Philosophical consultants use philosophical skills and insights to help clients resolve conceptual issues in their personal and professional lives. Potential clients for philosophical consultations must be prepared to examine and challenge their own ideas and reasoning processes, and seek to establish an adequate justification for their beliefs. The philosophical consultant is trained to assist this process with patience and respect.
The primary aim in philosophical consultations is to ensure clear and effective reasoning. This typically entails mapping out the logical structure of an argument, identifying unknowns and correcting fallacies. Appeals to intuition are allowed, but they must be examined and assessed for evidence of reliability.
If the ultimate goal of the consultation is to enhance the clients' performance in some non-philosophical domain, then the enterprise is better classified as philosophical coaching (which has different protocols and standards).
Philosophical consultants apply critical thinking techniques to help clients make sense of any issues that are unclear or are causing confusion. Some consultants may additionally offer tuition on philosophical methods or coaching in decision-making techniques.
Philosophical consultants can also provide expert analysis of questions that are traditionally philosophical, ethical or existential in nature, such as: the value of human life and relationships; conceptions of happiness and fulfilment; conflicting moral values; explanation and justification; and choice and responsibility, amongst many others.
Some consultants have additional expertise in other specialist areas, such as management and enterprise, political strategy, public speaking, domain ontology, knowledge engineering, monitoring and evaluation, conflict resolution, and performance coaching. A philosophical consultant offering analytic services in a specialist discipline should be appropriately certified in that domain or have equivalent professional experience.
Read more about Critical Philosophy.
Some philosophical consultants help individuals expand their horizons by developing a unique personal worldview and philosophy of life. The discussions may invoke profound issues such as metaphysics, transcendence and spirituality, and explore complex debates between differing political convictions, religious and atheistic doctrines, and personal conceptions of reality and meaning. The philosophical consultant acts as a guide and companion on this personal quest for wisdom and self-actualisation. The process is suitable for people who seek philosophical or spiritual enlightenment, but are dissatisfied with conventional doctrines, religious worldviews or new-age mysticism. A specialist postgraduate course is currently under development.
Existential coaching is a special mode of philosophical coaching that focuses on the clients' lived experiences and their personal interpretation of the world. It predominantly uses a phenomenological methodology which embraces and enhances personal engagement with the world and with other people. Due to the dynamic emotional content, existential coaches must have postgraduate training in emotion theory and a wide range of therapeutic interventions; however, they need not be formally qualified in psychology or clinical practice. The SPP recommends the MA in Existential Coaching, a 2-year course taught by the NSPC and validated by Middlesex University, which can be studied via distance learning.
The SPP requires all registered philosophical coaches to engage in regular supervision. The experience of philosophical enlightenment can be immensely liberating for clients, but can also be deeply unsettling, so clients should notify the consultant of any emotional vulnerabilities and seek professional support from the appropriate service providers.
Philosophical consultants who offer counselling services or therapeutic programmes for emotional problems or confusions conventionally considered to be within the domain of mental health services must have accredited qualifications in counselling and psychotherapy, along with professional supervision by a certified psychotherapist. See the description of Philosophical Counselling for further details.