Socratic Dialogue

What is Socratic Dialogue?

A method of assisting clients to determine how accurate and helpful certain thoughts may be. Specifically, this is done by exploring how the client came to have those thoughts, and evaluating the evidence regarding those and other possible thoughts. This process is undertaken in a spirit of respectful curiosity. The therapist guides this exploration using questions, but does not presume a pre-set outcome and instead professes an ignorance of the topic with the client seen as the expert in his or her own experiences. Here are some characteristics of Socratic Dialogue:

  • Clarification of the thought
  • Critical examination of the thought
  • Exploration of the origin or source of the statement
  • Examination of the implications and consequences of the statement
  • Examination of alternative views

Why Use Socratic Dialogue in Your Practice?

Socratic Dialogue is an open discussion between therapist and client with no pre-defined outcome other than exploration. As such, it serves many purposes including learning more about the client, building rapport and setting a non-judgmental atmosphere, reinforcing a collaborative treatment approach, aiding therapy progress, and teaching the client how to evaluate future thoughts more in-depth.

What is NOT Socratic Dialogue?

  • Disagreement with or discounting the client’s answers
  • Answering questions for the client
  • Pre-identification of a specific replacement/alternative thought for the client
  • Random questions
  • Making suggestions or problem-solving for the client
  • Judgment about the patient’s views and experiences

Socratic Dialogue Tips

  • Use a series of questions to analyze a specific thought
  • Avoid interpretations of thoughts and answers as “right” or “wrong”
  • Frame questions in the client’s language
  • Inquire about contradictions and inconsistencies
  • Inquire about other possible interpretations and meanings
  • Incorporate the client’s pre-existing knowledge

Want to learn more about using Socratic Dialogue in your practice? Explore CDP's resources in Socratic Dialogue using the links below:

Blog: CPT and the Use of Socratic Questioning/Dialogue

​Blog: Socratic Dialogue Part 2: Professing Ignorance

Video: Socratic Questioning - The Art of Guided Self-Discovery