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.
This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.
Buy single article
Instant access to the full article PDF.
Tax calculation will be finalised during checkout.
Subscribe to journal
Immediate online access to all issues from 2019. Subscription will auto renew annually.
Tax calculation will be finalised during checkout.
Gander, F., Proyer, R., Ruch, W., & Wyss, T. (2013). Strength-based positive interventions. Journal of Happiness Studies, 14, 1241–1259.
Ingram, R., & Snyder, C. R. (2006). Blending the good with the bad. Journal of Cognitive Psychotherapy, 20(2), 117–122.
Kashdan, T., & Rottenberg, J. (2010). Psychological flexibility as a fundamental aspect of health. Clinical Psychology Review, 30, 865–878.
Lyubomirsky, S., & Layous, K. (2013). How do simple positive activities increase well-being? Current Directions in Psychological Science, 22(1), 57–62.
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.
Overholser, J. C. (1993a). Elements of the Socratic method: I. Systematic questioning. Psychotherapy, 30, 67–74.
Overholser, J. C. (1993b). Elements of the Socratic method: II. Inductive reasoning. Psychotherapy, 30, 75–85.
Overholser, J. C. (1994). Elements of the Socratic method: III. Universal definitions. Psychotherapy, 31, 286–293.
Overholser, J. C. (1995). Elements of the Socratic method: IV. Disavowal of knowledge. Psychotherapy, 32, 283–292.
Overholser, J. C. (1996a). Cognitive-behavioral treatment of depression, Part III: reducing cognitive biases. Journal of Contemporary Psychotherapy, 25(4), 311–329.
Overholser, J. C. (1996b). Elements of the Socratic method: V. Self-Improvement. Psychotherapy, 33, 549–559.
Overholser, J. C. (1999a). Elements of the Socratic method: VI. Promoting virtue in everyday life. Psychotherapy, 36, 137–145.
Overholser, J. C. (1999b). Courage and the Socratic method of psychotherapy. Voices. Journal of the American Academy of Psychotherapists, 35(3), 6–14.
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.
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.
Overholser, J. C. (2013). Guided discovery: Problem-solving therapy integrated within the Socratic method. Journal of Contemporary Psychotherapy, 43(2), 73–82.
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.
Peseschkian, N., Biland, F., & Cope, T. (2010). Symptom, conflict and conflict-resultion. International Journal of Psychotherapy, 14(1), 39–49.
Pietrowsky, R., & Mikutta, J. (2012). Effects of positive psychology interventions in depressive patients. Psychology, 3(12), 1067–1073.
Ryan, R., Huta, V., & Deci, E. (2008). Living well: A self-determination theory perspective on eudaimonia. Journal of Happiness Studies, 9, 139–170.
Ryff, C. (1989). Happiness is everything, or is it? Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 57(6), 1069–1081.
Ryff, C., & Singer, B. (2008). Know thyself and become what you are. Journal of Happiness Studies, 9, 13–39.
Seligman, M. (2011). Flourish. New York, NY: Free Press.
Seligman, M., & Csikszentimihalyi, M. (2000). Positive psychology. American Psychologist, 55(1), 5–14.
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.
Seligman, M., & Pawelski, J. (2003). Positive Psychology: FAQs. Psychological Inquiry, 14(2), 159–163.
Seligman, M., Rashid, T., & Parks, A. (2006). Positive psychotherapy. American Psychologist, 61(8), 774–788.
Sharma, S. (2013). Can positive psychotherapy meet the basic principles of effectiveness as outlined by Grawe? International Journal of Psychotherapy, 17(1), 42–52.
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.
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.
Toussaint, L., & Friedman, P. (2009). Forgiveness, gratitude, and well-being: The mediating role of affect and beliefs. Journal of Happiness Studies, 10, 635–654.
About this article
Cite this article
Overholser, J.C. Positive Psychotherapy According to the Socratic Method. J Contemp Psychother 45, 137–142 (2015). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10879-014-9279-7
- Individual psychotherapy
- Positive psychology
- Socratic method