Monday, 23 June 2008

An article from 2003, by Jim Byrne

A search for "Socrates" and "questioning competence"

Jim Byrne (2003)

This is part one of a series of articles on the role of questioning in REBT. Individuals who want to learn how to practice as an REBT therapist are encouraged to adopt the three-part questioning style which is attributed to Dr Albert Ellis. However, in my view, this is just the tip of a very complex iceberg. What lies "beneath the water" gets largely ignored in the advice on how to be an REBT therapist. This "submerged quotient" allows Dr Ellis to ask challenging questions without (too frequently) precipitating a rebellious or resistant reaction from his clients. It also renders his questioning style assertive/supportive and never aggressive/antagonizing. Because individuals try to "ape" Dr Ellis without too much understanding of this "submerged quotient", they frequently elicit rebellious, resistant, reactive responses from clients. This often has the effect of frightening the would-be therapist away from pursuing disputing questions, or reducing the intensity of such questions. This series of articles will delve into the subject of questioning, with a view to providing would-be REBT therapists with a significant exposure to a substantial amount of critical thinking on the subject of what questioning is, what it can and cannot do, and how to better do it.


A search for "Socrates" and "questioning competence"

by Jim Byrne

This is part one of a multi-part article, which might take several months to conclude. The many purposes of this series of articles include the following:

(a) To allow me to think on paper about the role of questioning
in REBT;

(b) To share that journey with fellow REBT practitioners;

(c) To begin a debate on the subject of how to manage questions and questioning in REBT practice; and, ultimately:

(d) To develop my own competence as a questioner.

Several months ago, I got the fairly difficult news from my supervisor (hereafter disguised as Mr X) that, although I had improved my use of questioning with my client(s), (as demonstrated on a recent audio tape featuring me running an REBT session with one of my clients), he still wanted to hear me using "...a more Socratic approach". "Teaching remains fine", he reassured me, "but more questions would be helpful for your clients". I, not very surprisingly, concluded that he meant more questions of the type advocated in Ellis and Dryden (1999), (pages 47 to 62), and Dryden (1999). These questions tend to be classified mainly as 'theory driven', and concern pragmatic, logical and empirical disputations of musturbation, awfulizing, LFT, condemning/damning, and so on. In addition, Mr X specified the need to pay more attention to the use of questions to check client understanding.

I was perfectly open to this feedback, but had a significant problem with this question: How can I do that? If I have read the bulk of the literature on how to do REBT with individual clients; noted the advice and guidance about questioning; committed myself to follow those guidelines; and still fail to achieve the desired frequency or type of question; then what else can I do? In some bemusement then, in response to Mr X's feedback, and my questions about it, I opened a file, and began collecting a database of published sources for a study of questions, questioning, Socrates, and the role of questions/questioning in Rational Emotive Behaviour Therapy.

Around about the same time, rather belatedly, I finally got down to reading the then current issue of The Rational Emotive Behaviour Therapist. In that volume, there appears an article by Michael Neenan - (see Neenan 2000) - which is about the Elegant/Inelegant Split and Socratic Questioning in REBT. In this piece, Neenan distinguishes between "Socratic questions" and "rhetorical questions". He goes on, in his conclusion to say: "...if REBTers believe they know the cognitive destination of their explorations with clients then Socratic questioning will hardly be a source of surprise or discovery for them. Maybe it is better to admit this and instead concentrate on therapist didacticism, i.e. tell clients what causes their emotional problems and what needs to be done to tackle them. However, for me, this would be a dreadful (sic) prospect as collaboration is replaced by compliance. To avoid this, cognitive exploration should (sic!) be open ended and not a foregone conclusion". pp7/8. Emphasis added, JB.

I have several observations to make about this statement by Neenan, under the following five headings:

(1) "Surprise and Discovery": Why "must" REBT practitioners open themselves to surprise and discovery? Is there any scientific research on the subject of "surprise and discovery"? Has "Surprise and discovery" been found, in empirical studies, to "be" a predictor of practitioner effectiveness? Where is the evidence that "surprise and discovery" are "good things"? Is the idea that "surprise and discovery" are important variables in therapeutic practice even testable? And if so, how?

