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Some depressed patients want defintive answers from their therapists, but a new study indicates that the key to change lies - not in the answers - but in the therapist's questions.

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This is what writes, and they refer to a study published in Behavior Research and Therapy. 


Socratic questions had the best effect on depression

The study was a treatment study that wanted to investigate what it is about cognitive behavioral therapy that can to the greatest extent explain improvement in patients with depression. It is the first study to document that patients show a significant improvement from depressive symptoms by receiving treatment based on Socratic questions.

In the new study, the researchers demonstrated that the extent to which the therapist asked Socratic questions was what to the greatest extent predicted a positive outcome of the therapy for the depressed patients.

It was demonstrated that therapy classes, which were often characterized by Socratic questions, were closely related to subsequent symptom improvement from depression.

Asking Socratic questions was more important in bringing about positive change than, among other things, the relationship between patient and therapist, even though the therapy relationship has traditionally been thought to have a lot to say about the outcome of a therapy.


Learning to question one's own negative thoughts

Socratic questions involve getting a series of questions where the therapist challenges the basis of the patient's thoughts, and where new perspectives are made possible by the patient himself having to justify the validity (or lack of validity) of the negative thought patterns.

Examples might be: Are all people going through a divorce a failure? Can you think of a case where this seems to be correct? In what way does being divorced mean to be a failed human being, as you see it? In what ways is there evidence that you have succeeded in something in life and thus can not be totally unsuccessful? 

The goal of the therapist asking Socratic questions of this type is for the patient to ask themselves the same types of questions.


Effect even after the therapy is stopped

Professor of psychology Daniel Strunk says:

We believe that one of the reasons why cognitive behavioral therapy has a lasting positive effect is that patients learn to question their own negative thoughts, and that they continue to do so even after the therapy is over.

Read a summary of the study here.



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