Repost: The Philosophical Methods of CBT by Tim LeBon

This weekend, we are revisiting three of the posts on this blog over the last 18 months, which new readers to the blog (after Stoic Week 2013) might have missed. In this post, Tim LeBon looks at the philosophical side of CBT…. 

This week, Tim LeBon, philosophical counsellor and one of the Stoicism Today team, maps  seven typical errors of thinking, as recognised within CBT, with possible philosophical remedies for each error. The following piece is extracted from Tim’s book, Wise Therapy (2001), and is reproduced with kind permission of the author. The extract is prefaced by a short introduction, written by Tim for this blog, about the overall aims of the book.

Tim Le Bon, Psychotherapist, Philosophical Counsellor and Author of ‘Wise Therapy’
Introduction

In Wise Therapy (Sage,  2001) I aimed to examine some of the main practical topics in philosophy and explore their implications for psychotherapy and counselling.  The philosophy of well-being, right and wrong,  reason and the emotions and the meaning of life are all surveyed, what I hope to be acceptable conclusions reached, and then, in the final chapter, a counsellor’s philosophical toolbox is created.  Alongside a focus on philosophy,  I also examine the existing philosophically-inspired techniques from a variety of approaches, including logotherapy,  philosophical counselling, existential-phenomenological counselling, Rational Emotive Behavioral Therapy (REBT) and Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT).

CBT and REBT often quote the Stoic Epictetus’s dictum that “Men are disturbed not by things, but the views which they take of them” (Epictetus, Enchiridion, 5). They have taken this idea and turned it into a technique, variously called thought records, mood logs or cognitive restructuring. The idea is that you notice when you are feeling upset (sad, angry, anxious etc) and try to determine the judgement or thought that lies behind the emotions. I usually recommend clients to imagine themselves in a cartoon with a speech bubble coming out of their head. The trick is to imagine what thoughts or images are in the speech bubble. Once you’ve worked out which thoughts are disturbing you, the next step is to untwist your thinking by looking typical thinking errors that cause emotional problems.  After that, you can come up with alternative (“rational”) responses to help you feel less upset.

In the following extract from Wise Therapy  I first describe some of the existing thinking errors described by leading CBT therapists, and then refine these to include philosophical insights.

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Repost: Core Ideas of Stoic Ethics in Marcus Aurelius by Chris Gill

This weekend, we are looking at some earlier posts which appeared on this blog, which the blog’s new readers (after Stoic Week 2013) might have missed. In this post, Chris Gill extracts from Marcus Aurelius the key claims of Stoic ethics, including ideas on ‘the good’, ‘indifferents’, and natural human sociability. He looks at one meditation in particular (3.11) which draws on all of these key aspects of Stoic thought….

Core Ideas of Stoic Ethics in Marcus Aurelius

A positive reason for seeing Stoicism as influential on Marcus is that most of the Meditations are strongly reminiscent of Stoic ideas, even if Marcus does not use technical Stoic vocabulary and sometimes recasts these ideas in his own distinctive ways. We can identify at least five features which were seen in this period as distinctive of Stoicism; and they match strongly marked themes in the Meditations. One is the idea that the virtuous life is identical with the happy life (that virtue is all that is needed to ensure happiness). Other things widely regarded as good, such as health or material prosperity and even the well-being of one’s family and friends, are seen as being irrelevant for happiness; they are ‘matters of indifference’, even if they are naturally ‘preferable’.  A second theme is that emotions and desires depend directly on beliefs about what is valuable or desirable; they do not form a separate (non-rational) dimension of psychological life. The emotions and desires most people form are seen as shaped by mistaken ethical beliefs and in this sense as being psychological ‘sicknesses’. A third theme is that human beings have an in-built natural inclination to benefit others. This inclination, if properly developed, is expressed both in full-hearted engagement with family and communal roles and in a readiness to accept all human beings, as such, as part of a ‘brotherhood’ or ‘cosmic city’ and as proper objects of ethical concern. These three ideas add up to a highly idealised view of human ethics and psychology, one that ancient critics thought was over-idealistic and unrealistic. None the less, the Stoics maintained that all human beings are fundamentally capable of progressing towards the ideal state of complete virtue and happiness, though they admitted that no one had perhaps achieved this completely. Hence, ethical life, for Stoicism, consisted in an ongoing process or journey towards this goal, a journey for which their methods of practical ethics were a means of support.