(2) "Didacticism": Maybe there remains a lot to be said for therapist didacticism? Maybe questioning would best be used to support "teaching", rather than to supplant it!?

(3) Awfulizing: Does Michael Neenan's reference to the "dreadful" prospect of "compliance" seem to anybody to be a form of "awfulizing"? I hear a little alarm bell going off in my (increasingly) well trained ear!

(4) Forms of Collaboration: Does it not seem possible that a therapist and a client could collaborate on a project, the purpose of which remains for the client to learn the philosophy that the therapist uses to keep herself sane? In that scenario, the therapist would not be asking the client to engage in "compliance". The therapist would be asking the client: "Would you be willing to try (for example) giving up all shoulds for six months, as a scientific enquiry, to see what difference that would make to your life, and particularly to your problem of... (anger/anxiety/depression, or whatever)?". If that could be possible, (and I know it can, because I have used this approach with great therapeutic effectiveness), even if only in some situations, then there seems to be a flaw in Mr Neenan's logic.

(5) Neenan's False Should: It was not an "absolute should" when Neenan said that cognitive exploration should be open-ended. It seems in "fact" a conditional should, and as such, according to one view of how to manage shoulds, is valid. (I, for example, accept that there are valid conditional shoulds, but I use other labels for them, so that I can outlaw the word "should" per se, because it seems to me notoriously difficult to change your linguistic behaviour if you do not have a clear template for your new linguistic actions). But this particular conditional should "is" false, in my opinion, because I have already shown that it seems not essential to engage in "open ended" cognitive exploration in order to avoid substituting compliance for collaboration!)

The overall effect of Neenan's comments on questioning sounds to me like a rejection of "REBT-theory-driven-questions" and its replacement by an "unspecified-open-ended-theory-driven" approach to questioning, inspired by the CT/CBT paradigm, which emphasizes the upsetting effect of the client's inferences, conclusions, etc., (Beck (1989)), rather than their irrational beliefs. (See Dryden 1999 - pp60, 67 and 83 - for whom "Socratic questioning" remains a teaching aid).

For me, the combination of my supervisor's feedback and Michael Neenan's article throws up a range of questions:

* What does Mr X mean by "being more Socratic"? (I have read the summations in the works of Albert Ellis and Windy Dryden et al. I have listened to Dr Ellis on audio tape and watched him on video tape demonstrating his techniques. Does it therefore follow that I "should", or would, or "could be expected" to know how to "be" more "Socratic"? I don't think so. I think a much more extensive self-education will be the only realistic way forward for me in facing up to this challenge. I think the depth and breadth of a person's education - (meaning active exposure to new knowledge, skills and attitudes, and the reworking of those new experiences in novel ways) - remain important factors in determining the degree of efficiency and effectiveness of their "mental engagement skills". Superficial summations, applied "mechanically", may provide some degree of technician-type skill, but for effective therapeutic performance, I consider a deeper study, and ongoing reflexive practice, to be important. (Another way of saying this could be this: I do not think that "aping" Dr Ellis's approach to questioning will make me more than an "ape". [And this would apply equally to "aping" Aaron Tim Beck (e.g. Beck 1989)!] Or, to use the formula of Professor Reg Revans, the late founder of 'Action Learning': Learning (L) equals "programmed input" (P) plus questioning insight (Q): [or L = P+Q]. So I'd better work at developing some questioning insight about Socrates and his relationship to the process of questioning for educative purposes). (See McGill and Beatty 1992).

* Does Michael Neenan's emphasis on "surprise and discovery" in REBT therapy, arising out of "open ended" exploration with clients, seem like part of the roadmap for me? I think it probably will not prove very significant - though I am constantly surprised by many aspects of my clients lives, beliefs, behaviours, reactions in therapy, and so on. The biggest surprise of my life has been just how predictably the vast majority of my clients seem to me to remain able to eliminate their overly-upset emotions by eliminating musturbation, awfulizing and so on; and developing unconditional self acceptance, (which Neenan 1997 rejects as "unnatural"!)

