Pine Tree Counselling & Psychotherapy
Trudi Jane Wyatt, MA, CT, CCC
Psychotherapy for individual adults in Ontario. (Note, I am geographically in Alberta.)


Phone: 403.270.2386*
(emergencies 911)*

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 is that according to Plato, Socrates’ friend had consulted with the Oracle at Delphi who had said that no one is wiser than Socrates; Socrates, hearing this, thought perhaps it was a riddle, and took it upon himself to ascertain whether or not anyone was wiser than he was. Also not so well-known about Socrates is that his mother was a mid-wife, and he thought of himself as an “intellectual mid-wife,” “drawing out” the truth from people rather than dictate it to them. (6)

Today, this “Socratic Method” of “drawing out” clients’ own knowledge and conclusions, is greatly enhanced by another method soon to enter the ancient Greek Philosopher scene, the method of “logic,” founded by Aristotle. Thus, perhaps a fitting name for this integration, that does “justice” to our ancient Greek intellectual ancestors, could 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. 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.

6. The History of Western Philosophy, University of Toronto.

Edited 03Oct2018

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