Socratic method: what it is and how it is applied in psychology

We all have a lot of questions in mind that we would like to find a solution to. And finding an answer to them is at least complex. We often look to others for the solution, even if what we really need is to find our own answer.

Regarding major philosophical questions such as ethics or morals or at the level of therapy, a method dating back to ancient Greece is useful. More precisely, in the figure of Socrates. This is the Socratic method, Which we will talk about throughout this article.

    The Socratic method: what is it?

    By the Socratic method we mean a methodology through which it is proposed that human beings are able to mature and mobilize their resources and to reflect on the problems that plague them. The purpose of the Socratic Method or Socratic Dialogue is not to answer the questions of others, but to to help that person be able to deepen their own psyche and their own thinking so that this development its own knowledge by itself.

    In itself, the Socratic method is rather a dialogue between two or more people, that is what one guides the other, through a series of questions and using resources like irony, towards the resolution of their doubts and conflicts. This guide is only a care, being ultimately the subject who finds the solution by himself. In fact, technically it is not just a question of answer, in which it is also valid to admit ignorance about a specific fact or aspect.

    Usually, the questions that arise from the subject are answered by means of another preventive question of who applies the method, so that the subject’s thought is brought to whom it is applied to him in a concrete direction without changing his ways. . to think directly.

    like that, the most important thing in this method is the use of inductive type questions, Use own resources in the desired direction. As for the type of questions in question, they tend to be relatively straightforward, based on three main particles: what, how and why.

    The basic operation is to first choose a specific subject or statement that is considered true and examine little by little so that it is falsified and refuted, And then generate new knowledge on the subject in question.

      The origin: maieutics

      The origin of the Socratic method can be found in the figure from which it takes its name: Socrates, the Greek philosopher This author has developed a dialectical method with the aim of helping to find his own individual truth, even to defend minority positions.

      The process was relatively simple to explain, although its realization was more complicated than it seemed: First, irony was used to bring the student or the person with whom he was in dialogue, posing a series of questions about the meaning of a previously chosen premise. that little by little he began to doubt it and even ended up admitting his ignorance on the subject and even being able to reduce it to the absurd.

      After that, Maieutics, or the Socratic method proper, was used: the interviewer then guided the reflection of the interlocutor through the dialogue, And the realization of relatively simple questions, propose and use the resources of the subject to generate a new truth or opinion more specific to the individual compared to the premise in question, a new knowledge of what is really known.

      Application of the Socratic method in psychotherapy

      The Socratic method, although it has an ancient origin, is still in force today, in various forms. The world of education is one of the fields in which it can be applied, another being the field of health. Within the latter, we need to highlight its use in clinical and health psychology.

      The application of the Socratic method is common in psychotherapy, regardless of the theoretical model, because it is proposed as a means of mobilizing and taking advantage of the patient’s own resources to achieve improvement.

      One of the psychological currents that uses it the most is the cognitive-behavioral, being the most easily identifiable example of the use of the Socratic method. challenging unsuitable beliefs: The subject exhibits a strongly rooted thought or belief that generates suffering or discomfort (or modifies his behavior by generating it to others), such as the idea of ​​being useless.

      The therapist can investigate what it means to be useless, in what situations this idea arises, what consequences it should be, or the fears that may be behind it, to a point where the subject could not do a deeper introspection ( to a large extent, techniques such as the down arrow are used in which one seeks to delve deeper and deeper into what is behind a particular thought or belief). After that, the session could be resumed by asking if there could be any alternative interpretations. and subsequently, the patient would be called upon to reconstruct his vision of reality in a more adaptive way with his own resources. It is a process related to cognitive restructuring.

      Likewise, another type of therapy which uses the Socratic method is logotherapy, in phenomenologico-existentialist models. In this case, the Socratic Method is used as one of the main techniques used to reactivate the patient’s resources and give meaning to his life. In this sense, it contributes to the subject’s self-discovery, by generating alternatives, by being responsible for his own choices and by trying to transcend. Values ​​and perceptions are worked on, among many other concepts.

      These are just two examples of therapies using the Socratic Method. However, its use is very common in virtually all types of therapy within clinical psychology.

      Bibliographical references:

      • Eliécer, J. (2005). The Socratic Method in Higher Education. National pedagogical university.
      • Martínez, I. (sf). Socratic Dialogue in Meaning-Centered Psychotherapy. Society for the Advancement of Meaning-Centered Psychotherapy. Available at: -sense.pdf.
      • Partarrieu, A. (2011). Socratic dialogue in cognitive psychotherapy. Third International Congress of Research and Professional Practice in Psychology. XVIII Research Conference. Seventh meeting of psychology researchers at MERCOSUR. Faculty of Psychology. University of Buenos Aires. Buenos Aires.
      • Segura, C. (2017). The Socratic method today. For a dialogical teaching and practice of philosophy. Madrid: school and May.

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