And, since Neenan (2000) is offering "open ended" exploration as an alternative to the approach pioneered by Dr Ellis, I am not likely to be even remotely attracted to this "innovation". My interpretation of the greatness of Albert Ellis's contribution could be rendered like this: He solved the "language problem" identified by Zen Buddhism (though he remains clearly an atheist, and probably did not set out to perform this role). (Not that religion is particularly relevant here, since Zen is not actually a form of religion, in the western sense. It is more a "way of liberation" from mental suffering induced by "linguistic confusion" in which the individual ties themselves up in knots by confusing "linguistic signs" for "concrete reality". In this sense, Zen has much in common with western cognitive/linguistic theapies). It seems to me that Ellis tackled - (probably unintentionally, and combined with many other philosophies) - the scientific/linguistic insights that originated in Zen Buddhism, some elements of which were probably known to the ancient Greek Sophists, though they applied them differently; and some small elements of which turn up in Epictetus. In the later history of European philosophy, you can see traces of this problem of how to get language/thought to line up with "external reality in the writings of Decart, Locke, Berkeley, Hume and Kant. Later, in western Europe, some more explicit attempts to tackle the "language problem" were struggled with by Wittgenstein - [in his Tractatus, and later: {see Heaton and Groves 1994, and Popkin and Stroll 1996, pp351-356}], - plus Korzybski (1933) and others in the US). It seems to me that Ellis de facto - (regardless of what his intentions might have been) - cut through the great difficulty of how to avoid tying ourselves up in cognitive and emotional knots with our language and language-ing about our view of apparently "external" events, by simply "outlawing" four categories of thought: awfulizing; musturbation; denial of our great ability to tolerate frustration; and condemning and damning of ourselves/ others/and the world. I feel truly staggered by the elegance of this solution. (For a user-friendly overview of Wittgenstein's thoughts on language, see Popkin and Stroll (1996), Heaton and Groves (1994), and Encyclopaedia Britannica (1984)).

The early Wittgenstein had turned the problem of philosophy into the question of how to invent a perfect language, which search totally defeated him. (He also saw what could be said in language to be co-terminus with the discoveries of the natural sciences; and everything else he saw as unutterable, or insignificant). The later Wittgenstein finally settled for seeing language as "a game", and himself (Wittgenstein) as "a therapist", in a world in which "philosophy may in no way interfere with the actual use of language" (Popkin and Stroll 1996). Bertrand Russell and Alfred Korzybski got hoist on the same petard, by trying to use mathematics as the basis of a precise language: (see Korzybski 1933). But Ellis avoided all of those traps, and simply settled for cutting away the most destructive elements of our language, thus demonstrating for (the now dead) Wittgenstein that philosophy can in fact interfere in the actual use of language. In essence (and de facto!) Ellis seems to me to have been saying: If you will just eliminate these four categories of linguistic nonsense, you can hang on to all your other linguistic/philosophic bullshit and none of it will seriously harm you. By giving up these four categories of languaging, you will effectively liberate yourself from virtually all forms of known human mental suffering.

Trusted (1997) has this to say about Wittgenstein:
"Wittgenstein argued that philosophical problems arise through misuse of language because this misuse produces pseudo-concepts and pseudo-problems (sic). Wittgenstein thought that:

'...people made difficulties for themselves by failing to understand how their language worked. This led them to raise problems to which they could see no issue (or solution, JB), to construct dilemmas which they could not resolve. In their efforts to escape from these they relapsed into talking nonsense. The remedy was to trace the muddle to its source by exposing the linguistic misconceptions from which it arose...' (Emphasis added, JB).

Whereas Wittgenstein saw philosophy as "...a battle against the bewitchment of our intelligence by means of language", - (Encyclopaedia Britannica, 1984 and Popkin and Stroll 1996, p356) - Ellis (1962) (and earlier), showed us which bits of language to focus upon and eliminate.

