Encyclopedia of Couple and Family Therapy

2019 Edition
| Editors: Jay L. Lebow, Anthony L. Chambers, Douglas C. Breunlin

Socratic Questioning in Couple and Family Therapy

  • Rebecca PattersonEmail author
  • Danielle A. Black
Reference work entry
DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-319-49425-8_112


Guided discovery; Socratic method


Socratic questioning ascribes to an ethos of prioritizing discovery. The goal of Socratic questioning is not to change the client’s mind to a desired result but to guide the client’s own discovery. This is true for both appropriate and maladaptive thoughts, and it benefits the client to promote the discovery of their own conclusions rather than throwing therapist constructs at the client and seeing what sticks. Socratic questioning allows a client to devise their own plan and distinguish what makes sense emotionally from what does not. Socratic questioning can be instrumental in changing dysfunctional beliefs and helping individuals discover the adaptive beliefs that make sense for them (Padesky 1993).

Theoretical Framework

Socratic questioning is used most in cognitive behavioral therapy. Within this model, guided discovery helps structure the therapy as therapist and client work together to confirm or disprove client beliefs or...

This is a preview of subscription content, log in to check access.


  1. Beck, A. T., & Dozois, D. J. (2011). Cognitive therapy: Current status and future directions. Annual Review of Medicine, 62, 397–409.PubMedCrossRefPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  2. Beck, A. T., Rush, A. J., Shaw, B. F., & Emery, G. (1979). Cognitive therapy of depression. New York: Guilford Press.Google Scholar
  3. Carey, T. A., & Mullan, R. J. (2004). What is Socratic questioning? Psychotherapy: Theory, Research, Practice, Training, 41(3), 217–226.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Kayser, K., Feldman, B. N., Borstelmann, N. A., & Daniels, A. A. (2010). Effects of a randomized couple-based intervention on quality of life of breast cancer patients and their partners. Social Work Research, 34(1), 20–32.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. 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.Google Scholar
  6. Padesky, C. A. (1993, September). Socratic questioning: Changing minds or guiding discovery. Paper presented at the meeting of the European Congress of Behavioral and Cognitive Therapies, London, UK.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Center for Applied Psychological and Family StudiesThe Family Institute at Northwestern UniversityEvanstonUSA
  2. 2.The Family Institute at Northwestern UniversityChicagoUSA

Section editors and affiliations

  • Jay L. Lebow
    • 1
  1. 1.The Family Institute at Northwestern UniversityEvanstonUSA