How should I refer to the philosophical counseling ‘clients’ I’m working with?

I’m still trying to work out the language of philosophical counseling. Specifically, I’m not really sure what category to affix to the person I’m working with. To my mind, this is a deeply important philosophical question that I can’t afford to overlook. Why is that?

  1. Because I’m committed to leading a fully integrated philosophical life.
  2. Because I’m committed to living out a non-alienated form of work.
  3. Because I’m rejecting a medical model and a therapeutic model. For these reasons, I can’t avail myself of the following pairs of terms: expert/novice, analyst/analysand, doctor/patient, consultant/client.

What am I looking for in the pair of terms I use?

  1. Education. My interlocutor and I are both interested in making moral, ‘spiritual’ progress. I may simply be a little farther along than she is.
  2. Trust rather than contract. Our bond would be something more intimate, more face-to-face (i.e., non-alienated) than the law-governed contract.
  3. Mutual respect rather than superiority.

What terms might fit my basic commitments (1-3 in the first list) and meet my specific aims (1-3 in the second)? I’m not sure. Perhaps:

  • Friends?
  • Moral guide/student?
  • Teacher/pupil?

Kinda clumsy, I know. Right now, I’m leaning toward friends, but to use the term “friends” would also require stipulating how the term was to be used in our relationship. As things stand, I’ve been using the term “client,” but not without feeling a deep sense of dissatisfaction with the term and not without registering my discomfort with using scare quotes (‘clients’ as opposed to clients).

If you have any suggestions, please let me know.

Important Update

At 10:50 a.m. EST, my friend Charlie Davies wrote the following:

my girlfriend’s ma does this kind of work. “filosofisk samtale” (norwegian for “philosophical conversation”). she suggests the term “conversation partners” for you (“samtalepartner”). when she works with groups, she refers to the group as an “investigation group” (undersøkende gruppe)

Not bad!  As of 6 p.m. EST, March 19, I’m trying out–essaying, as Montaigne would have it–“conversation partners.” Hence, on all web pages I’ve replaced “clients” with “conversation partners” to reflect this change.

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