(Anyone who does not know what I mean by the "language problem" would be well advised to read the history of the philosophy of science from Aristotle to Einstein; plus the history of philosophy from the Sophists/Cynics, through Hume, to the Post-modernists to grasp the "slippery", "recalcitrant", "conventional" nature of language through the ages).

(Referring back to my comment about the scientific/linguistic insights of Zen Buddhism: For those who may be sceptical about this concept, please see Eliade (1967): Especially Chapter VI - Speculations on Man and God; sub-section C: Buddha Explains the Middle Path; sub-sub-section 282: The Parable of the Arrow: Gotama Buddha Refuses to Discuss Metaphysical Problems; page 570. (See also Watts (1978), pp23-35; 167, 190-191, 194, 216, 218, 220; and 169-170) Socrates, on the other hand, had no reservations about discussing metaphysics. See for example Eliade (1967): Especially Chapter IV - Death, Afterlife, Eschatology; sub-section F: Greek and Roman Conceptions of Death and Immortality; sub-sub-section 183: Plato on the Immortality of the Soul (Meno 81 b); page 377; In particular: Socrates says: "...the soul, since it is immortal and has been born many times, and has seen all things both here and in the other world, has learned everything that is". This view of Socrates' metaphysics is confirmed by Trusted (1997), who says: "It was Socrates who expounded this view of the soul and Plato developed his ideas". p34.)

(Am I claiming that REBT is "like" Zen? No! In fact, I see REBT as a most elegant middle way between the "quietist" egoless detachment from all wants, which is the Buddhist ideal, and the most extreme egotistical materialism involved in total indulgence of the senses. Where Zen says "He who wants nothing has everything", REBT says "She who sticks to wants and does not demand gratification of those wants will probably be able to enjoy goal-directed activities, not all of which will result in success". And while Zen seeks to avoid all forms of emotional disturbance, REBT seeks only to avoid overly-upsetting disturbances. Humans can handle feeling sad, irritated or concerned when their goals are frustrated. [And Zen monks were, and undoubtedly still are, certainly capable of substantial anger and rage when they were outdone by their "competitors" in the race for leadership roles, despite their best efforts to achieve "detachment"! So I see REBT as a more effective "technology" than that developed by the Zenists]).

Now, about the very essence of Ellis's insights and hypotheses, my experience, and reasoning from that experience, leads me to hypothesise that there probably remains little to discover/construct2000, - though REBT will almost certainly continue to evolve over the decades ahead - and I would be surprised if I ever met a severely disturbed neurotic client who had upset themselves using some category of linguistic/philosophic nonsense unrelated to those identified by Ellis. Of course the details of each case will vary, but hardly the essence. (I can think of one potential innovation: I happen to think there probably "could be" a fifth element of emotionally disturbing linguistic nonsense - which I call the "emotionally orienting final decision box" - but more on this at a much, much later date!)

(I was surprised by my "discovery/construction" of the possibility of a fifth category of linguistic/emotional nonsense - or a fourth derivative of the "must", but I did not "discover/construct" it through "open ended" explorations with clients. I arrived at it through the hard work of "thinking on paper", on my own. [However, the genesis of this idea can be found in Ellis (1978)] And I also believe that it probably will be through the hard work of thinking on paper, in the form of a series of articles, and then applying my results in sessions with clients, that I will discover the answers to my growing list of questions about Socrates, questioning skills and client cognitions).

* Does Socrates remain the best role model for REBT therapists? What was so effective about his questioning strategies? (In the small amount of work that I have done so far in compiling a reading list for myself on this subject, I think I have detected a problem. There seem to "be" at least two "Socrates" characters in mainstream academic thinking about the works of Plato; plus at least one other "Socrates", in the writings of Dr Edward De Bono, who does not sound at all like either of the other two. And the "Socrates" described in the REBT literature may "be" a "fourth Socrates".

