Coaching Methods

The boundaries of our world are the boundaries of our thinking. When we change our thinking, our world itself can change. Philosophy changes your thinking, not by providing ready-made answers, but by helping you to probe for yourself into what you think and why, with the aim, not of disproof, but of liberation of thinking. The primary focus of sessions is the client’s own thinking and feeling, not on creating agreement or consensus with the philosopher coach, whose views may have little to do with proposed solutions. The philosophy coach does not peddle any particular worldview, but instead acts as a impartial witness and caring friend, there to help you to rethink your world on your terms.

Methods must vary to suit the problem. But generally speaking, I find a close examination of the language of our most deep-seated beliefs reveals options and insights not accessible to casual observation. Also, much is revealed about our unreflective attitudes to life, others, and the world by closely inquiring into the reasons we give in support our beliefs. The aim is not to refute or debunk, but to understand one’s own thinking by taking responsibility for the arguments that buttress our pet views. Being asked the right questions, and learning to ask new questions, can open doors we have left shut our entire thinking life.

Often limits on self are imposed by deep-seated unexamined convictions as to the way things are, about what is possible or what is right, about others, love, success, human nature, life or god. Thinking can be our chains. Philosophy breaks chains by rethinking. By examining layers of semantic meaning in the words we chose to frame out beliefs, but especially by inquiring into the actuating reasoning and evidence that has brought us to those beliefs, we can create lives with more awareness, a wider consciousness, a deeper appreciation, and a more authentic self-relation. The philosopher coach is a guide or helper, only a sherpa in your adventure of self-discovery, not the master of truth with a preconceived one-size solution. Willingness to self-inquiry is a precondition of effective work with a philosophical coach.

Philosophical Coaching Explained

There is no first moment of consciousness. 

Midway in our journey arise challenges of a new order, obstacles thrown up greater than the greatest foe we imagined in our naïve beginnings. Life and the world inevitably present undreamt of difficulties and a thousand opportunities for discouragement and disillusionment. Rarely do the ideals of our childhood survive the reflective scrutiny of maturity. Chance and fortune play rough with the fragile sources of meaning we cultivate on our own and with loved ones, leaving us exposed to the ravages of illness, folly and time.

Respect for the truth requires we stress test our beliefs.

Not loss only but success too can be bewildering, can test our beliefs and challenge our ways of thinking and adapting. It is not always nor only psychological help we need to face these existential and value-based crises, nor will ready-made mass-market solutions suffice. When it comes to remaking our worldview and rethinking our deepest beliefs, a neutral witness to assist with personal reflections would be more helpful than mere empathy and common fellow-feeling, as valuable as these invariably are.

Respect for the truth is no mere defense of one’s beliefs.

It is not easy to change one’s preconceived ideas, even once one has clearly perceived the problem. In many cases, it must be said, people haven’t the foggiest idea what they should think about problems that, in sober moments, they recognize to be of fundamental personal importance to them. Help to break the old mould, or to frame a new one, can be decisive.

The search for truth does not require that we possess it.

If we closely examine our thoughts, we will find much unworthy of belief. There are many conveniences and abstractions, many working truths that are more working than truth. We find a profusion of oversimplifications and dead metaphors, fixed in language as in formaldehyde, unaware, as it were, that they are even dead. Everyday speech is chock a block with such zombie metaphors and other forms of figurative language that are never figured out, or only unconsciously and automatically interpreted, often with minimal critical reflection and awareness. Much that flows through our working memory, the so-called spotlight of attention, originates in strategic or instrumental speech, and is intended to manipulate or nudge our thinking, incline it one way rather than another. Our beliefs and values are often found, upon close inspection, to have come to us more by way of social contagion than any pattern of logical inference or reflective thought.

Respect for the unknown truth must precede knowledge of it.

Much everyday thinking is riddled with error, bias and confusion. Even considered opinion rarely even pretends to transcend self or corporate interest, despite being delivered and disseminated with solemn authority. Rarely are our thoughts and thought-processes systematically questioned in everyday life, nor is the aim of objectivity prized outside specialists and technocrats. Thinking for oneself has no home. Until now.

Much of the confusion and conceit that human grey matter is heir to is fixed in language, in lazy, unexamined use of language in the framing of our thoughts and our default worldview. It is incumbent on every human being at some point in their lives to critically examine and question the assumptions upon which their identity and worldview depend, but rarely is this sacred duty recognized by the individual, let alone seriously undertaken. For there are no supports for such endeavors. Until now.

Philosophy is the practice of thinking for oneself.

Now there is philosophical practice. The world over, many academic philosophers have turned to the public in gestures of friendship and care, to help people to come to their own terms on fundamental and pressing philosophical problems impinging on everyday life. They deal with questions of life and death, questions of meaning and relations, questions about value, springing from value conflict, with which life is rife. The issues in philosophical practice derive not from the history or literature of philosophy, but from the clients themselves, who in order to solve them need neither psychological nor technical assistance. They need philosophical help in thinking for themselves. Philosophical practice is the home for that.

Philosophical practice is not a method, but home to a variety of techniques and approaches innovated (and sometimes renovated from ancient sources) by numerous recent pioneers in the field. There cannot be said to be unity on either the scope or the methodology of philosophical practice, though that equally can be said for philosophy as a whole, even psychology as a whole, not to mention the emerging multi-disciplinary fields of cognitive science, neuroscience, ecology, to name only a few, with all of which philosophy is centrally involved. Available methods cannot easily be canvased. Nevertheless, each philosophical practitioner can be expected to give some expectation of the approaches likely to be taken.


Michael Picard, MSc, PhDPhilosopher and author Michael Picard holds an MSc and PhD from Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He has taught philosophy, psychology, leadership and other subjects at various in North America, from institutions such as Harvard University, the University of Victoria, Simon Fraser University, and Royal Roads University, to unconventional spaces such as parks and cafes, where key philosophical ideas are explored in accessible dialogues through his Salon Philosophy and Café Philosophy programs. He is currently an instructor in the Philosophy Department at Douglas College.

Picard’s first book, This is Not a Book: Adventures in Popular Philosophy, presents innumerable puzzles, problems and paradoxes of philosophy ancient and modern, East and West, in a light yet profound manner. It has been translated into French, Italian, Spanish, Estonian, and Greek.