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For example, Socratic questioning is a skills that is commonly used in therapy. However, if I use it to my friends, does that mean I'm therapize/counsel them? The answer is conflict to me:

  • On one hand in a therapeutic relationship the therapist has power (which can be used to exploit the client if they want). And I fail to see how using Socratic questioning can do that. Plus that this technique is probably the most basic and ancient form of conversation (from Socrates' time!)
  • On the other hand it is also probably the most basic form of therapy. Beck's cognitive therapy is essentially this

So at the end of the day is Socratic questioning a form of therapy or not? And in general what is the line between daily conversation and therapy? If a non-therapist use therapeutic techniques, would there be any problem? (Assuming they don't need to worry about burn out, and will not exploit anyone)

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For the answer to this question, you need to look at the definition of the word therapy in the context of psychology.

Therapy is a treatment for psychological problems in which therapists and clients work together to understand problems and come up with plans for fixing them, generally by changing ineffective thoughts, emotions or behaviors (APA, n.d. [in the website meta description not in the web content]).

The borders between therapy and general socratic questioning between friends/work colleagues is very thin (if at all existent). It can be very therapeutic to feel you can talk to a very good friend or colleague about a problem, but sometimes the situation can be misjudged. With all the best will in the world, sometimes people find it difficult to be non-judgemental of a friend who has confided in them.

Trained therapists, who are registered and licenced, are vetted by their managing bodies to provide a safe therapeutic environment to their clients, free of judgement and respectful of client autonomy (Fundamental principles of all codes of ethics — e.g. National Counselling Society (updated June 2020)).

Therapy provides a supportive, non-judgemental environment where you might feel more able to talk openly about your experiences.

Your therapist and you will work together to make changes that you want to achieve to feel a greater sense of happiness, empowerment, or perhaps to feel less affected by particular experiences (Devon Partnership NHS Trust, n.d.).

You said that

in a therapeutic relationship the therapist has power (which can be used to exploit the client if they want)

Remember that although therapists are in a position of power, if true autonomy is provided, the client has all the power to control the therapeutic relationship.

Among other big differences including closed vs open questioning, one big difference between friends/colleagues and a therapist who works within the ethical framework is that a friend/colleague may tell you what they would do or suggest what you should do to deal with a situation.

Respecting client autonomy, a therapist can not and must not do that. An ethical therapist will work with the client to work out what options the client has and possible pros and cons associated with those options in order for the client to choose their own course of action.

Psychotherapy is a collaborative treatment based on the relationship between an individual and a psychologist. A psychologist provides a supportive environment that allows you to talk openly with someone who is objective, neutral and nonjudgmental (APA, n.d.).

References

APA. (n.d.) Therapy. American Psychological Association. https://www.apa.org/topics/therapy

Devon Partnership NHS Trust. (n.d.) What are psychological therapies? https://www.dpt.nhs.uk/our-services/psychology-and-psychological-therapies/what-are-psychological-therapies

National Counselling Society (2020). Code of Ethical Practice https://nationalcounsellingsociety.org/about-us/code-of-ethics

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  • $\begingroup$ Thanks for the answer. So to sum up, I get that the difference is that in therapy, (1) the therapist and the client work together to understand problems and come up with plans for fixing them, (2) the therapist provides a supportive, non-judgemental environment where the client might feel more able to talk openly about their experiences, and (3) the therapist can not and must not tell the client what they would do or suggest what the client should do to deal with a situation. Am I correct? If a non-therapist does all these 3 aspects to their friends, would that be a therapy as well? $\endgroup$
    – Ooker
    Nov 7 '20 at 15:56
  • $\begingroup$ @Ooker not quite. There are many other aspects that determine whether the conversation is therapy or not, hence the sentence that started "Among other big differences including closed vs open questioning..." $\endgroup$ Nov 8 '20 at 8:37
  • $\begingroup$ Is there a comprehensive list of such differences? And still, is asking Socrates questions a kind of therapy or not? I take it as a yes? If I apply it to daily conversation, do I therapize my friends? $\endgroup$
    – Ooker
    Nov 8 '20 at 15:45
  • $\begingroup$ @Ooker if you read my answer fully (with the citations), it shows that giving therapy is not just about socratic questioning. It is about many different things which a therapist is trained, registered and licenced to provide. To provide a comprehensive list of these differences would involve writing volumes of books on the subject. This is a reason why it takes years to become fully trained as a therapist. $\endgroup$ Nov 8 '20 at 15:55
  • $\begingroup$ "giving therapy is not just about socratic questioning" - yes, I need this confirmation. Because I feel that this technique satisfies all the three aspects I summed up above (assuming that they are key aspects of therapy). I'm sorry to appear as not reading carefully your answer. I did even read the sources, but didn't see anything much newer than your answer. $\endgroup$
    – Ooker
    Nov 8 '20 at 16:36

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