Furthermore, Socrates (as written up by Plato) seems to have been a moralistic counter-reaction against the "absolute-relativism" [or the "morality-is-conventional" perspective] of the Sophists - [Protagoras; but more especially Gorgias] - but this would make it difficult to understand why he was sentenced to death by the Athenian "democracy", except for his political naïveté in allying himself with the anti-democratic forces during the period of persecution and execution of the democrats. And if he was an anti-Sophist, then his philosophy would be of questionable value, from my point of view. More on this later in this article.) (See De Bono 1995).

* Could we possibly develop a more effective questioning role model for REBT therapists? What would s/he look (and sound) like? (One of the ideas I am looking at here could get stated like this: Since there appear to remain many different paradigms of analysis and interpretation in every field of scientific endeavour, does it not seem most likely that there will prove to "be" different paradigms in the realm of thinking about questioning? And might it not seem good practice to try to balance at least a few of the relevant paradigms in any area of work, if only to avoid the pitfall of convincing ourselves that we "are" dealing with "absolute truth"? That might point to the possibility of creating a composite thinking skills role model to replace Socrates).

* How can we as a fraternity of "helpers" make sure that we continue to operate from a more empowered "culture" than the culture from which we try to rescue "philosophic casualties"? (Or, to remain more explicit: I believe we do most of our work from unconscious, or preconscious sources, and normally only use our conscious minds when: we feel uncertain of our territory; we try learning something new; or we take time out for such activities as thinking on paper [or reflecting in other ways]. Therefore, when we have worked out the most effective questioning strategies, how can we make reasonably sure that we will actually use them in the heat and pressure of the client encounter?)

Those remain some of the questions I wish to enquire into. And other questions will probably arise as I begin to review the books on my reading list.

I began this work by setting up a file, into which I put the beginnings of a reading list. Initially there were only four titles on the list. Over time this has grown to 51 references. And the process of literature searching goes on, in a modest sort of way.

I began with the view that, since I was trying to broaden and deepen my education in the field of "Socratic questioning", I would not immediately turn to the REBT literature again, as I had previously done, but try some other likely sources of new ideas first. My plan was to return to the REBT literature at intervals, as cross links with the non-REBT literature sparked off new ideas to explore. (My aim was cross-fertilization and creative idea generation).

As each new book title was added to the list, I numbered it in sequence, and I also noted a few page references based on my preliminary survey of the book. Therefore, I have in my file a kind of skeletal "auditing trail" of the work I have done so far. This I will use in reconstructing the "story" of my enquiry. As such, my "story" will remain an imperfect recollection of the links in my thoughts, with later embellishments. And a more detailed analysis of the relevant sections of each book will only get added as I write each instalment of this work.

As I recall, my first idea was this: Might it not remain the case that questioning performs a key function as a component part of the skill we call thinking? Can we usefully consider thinking as essentially a process of asking and answering questions? If this proves to remain so, then questions and questioning will feature strongly in the works of the "theorists of thinking". Where had I better look for some ideas on how questioning gets viewed by the "theorists of thinking"? On my bookshelves I have several volumes of the works of Dr Edward De Bono, which I have consulted in a number of connections over a period of five or six years, and I thought one of his most recent titles might serve as a good starting point:

1. De Bono, Edward (1995) Teach Yourself to Think, London, Viking.
# Questions as attention directors, pp115-119
# Socrates, p9-10
# Patterns of thought, p8
# The limitations of logic, p7
# Design and construction, p11-12

I thought those five sections of De Bono (1995) might serve as a good place to start searching. So I looked at questions as attention directors, with this result: "Questions have always been the classic way of obtaining information from other people. We can also use questions to obtain information from ourselves or to direct our search for information. This is the basis of so-called Socratic questions, although Socrates mainly asked his listener to agree with what had been said. A question is a device for directing attention, as I indicated earlier: 'Direct your attention to this matter and tell me what you find'." p115.

