Skip to main content

Socratic Method / Socratic Questioning / Socratic Dialogue

The Socratic Method has been defined as “a method of guided discovery in which the therapist asks a series of carefully sequenced questions to help define problems, assist in the identification of thoughts and beliefs, examine the meaning of events, or assess the ramifications of particular thoughts or behaviors” (Beck & Dozois, 2011). The Socratic method has been described as a “cornerstone” of cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT: Padesky, 1993) and an essential competency of CBT therapists (Roth & Pilling, 2007). Its use in CBT has a long history: Aaron T. Beck advised the use of questioning in his original cognitive therapy training manual “use questioning rather than disputation and indoctrination … it is important to try to elicit from the patient what he is thinking rather than telling the patient what the therapist believes he is thinking” (Beck, Rush, Shaw, & Emery, 1979). A 2015 review of the Socratic method concluded that there is a “general opinion that the Socratic Method … may be fundamental to CBT” but that it has received little recognition within research and is in danger of being undermined by a CBT interventions which include few or no Socratic elements (Clark & Egan, 2015). Read more
languages 61 languages


Therapy tool


Play The Script Till The End

Fears and worries can operate at different levels. Underlying one fear (e.g. “he won’t turn up”) can be deeper fears (e.g. “no ...


Prompts For Challenging Negative Thinking

The CBT model proposes that how we think affects the way we feel. Challenging our unhelpful thoughts (cognitive restructuring) is an essential skill w ...

Information Handout

Vertical Arrow Down Arrow Vertical Descent

Vertical Arrow / Downward Arrow / Vertical Descent is a form of Socratic questioning in which the therapist asks a succession of questions to uncover ...



Recommended Reading


Beck, A. T., & Dozois, D. J. (2011). Cognitive therapy: Current status and future directions. Annual Review of Medicine, 62, 397–409.

Beck, A. T., Rush, A. J., Shaw, B. F., & Emery, G. (1979). Cognitive therapy of depression. New York: Guilford Press.

Clark, G. I., & Egan, S. J. (2015). The Socratic Method in cognitive behavioural therapy: A narrative review. Cognitive Therapy and Research, 39(6), 863–879.

Kazantzis, N., Fairburn, C. G., Padesky, C. A., Reinecke, M., & Teesson, M. (2014). Unresolved issues regarding the research and practice of cognitive behavior therapy: The case of guided discovery using Socratic questioning. Behaviour Change31(1), 1-17.

Padesky, C. A. (1993, September). Socratic questioning: Changing minds or guiding discovery. In A keynote address delivered at the European Congress of Behavioural and Cognitive Therapies, London (Vol. 24).

Roth, A. D., & Pilling, S. (2007). The competences required to deliver effective cognitive and behaviouraltherapy for people with depression and with anxiety disorders. London: Department of Health.