Journal of Contemporary Psychotherapy

, Volume 45, Issue 2, pp 137–142 | Cite as

Positive Psychotherapy According to the Socratic Method

  • James C. OverholserEmail author
Original Paper


The present article explores the integration of positive psychology and the Socratic method. Positive psychology provides an important shift of focus, helping psychotherapists to move away from an exclusive focus on problems, symptoms, and pathology. Instead, psychotherapy sessions can include a strong emphasis on personal qualities and social resources for managing stressful situations. The Socratic method provides a broad framework that is compatible with positive psychology. Three areas are explored that integrate positive psychology with the Socratic method: (a) A focus on developing positive views of self and other people, (b) positive goals for life-long changes, and (c) a positive process for therapy that is guided by collaboration and exploration. When combined, these three focal shifts can help to soften the style of therapy and expand the relevance of treatment.


Individual psychotherapy Positive psychology Socratic method 


  1. Gander, F., Proyer, R., Ruch, W., & Wyss, T. (2013). Strength-based positive interventions. Journal of Happiness Studies, 14, 1241–1259.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Ingram, R., & Snyder, C. R. (2006). Blending the good with the bad. Journal of Cognitive Psychotherapy, 20(2), 117–122.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Kashdan, T., & Rottenberg, J. (2010). Psychological flexibility as a fundamental aspect of health. Clinical Psychology Review, 30, 865–878.CrossRefPubMedCentralPubMedGoogle Scholar
  4. Lyubomirsky, S., & Layous, K. (2013). How do simple positive activities increase well-being? Current Directions in Psychological Science, 22(1), 57–62.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. McKnight, P., & Kashdan, T. (2009). Purpose in life as a system that creates and sustains health and well-being. Review of General Psychology, 13(3), 242–251.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Overholser, J. C. (1993a). Elements of the Socratic method: I. Systematic questioning. Psychotherapy, 30, 67–74.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Overholser, J. C. (1993b). Elements of the Socratic method: II. Inductive reasoning. Psychotherapy, 30, 75–85.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Overholser, J. C. (1994). Elements of the Socratic method: III. Universal definitions. Psychotherapy, 31, 286–293.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Overholser, J. C. (1995). Elements of the Socratic method: IV. Disavowal of knowledge. Psychotherapy, 32, 283–292.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Overholser, J. C. (1996a). Cognitive-behavioral treatment of depression, Part III: reducing cognitive biases. Journal of Contemporary Psychotherapy, 25(4), 311–329.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Overholser, J. C. (1996b). Elements of the Socratic method: V. Self-Improvement. Psychotherapy, 33, 549–559.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Overholser, J. C. (1999a). Elements of the Socratic method: VI. Promoting virtue in everyday life. Psychotherapy, 36, 137–145.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Overholser, J. C. (1999b). Courage and the Socratic method of psychotherapy. Voices. Journal of the American Academy of Psychotherapists, 35(3), 6–14.Google Scholar
  14. Overholser, J. C. (2010). Psychotherapy according to the Socratic Method: Integrating ancient philosophy with contemporary cognitive therapy. Journal of Cognitive Psychotherapy, 24(4), 355–364.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Overholser, J. C. (2011). Collaborative empiricism, guided discovery, and the Socratic method: Core processes for effective cognitive therapy. Clinical Psychology Science and Practice, 18(1), 62–66.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Overholser, J. C. (2013). Guided discovery: Problem-solving therapy integrated within the Socratic method. Journal of Contemporary Psychotherapy, 43(2), 73–82.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Park, N., Peterson, C., & Brunwasser, S. (2010). Positive psychology and therapy. In N. Kazantzis, M. Reinecke, & A. Freeman (Eds.), Cognitive and behavioral theories in clinical practice (pp. 287–306). New York, NY: Guilford.Google Scholar
  18. Peseschkian, N., Biland, F., & Cope, T. (2010). Symptom, conflict and conflict-resultion. International Journal of Psychotherapy, 14(1), 39–49.Google Scholar
  19. Pietrowsky, R., & Mikutta, J. (2012). Effects of positive psychology interventions in depressive patients. Psychology, 3(12), 1067–1073.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Ryan, R., Huta, V., & Deci, E. (2008). Living well: A self-determination theory perspective on eudaimonia. Journal of Happiness Studies, 9, 139–170.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Ryff, C. (1989). Happiness is everything, or is it? Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 57(6), 1069–1081.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Ryff, C., & Singer, B. (2008). Know thyself and become what you are. Journal of Happiness Studies, 9, 13–39.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Seligman, M. (2011). Flourish. New York, NY: Free Press.Google Scholar
  24. Seligman, M., & Csikszentimihalyi, M. (2000). Positive psychology. American Psychologist, 55(1), 5–14.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  25. Seligman, M., Parks, A., & Steen, T. (2004). A balanced psychology and a full life. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society for Biological Sciences, 359(1449), 1379–1381.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Seligman, M., & Pawelski, J. (2003). Positive Psychology: FAQs. Psychological Inquiry, 14(2), 159–163.Google Scholar
  27. Seligman, M., Rashid, T., & Parks, A. (2006). Positive psychotherapy. American Psychologist, 61(8), 774–788.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  28. Sharma, S. (2013). Can positive psychotherapy meet the basic principles of effectiveness as outlined by Grawe? International Journal of Psychotherapy, 17(1), 42–52.Google Scholar
  29. Sin, N., & Lyubomirsky, S. (2009). Enhancing well-being and alleviating depressive symptoms with positive psychology interventions. Journal of Clinical Psychology in Session, 65(5), 467–487.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Steger, M., Kashdan, T., & Oishi, S. (2008). Being good by doing good: Daily eudaimonic activity and well-being. Journal of Research in Personality, 42, 22–42.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Toussaint, L., & Friedman, P. (2009). Forgiveness, gratitude, and well-being: The mediating role of affect and beliefs. Journal of Happiness Studies, 10, 635–654.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of PsychologyCase Western Reserve UniversityClevelandUSA

Personalised recommendations