(As far as a can recall, off the top of my head, at least one of the "Socrates" characters, in Plato, had the strategy of getting the respondent to agree to two contradictory statements, so that he could prove to him - (women were not, generally, free citizens!) - that he did not know what he was talking about. [This is certainly the case in the extract from Plato's Euthyphro, presented in Trusted (1997). See page 21 in particular]. This could have been predicated upon the philosophical propositions of [one of the] "Socrates", rendered as "Wisdom is knowing that you don't know", by Dawkins (2000), page 21. So at least one version of Socrates is that he tried to make people wise by proving to them that they don't know what they are talking about. If any element of that gets retained in "modern" usage, then I would never use "Socratic questioning" in my REBT work, for reasons that may be clear - but which I will be elaborating as I go along. [In brief, I have no desire to "prove" to my clients that they do not know what they are talking about - essentially because this seems to me to be quite unskilful and likely to produce negative results. So this approach I will call "Socratic/Destructive"]).

Therefore, at this point, I cannot meet Mr X halfway on his request to be "more Socratic" because we would not be able to agree what that means. Also, at this point, I do not think the questions Michael Neenan presents, in the paragraph before the conclusion, on page 7 of Neenan (2000), are "Socratic", in any sense that I am clear about at this point in time. They may, of course, be Beckian-CBT-ish? Or they may be Neenan-innovations? This does not come out of an attempt to classify Mr Neenan here, but rather to classify some of his declared strategies. (Having looked back at those three questions again, I think the first two are asking the client what inferences underpin their irrational beliefs. [Now that does not tell me very much, as most REBT therapists these days probably deal with both inferences and irrational beliefs. I suppose I now have a question: Is Michael Neenan suggesting that we should work backwards from the iB, when we have found it, to the inferences that triggered it? And if so, why?] And, if we asked our clients question 3, - "Does believing that you have to be happy actually make you happy?" - I don't think we'd get many surprises!).

So questions can get used to request information and to direct attention. Thus, for examples, an REBT therapist could ask a client for information about how they applied their understanding of the ABC model to a conflict they had with their spouse; and then ask a question to direct the client's attention to the fact that they gave their spouse a global rating. This, in my view, would remain neither "Socratic/Constructive", "Socratic/Destructive" nor "rhetorical". Strictly speaking, in the present context, "rhetorical" means: "putting words in the client's mouth". On the other hand, drawing the client's attention to the possibility that he gave his spouse a global negative rating is, strictly speaking, an "attention director". But more on this in a much later instalment of this series of articles.

De Bono (1995) goes on to describe open and closed questions which he labels with the metaphors "fishing questions" (open) and "shooting questions" (closed). When you go fishing you never quite know what you may catch, since unexpected fish may happen along. (But we normally - despite Michael Neenan's inference to the contrary - know what we are fishing for!) When you go shooting, on the other hand, you usually aim at a specific (armed or unarmed) target. In this sense an REBT therapist might ask fishing questions to find out what is going on in a broad area of the client's "stream of consciousness"; but use a shooting question to collect information of a confirming/disconfirming (yes/no?), or quantity/quality/clarification (when, where, how many?) type. According to De Bono (1995), "Skilful questioning involves a combination of both fishing questions and shooting questions". (pp115-116).

I do not see this exactly as a highly technical analysis, but I find it quite helpful, if a little underdeveloped. It does have the virtue of getting away from Michael Neenan's dichotomy between "Socratic questioning" (which he sees as an implicit source of surprise and discovery) and "rhetorical questioning" (which simply asks the client to provide the "correct" answer). Instead, through De Bono, I draw our attention to the possibility of an REBT therapist asking a skilful combination of fishing and shooting questions, directed at searching for information and focusing the attention of the client on a specific event/object/target.

In my view, based on my understanding of cognitive psychology, that questioning work by an REBT therapist would inevitably get driven by a set of schemas in long term memory, whether those schemas were largely adapted from Albert Ellis's work, or Aaron Tim Beck's work, or a combination of the two, or many different influences. (In other words they will remain "theory driven" - or driven by stored schemas, based on past experience - whether we get driven by a theory of beliefs, a theory of behaviours, a theory of "clinical techniques", etc.; and whether we get
driven by a theory of emotions as a product of rational and irrational beliefs (REBT), or a theory of emotions as a product of inferences/conclusions/rules (CT/CBT)). (Of course, the more serious problem seems to remain that the schemas which drive my questioning strategies come from many periods of my development, and many role models, including: highly directive parents, childhood "lunacies", authoritarian schooling, religious training, military service, youthful adaptations aimed at "social survival", exposure to and acceptance of political dogma, and so on. [And what seems true of me, of course, probably remains largely true of others as well]. Some elements of my older schemas may have accommodated themselves to more recent learning, [thus becoming updated], whereas some other less than helpful questioning schemas may have assimilated [or subverted] more recent learning to their own archaic, undeveloped and unhelpful ends!)

