Yesterday I was involved in a friendly and very interesting discussion about the best psycho-therapeutic verbal methods. Towards the end of the discussion I was asked to define myself on the topic. I still don’t know from where came my contribution to the discussion –I guess it was my unconscious cognitive web created throughout the years as a result of studies and experience.
In essence my definition went back to the ancient Greece, and to on of its philosopher, Socrates. Although Socrates is credited as one of the founders of Western philosophy, he wrote nothing because he felt that knowledge was a living, interactive thing. Whatever we know about him is through the accounts of later classical writers, especially the writings of his students Plato and Xenophon, and the plays of his contemporary Aristophanes.
It has been said that Socrates was not a “philosopher,” nor yet a “teacher,” but rather an “educator.” His method of educating called for “not only for the highest degree of mental alertness of which anyone is capable” but also for “moral qualities of a high order such as sincerity, humility, courage.” Also such qualities “protect against the possibility of wild conclusions with irresponsible premises.” The Socratic method of teaching is based on Socrates’ theory that it is more important to enable students to think for themselves than to merely fill their heads with “right” answers. Therefore, he regularly engaged his pupils in dialogues by responding to their questions with questions, instead of answers. This process encourages divergent thinking rather than convergent.
What happens in verbal psyco-therapy? A client comes full of confusion and misunderstandings. The therapist using open-ended questions allows him/her to think critically, to analyze multiple meanings of the situation, guide the client to express his/her ideas with clarity and confidence, and more important, take ownership of his/her life. Both, client and therapist knows they have reach the end of the dialogue when the client is able to feel and verbally state a certain degree of emotional safety. As a by-product the client learn to dialogue with himself.