Insurance and Philosophical Consulting

Carolyn Ray, Ph.D., Philosohpical Consultant

Philosophy is not a medical discipline. Although it is widely believed, with some justification, that a sound set of philosophical beliefs and methods is an important factor in sound mental and physical health, it is not itself a health discipline. The distinction can perhaps best be understood with reference to an analogy:

Proper shelter and clothing is essential to sound physical health. If someone is left exposed, in shorts and a t-shirt, in the snow, it will be extremely difficult to maintain physical health. Exposure to cold puts a human being at risk of hypothermia, infection, and pneumonia. Illness is not guaranteed; natural physical strength, prior exposure to microorganisms, poor diet, lack of exercise, etc, vary from person to person. But exposure to cold makes illness more likely. Once a person has developed illnesses as a result of improper shelter and clothing, it isn't enough to simply supply sweaters and an insulated building. Medical treatment will be required. But treatment alone is not enough, either: even if antibiotics and fluids are provided, clothing and shelter must also be supplied, and the person will be in danger of ill-health returning if clothing and shelter are not constantly available in the future. Thus, it's obvious that clothing and shelter are required for good health, but neither the clothing industry nor the building industry are medical professions, and medical insurance has never covered sweaters and cold-weather insulation. Clothing and medicine are entirely separate specialties.

Philosophy is analogous to proper shelter and clothing. Without it, human beings are at risk of psychological damage. A psychologically damaged human being unquestionably requires medical treatment that focuses on the illness. This is why many health insurance policies cover psychological services. Philosophy, on the other hand, is a condition that makes psychological health possible, but it is not itself a kind of medical or psychological treatment.

There are prominent philosophical consultants who are today claiming that philosophy can replace psychology in the treatment of emotional problems. This claim is demonstrably false, and because the health--sometimes the very lives--of clients is at stake it is an extremely dangerous claim as well. Philosophers are not trained in the diagnosis or treatment of psychological disorders. Claims to the contrary amount to philosophical malpractice, and constitute practicing clinical psychology without a license, which is against the law. Legitimate philosophical consultants refer people to clinical psychologists for problems they are not trained to handle.

Until education in philosophy includes full clinical education in psychology, philosophers who claim to be able to cure mental illness or emotional problems merely through the use of philosophy are wrong. The simplest way to demonstrate the falsity of this claim is to recognize that philosophers have psychological problems too. If psychological problems could be cured by philosophy alone, philosophers would be the healthiest, happiest people on the planet, and the incidence of psychological disfunction would be the lowest among this population. This hypothesis is not supported; nor do I believe that it is true. The philosopher's strength is in her ability to think logically, precisely and intently, and to deliver coherent conclusions as a result. These are the skills that philosophers are taught, and they are, without question, better at exercising them than most other people. But even a highly skilled philosopher may not have any knowledge of psychological information, data, or techniques. She may be superbly capable of facing enormously complex personal life choices and making the most logical, morally pure decisions, but unable to to treat emotional problems; she may be inclined to conclude, for example, that someone's enduring feelings of guilt are simply "irrational", without being at all aware of or interested in the fact that the guilt is the result of severe childhood trauma that requires therapy.

Carolyn Ray has been providing consultation to individuals, couples, and groups since 1986. Her private practice, Peace of Mind, is located in La Jolla, CA. She is available by appointment in person as well as by phone and via the internet. Please send email to carolyn at this domain to request an appointment.