepts specific to philosophy, and which take part in interdisciplinary study
programs that includes philosophy; or in group applications, such as philosophical
cafés, which attract people from various fields who are interested in making life philos-
ophy. We encourage the elaboration of well defined, flexible programs convenient for
as many people as possible interested in this applied field, programs which have al-
ready been tested in the practice of other countries, especially in the US. For specialists
thus trained, belonging to a professional organization that assumes the role of a unified
standardization of training in this new specialization, which is concerned with devel-
oping and implementing a code of ethics applicable to all members, can generate posi-
tive effects within the society, by recognizing and developing a prestige specific to a
distinct profession, that of philosophical counsellor.
The rate of trust in the practice offered by them may differ, being influenced by
the perception of the practitioner's abilities and also by the degree of information re-
garding the service offered, which requires an active and permanent promotion of this
new specialization of philosophical practice, thus aiding people who need a qualified
expert as well, whether a philosopher or a counsellor.
We therefore assume the role of mediating between the two standpoints pre-
sented in this paper, and we will support both philosophers who want to become prac-
titioners and specialists who want to become philosophical counsellors, and who re-
quire essential elements of philosophy.
In conclusion, we are against any dispute and we support the cooperation be-
tween these areas, and the resulting solution will lead to a correct perception of the role
of the philosopher in the life of the contemporary man. We can say that the practitioner
philosopher is bound to practice for the benefit of the people and the specialist in philo-
sophical counselling is bound to excellence by employing philosophy.
21 Philosophical Practitioner or Philosophical Counsellor 211
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