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Unread December 14th, 2004, 03:55 PM
JustBen JustBen is offline
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Join Date: Jul 2004
Posts: 58
Default Re: Is it important to change the client's dysfunctional cognitions?

Socrates himself would insist that these two terms ("disputation" & "Socratic questioning") be properly defined before they could be compared or contrasted. I don't have enough experience with REBT to speak to the clarity of "disputation", but the term "Socratic questioning" (and, for that matter, "Socratic method") are a hopeless muddle. Carey and Mullen do a nice job of reviewing existing "Socratic" literature in the September 2004 issue of Psychotherapy: Theory, Research, Practice, Training.

To paraphrase: existing literature does a great job of explaining the importance of Socratic questioning, but "someone wishing to learn Socratic questioning could not discern from the literature what the procedure was, when it should be used, how it should be used, or what it should be used for."

Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart, in an opinion on pornography wrote, "I shall not today attempt further to define the kinds of material … but I know it when I see it." Unfortunately, I think many of us are satisfied to take a similar approach to the concept of Socratic questioning. This vague definition seems to satisfy, and allows us to avoid nit-picky semantic battles...and yet, it does nothing to answer some very tough questions about this Socratic questioning, namely:

When employing Socratic questioning, does the therapist guide the client to a pre-determined answer, or does the therapist simply elicit an answer already "inside" the client? (Is this technique essentially didactic or collaborative?) Are there different kinds or categories of Socratic questions?Does the term "Socratic method" encompass techniques other than questioning?

The fact that leaders in the field of psychotherapy (and even within the cognitive therapy fold) differ so dramatically in their answers to these questions raises an even meatier question: Is the research, practice, and training of psychotherapy comprimised by an inability to define terms?

Unfortunately, I think the answer to that last question is yes. It's easy to see the results of such conceptual sloppiness when you look at our approach to the currently fashionable topic of spirituality, for example. I'm willing to bet that if we asked 30 psychotherapists to define this term, we'd get 30 different answers without a single element that unites them. Yet we devote reams of paper in professional journals to the discussion of this topic as if we were all referring to some accepted operational definition.
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