Trudi Jane Wyatt, MA, RP, CCC
Registered Psychotherapist

Psychotherapy for individual male and female adults in Ontario, Canada.


416-901-0994 (no text)
130 Adelaide Street West PATH Toronto
By appointment only

The ‘C’ in CBT (Part 3): The Socratic ‘Aristotelian’ Method Instead?

As explained in “What is CBT?”, the ‘C’ in CBT stands for ‘cognitive’ which refers to thoughts. Your thoughts.

To help you explore your thoughts, one fairly common element of a CBT session, and a core competency of CBT psychotherapists (1), is “the Socratic Method.” Socrates was an ancient Greek philosopher described by Plato (another ancient Greek philosopher). He is well-known for questioning the premises, definitions, and assertions of the other Athenians (e.g., “What is justice?”) (2). This style carries forward to today in CBT, to help guide clients to arrive at their own conclusions rather than the more didactic approach of simply giving a client a pre-formed conclusion.

Interestingly, what is not so well-known about Socrates was that according to Plato, his intention was actually not to guide his fellow citizens to knowledge, but actually to prove that most humans did not really know anything, just the Gods did! Obviously this is not the intention of psychotherapy.

Thus, perhaps a more accurate name for “The Socratic Method” might be “The Socratic-Aristotelian Method”, incorporating in the name not only asking clients helpful and intelligent questions about what underlies their automatic thoughts (3), but also helping them develop the important complementary skill of resolving their logical inconsistencies (1) such as by teaching them the methods and laws of logic, which the ancient Greek philosopher Aristotle founded. For example, teaching people a little about induction (sound concept and principle formation), deduction (e.g., forming a conclusion based on prior premises), the correspondence theory of truth (4), and logical “fallacies” (unsound reasoning techniques, similar to “cognitive distortions”) to watch out for such as non sequitur and virtue by association (5).

For assistance with the above, please contact me to set up an initial appointment or free initial telephone consultation.

1. The Socratic Method in Cognitive Behavioural Therapy: A Narrative Review. Clark & Egan, 2015, Journal of Cognitive Therapy Research.

2. Studying at Raphael’s School of Athens. University of Toronto.

3. Mind Over Mood (1st or 2nd ed.), Padesky & Greenberger.

4. Aristotle: The Father of Logic. Leonard Peikoff, PhD., History of Philosophy.

5. Thought and Knowledge: An Introduction to Critical Thinking (4th ed.). Halpern, 2003.

Note that this post is not psychotherapy / counselling; please contact me or another professional if you require these services. If you need urgent support, consider Toronto Distress Centres at 416.408.4357. If you need immediate help, call 911 or go to your local Emergency Room. Note this post is for information only, does not imply that a professional relationship has been established with readers, is not advice, and does not imply intent to provide professional services to readers. Intended audience: Current adult residents of the Canadian province of Ontario only.

Trudi Jane Wyatt © 2018