Stoic Philosophy as a Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy

The Behavior Therapist

The latest edition of The Behavior Therapist journal, includes an article I co-authored with Trent Codd titled ‘Stoic Philosophy as Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy.’

Our aim was to provide a clear description of the relationship between Stoicism and CBT, addressing professional psychotherapists working in this field. We also wanted to make a case for the potential value of Stoicism to their work, particularly in relation to the promise Stoicism holds as a preventative approach, i.e., a form of long-term emotional resilience training.

The full journal is available online, with the article on pages 42-50. I’ve provided a couple of short excerpts below to give a flavour of the content.

Excerpt from the Introduction

Socrates considered philosophy to be, among other things, a form of talking therapy, a sort of medicine for the mind. Within a few generations of his death, this idea of philosophy as psychotherapy had become commonplace among the various schools of Hellenistic philosophy. However, it was the Stoics who placed most emphasis on this therapeutic dimension of philosophy. For example, the Roman Stoic teacher Epictetus wrote, “It is more necessary for the soul to be cured than the body, for it is better to die than to live badly” (Fragments, 32), and he stated bluntly, “the philosopher’s school is a doctor’s clinic” (Discourses, 3.23.30). Today, though, most people are unaware of the extent to which ancient Greeks and Romans conceived of philosophy as a type of psychological therapy.

From the Conclusion

The very fact that Stoicism is bigger and deeper than CBT in its aim to provide a philosophy of life perhaps gives us reason to believe that its benefits may be more lasting than those of existing CBT-based resilience training programs. People who study Stoicism embrace it as part of their life rather than viewing it merely as a set of coping techniques, which they might later forget if they don’t repeat their initial training. Stoicism offers people a permanent alternative to their existing worldview, one aligned with CBT in many regards, which might provide a framework for changes that could endure long after initial exposure to them through books and courses. Our hope, therefore, is that in the future research may be conducted on the potential applications of combined Stoicism and CBT-based training courses as a form of long-term emotional resilience-building.

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  1. Thanks Donald……….

    “If you are never downcast, if day and night your soul keeps on an even level,
    upright and content with itself, you sir, have found the greatest good a mortal can possess ” Seneca

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