How to Use Socratic Questioning in Therapy


You can learn about a person and help them come to realizations about themselves by asking them a series of questions. Named for the Greek philosopher Socrates, this method of conversing helps people get to the heart of the matter. Questions, in this theory, have a particular direction and follow a logical path. Therapists use this with clients so that clients can find their internal motivation for change.

What Are Some Examples

An example of these questions is listed in the book Motivational Interviewing: Helping People Change by W.R. Miller and S. Rollnick. Open-ended questions that can help people realize their internal motivation include:

  1. Why would you want to make this change?
  2. How might you go about it to succeed?
  3. What are the three best reasons for you to do it?
  4. How important is it for you to make this change, and why?
  5. So what do you think you’ll do?

This set of questions has a clear direction and helps lead to a profound realization for the answerer. Socratic questioning has been used in various other fields, including teaching. Still, it is particularly valuable in therapy, where the role of the therapist is to help individuals identify truths about themselves.

What Does Socratic Questioning Do?

Socratic questioning doesn’t just apply to change talk. It also applies to better understanding the origin and effects of emotion. You can determine the issue and the evidence that the client’s thoughts about it are rooted in truth. Then, you can consider alternatives. You can evaluate the efficacy of those alternatives. Lastly, you can ask questions to help the answerer distance themselves from the situation for added clarity. The classic question used in this context is, “If a friend were going through this same situation, what would you say to them?”

Socratic questioning, which might be used in evidence-based therapies like motivational interviewing and cognitive behavioral therapy, helps the client or answerer find their internal truth. They are prompted to deeply consider how they feel about a situation and the evidence to substantiate their emotions. At Valiant Living, we use various therapeutic techniques to help our clients overcome their struggles with addiction and co-occurring mental illness. At our men’s only facility in Denver, Colorado, we want our clients to grow independently and identify their internal strengths. Our expert staff is trained to help you accomplish exactly that. To learn more about the variety of services we offer, contact us today at (303) 952-5035.