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Socratic Questioning

Being part of a series of CBT workshops for psychiatry medical staff

Derek Lee

on 23 June 2011

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Transcript of Socratic Questioning

Socratic Questioning
Welcome to the CBT Workshop
[469 B.C. to 399 B.C]
Believed he was "called" by Apollo, who was worshipped in the temple at Delphi
Inspired by the motto engraved on the wall of the temple
"Know Thyself"
Only we as individuals know what we know and believe, although often our beliefs may not be explicitly formed and our knowledge may not be in the realm of immediate attention or consciousness.
Socrates taught his pupils by engaging them in dialogues embroidered with carefully constructed questions that gently guided them to the discovery of their own beliefs and knowledge.
Thus we have the process of guided discovery, a journey through the mind to reveal our thoughts and beliefs, to deliver them into the world.
However, the concept of guided discovery itself begs a question
To what extent is this a guided tour led by someone who knows where they are going, as opposed to a mystery tour?
Socrates was very interested in the principles of logic and his questions were constructed according to the inductive method.
The process of creating a general principle on the basis of several particular examples
The idea of facilitating the birth of ideas appealed to Socrates because he was the son of a midwife
"I think....that you're in mental pain because you are, so to speak, 'pregnant'....Remember I'm a midwife's son and I have a midwife's skill. Do your best to answer my questions as I put them to you. Then when I've examined what you say, I may be able to prove that something is only a phantom and not a real offspring."
There are CBT purists who maintain that you should know the reason for asking every question you put to a client. A more lenient view would be that you should at least be guided by a reasonable hypothesis and be prepared to change tack if the answers do not support this.
It is perhaps arrogant to believe that we have a clear view of the journey and the destination, because we cannot possibly know what cognitive alley ways and lanes we may be drawn into.
However, we should know the general direction of travel, we can recognise the landmarks and footprints as we become more experienced as guides, and we understand that we have arrived at our destination when the client views a once familiar landscape in a new light.
The Four Elements of Guided Discovery
Informational questions.
Empathic listening
Frequent summaries
Synthesising questions

These are designed to elicit information from the client and to draw their attention to salient aspects of their thinking.
This involves accurate listening and reflection by the therapist.
This allows you to check that you have understood correctly and it assures the client you are actively listening.
Synthesising questions help the client to examine and adapt their beliefs in the light of new information.
In CBT, it is the equivalent of constructing an alternative view of reality by bringing to the client's attention specific examples that serve to undermine the validity of their negative interpretations.
Full transcript