Philosophical Issues in Counseling and Psychotherapy: Encounters with Four Questions about Knowing, Effectiveness, and Truth
James T. Hansen, Ph.D.


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This book was the winner of the 2014 Joe and Lucille Hollis Publications Award from the Association for Humanistic Counseling. The Hollis award was established in 1985 to recognize leadership and expertise in publishing in the counseling field that is relevant to the humanistic philosophy in counseling

Hansen, J. T. (2014). Philosophical issues in counseling and psychotherapy: Encounters with four questions about knowing, effectiveness, and truth. Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield. ISBN: 978-1-4422-2877-1

To become a counselor or psychotherapist, one must learn a confusing and conceptually disconnected array of theories, techniques, and ideologies. For instance, CBT, humanistic, and psychodynamic interventions have virtually opposite conceptual foundations, but they are all used to help clients. What principles, however, connect the various movements, trends, and methods of helping?  In Philosophical Issues in Counseling and Psychotherapy: Encounters with Four Questions about Knowing, Effectiveness, and Truth, I ask and propose beginning resolutions to four fundamental philosophical questions about knowing, effectiveness, and truth that are designed to unite and give meaning to diverse and seemingly contradictory models of helping: What does it mean to know a client? What makes counseling effective? Are truths discovered or created in the counseling relationship? Should counselors abandon the idea of truth? I also provide a critical overview of contemporary mental health culture and my hopes for the future of the helping professions.

I designed this book to be jargon-free, understandable, and engaging. No prior knowledge of philosophical issues is necessary to understand the topics that are presented.  Moreover, the text is infused with rich descriptions of my personal, intellectual struggles with fundamental philosophical issues.  This autobiographical component makes the book an interesting and engaging read.

I believe that a variety of professionals who are interested in foundational, philosophical issues in counseling will find this book useful and enjoyable.  Although it is not designed to be a formal textbook, the book can be used as a supplementary or recommended text for master’s and doctoral level courses in theories. Furthermore, because I describe the evolution of my scholarly focus as a professor, the book can be a valuable part of a doctoral professional seminar course and would likely be useful to doctoral students and new professors who aspire to develop a scholarly agenda.

In these pages, an extraordinary conversation has been initiated. Dr. Hansen invites the reader to walk with him through the labyrinth of philosophy to reflect on four critical questions of the counseling profession that lie at the heart of the work he loves. Through exploring the intersection of history, culture, power, language, and theory, Dr. Hansen is able to weave a synthesis of logic that provides counselors, counselor educators, and counselors-in-training with a unified view of helping that transcends conventional epistemology. Rather than avoid these challenging issues, the reader is invited into Dr. Hansen's personal and professional journey that reveals the meaning-oriented soul of the quintessential humanist. This book is an intellectual and professional delight and will be on the required reading list for all my theories classes in the future. (Colette Dollarhide, EdD, The Ohio State University)

Dr. Hansen has written a rare book that will inspire novice helping professionals while also challenging and invigorating more seasoned practitioners. His wit and insight make for an engaging and edifying read—I strongly recommend this book as essential reading for all counselors, psychologists, and social workers! (Matthew E. Lemberger-Truelove, PhD, University of New Mexico)

Jim Hansen’s self-styled ‘unusual book’ brings philosophical questioning to life in a delightful read that is clear, erudite, and personally engaging with its delicately effective balance between the academic and the deeply personal. In making a compelling case for an ‘affirmative postmodern’ approach to therapy that eschews modernist notions of ‘truth’ and which offers an effective antidote to the increasing mechanization of therapy work, Hansen refreshingly questions the politics of professionalization—raising deep philosophical questions about the therapeutic process itself and arguing for a humanities-centred approach in the Nussbaum tradition. The book also makes a resounding case, if inadvertently, for the intellectual freedom of the Academy. Aspiring and thoughtful students of the human condition will benefit greatly from reading this fine book. (Richard House, PhD, University of Winchester)

  • I have taken part in the American Counseling Association podcast (recorded interview) series.  During the hour-long interview, I was asked a series of questions about the topics in my book.  The podcast (#HT041) is entitled Philosophical Issues in Counseling.  The podcast file is available at this ACA website and can be downloaded and played on a computer or mobile device.
  • Book Review published in InfoChange, the national newsletter of the Association for Humanistic Counseling
  • Book Review published in PsycCRITIQUES and accompanying blog post
  • Book Review published in the Journal of Constructivist Psychology
  • Book Review from
About the Author
James T. Hansen is a Professor at Oakland University in the Department of Counseling.  His primary scholarly interests are philosophical and theoretical issues in counseling and critical examination of contemporary mental health culture.  Dr. Hansen has published over fifty articles in leading counseling journals and several books.   Two of his books have won awards for their contributions to humanistic philosophy in counseling.  Dr. Hansen has over twenty-five years of experience as a practitioner, supervisor, and consultant. 

Additional Information
If you would like additional information, please feel free to contact me or visit my website.

James T. Hansen, Ph.D.
Coordinator, Mental Health Specialization
Oakland University
Department of Counseling
450E Pawley Hall
Rochester, MI 48309

Phone: (248) 370-3071