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Humanities Therapy Catches On

Posted March. 05, 2008 07:17,   


When it comes to humanities therapy, American social critic and writer Earl Shorris (71) first comes to mind. In 1995, he opened a “Clement Course” that teaches the “disadvantaged humanities” like literature and philosophy. He took his cue from a female prisoner who said what the poor and less privileged lacked the most was a “spiritual life.”

The first one-year-long course bore fruit. Two of those who completed the course pursued their studies and became dentists. When his wild idea turned out to be successful, the Clement Course began spreading around the world. Now, some 60 courses are operating in seven countries.

Humanities therapy is a long-held tradition in the West, though it is not identical with the Clement Course, which integrates various fields.

The first of its kind is literary therapy, which started in the U.S. in 1840. In the 1970s, some U.S. universities opened the department of literary therapy. By 1979, the Literary Therapy Association was established, paving the way for the course’s academic system.

Japan adopted literary therapy under the name of “bibliotherapy” in 1937. Since 1980, the therapy, which mainly targeted juvenile delinquents from 1945 through 1980, expanded to treat ordinary people. It is now carried out in combination with arts therapy.

Another kind of humanities therapy is “philosophy therapy.” Its origin is said to be “philosophical counseling,” a concept that was set up by German philosopher Dr. Gerd B. Achenbach in 1982. After that, the study of philosophy therapy spread across Europe and to North America. By 1982, an international association for philosophical counseling was established.

Dr. Achenbach contributed to establishing philosophical counseling as an academic field by publishing his first work on it in 1994. Beginning in 2003, the American Philosophical Counseling Association has been administrating a certificate system for philosophical counselors.

Arts therapy, which is also categorized as humanities therapy, includes music, art and video, representing various methodologies. Of note is the advancement of video therapy. Some U.S. patients are being treated by watching a specially prescribed video footage or by making their own videos.