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The Philosophy Clinic: Stoic Saturdays

Epictetus: ‘A philosopher’s school is a clinic’. 

Stephen J. Costello, Ph.D.

The Dublin Philosophy Clinic Logo

In the split second between stimulus and response lies a small space of freedom, which is our power to choose. That is why the philosopher gets off the bus. That is why Diogenes went looking in the city, carrying a lamp in broad daylight, saying ‘I am looking for a human being’. We must get off the merry-go-round and think for ourselves. We are born once only, twice is not permitted us. Because there is no guarantee or safety-net there for us, our lives are precarious and precious. We hunger for things that will give us sense and security, for meaning and purpose. We stockpile wealth and weapons. We feed on mood-altering substances like alcohol, drugs and celebrity. But there is an alternative path from an ancient pedigree: philosophical practice.

Seneca: ‘The point is, not how long you live, but how nobly you live’.

I founded The Philosophy Clinic in order to address and provide answers to the current crisis of meaning. Drawing on the wealth of worldly wisdom in the Western Socratic and, in particular, Stoic tradition, it aims to bring profound and practical philosophy to bear on issues of everyday life. Modern living has placed a great strain and stress on many people who are experiencing fragmentation and frustration, emptiness, existential distress and ethical confusion. There is a longing for guidance and growth, wholeness and healing. The Clinic aims to cater for such a context.

Cicero: ‘Truly philosophy is the medicine of the soul’.

The Greeks conceived of philosophy as a therapy of the soul and the site of spiritual/existential exercises. This understanding and interpretation reflects that of The Philosophy Clinic and infuses all our work. Courses and classes are offered to all those who hear the call and summons of Socrates to ‘Know Thyself’.

Epictetus: ‘Empty is the argument of the philosopher which does not relieve any human suffering’.

Our aim is to form more than to inform. We understand philosophy to be the ancient consolation and a way of life. Particular attention is paid to the practice of Prosoche, or awareness (attention) as the basis of all meditative practice; experiential exercises; group-work; Socratic dialogue; and journaling, are all part of the format and structure of the Clinic.

Marcus Aurelius: ‘Let your every deed and word and thought be those of one who might depart from this life this very moment’.

I offer Socratic therapy in the form of logotherapy and existential analysis to individuals and groups while philosophical counselling and coaching is offered by Barre Fitzpatrick to individuals, corporate clients and groups. Both members of the team consult to the corporate sector, myself through the Viktor Frankl Institute of Ireland: School of Logotherapy and Existential Analysis (www.logotherapyireland.com) and Barre through Stride (www.stride.ie).

I had invited Jules Evans over to Dublin for a ‘Saturday with Socrates’ day where he spoke on his book, Philosophy for Life and Other Dangerous Situations. I gave a paper on a logotherapeutic reading of Boethius’ The Consolation of Philosophy. That was my first contact with the ‘Stoicism Today Team’ in Exeter University. Three Saturday seminars have since followed: both drawing on Stoic philosophy, especially on Marcus Aurelius.

In the first seminar I gave an overview of Stoicism, laying out the core concepts, and introduced the central themes in Marcus’ Meditations. I spent a short time showing some similarities between Stoicism and Viktor Frankl’s logotherapy, which became the basis for a short article on the subject. My co-facilitator led the participants into an experiential exercise of prosoche which became concretised in a philosophy walk later in the day, after which they were introduced to the three disciplines of the soul (desire, judgement and action). The day ended with advice on journaling, a meditation and the Stoic practice of retrospection. The format consisted of group work, a lecture, a walk, and experiential exercises and meditations, as well as writing and questions. We felt the day was a great success and received some incredibly positive feedback.

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