Referring back to the concept of 'schemas': most psychological textbooks agree that Frederick Bartlett, in 1932, was probably one of the first theorists to talk about how humans store information in long term memory in the form of schemas. (See, for example, Cohen 1994). In Bartlett's view, a schema was a kind of "packet" of information representing our general knowledge about objects, situations, events or actions. Or we could say a schema functions as a sort of generalized model of an event (such as a picnic) or object (such as the letter E) which allows us to identify (perceive) any picnic-like event, or any derivative of the standard letter E, as examples of something we have met before, and know what to do with or about it. Another way of saying schema might be "semantic network", which could be pictured as being like an encyclopaedia, in long-term memory, which links all related concepts and their meanings, derived from our experience, including our educational and other social experiences. (See Davenport (1992)). As such, we do not see what "is" in front of us. We see what our memory's schemas suggest "is" in front of us!

And referring back to Cognitive Therapy, Beck 1989 does not reject the ABC model per se, though he relegates it to the status of a mere "technique" in a supplementary afterthought. He does, however, reject the concept of "irrational beliefs". In his view, distorted inferences, premisses (rules) and conclusions are sufficient to cause serious emotional upsets. This runs directly counter to REBT theory, as I understand it. I do not believe that the CT theory could be sustained scientifically if the studies are conducted in such a way as to eliminate the possibility that the client recovers from their emotional over-upset because, when the inference/rule gets changed, it can no longer trigger the still retained Irrational Belief. (I suppose it is theoretically possible, but much less likely, that the irrational belief gets challenged, but under the label of an "overgeneralized", "black and white", "exaggerated", "rule"]. Do we really want to dump our ABC model and the concept of Irrational Beliefs, as Neenan (2000) suggests, for "open ended" enquiry about surprising inferences, idiosyncratic rules and syllogistically derived conclusions? I suggest that would be an unproductive trade off.
To sharpen this point a little further, I maintain that the questioning strategies of all humans, not just REBT practitioners, come mainly from the past, via the schemas stored in long term memory; and not from the decisions we made over breakfast today, to be more "Socratic", "involving", "Columbo-like" or whatever. In other words, it isn't easy to change your schemas. Indeed it is very difficult, and unless we persist with the effort required to learn new questioning skills, we will most likely end up using archaic strategies which come from unhelpful experiences in an unconscious past.

An additional refinement, mentioned by De Bono (1995), has to do with the quality of information: "Sometimes you may need to ask questions in order to determine the quality of the information: (For example): 'Why do you say that?' It is not a matter of disagreeing and arguing that something is wrong but a matter of exploring the basis for the information that is offered". Again, this does not appear to be a sophisticated analysis, but perhaps a small piece of a much larger jigsaw puzzle that I will assemble over the weeks or months ahead. One derivative of this statement is the implicit concept of "probing questions"; which we can now add to fishing and shooting questions.

De Bono's take on Socrates seems to remain that he was a "rubbisher" of others: "Socrates never set out to be a constructive thinker. His purpose was to attack and to remove 'rubbish'. Most of the arguments in which he was involved (as written up by Plato) ended with no positive outcome at all. Socrates would show that all suggestions offered were false but would not then offer a better idea". (This is confirmed by Ricken 1991, page 62).
In this sense he was very different from Albert Ellis, (and, hopefully, the "average" REBT therapist), who challenges one set of self-sabotaging, musturbatory/awfulizing beliefs, and offers an alternative, more self-helping set of preferential, non-awfulizing beliefs in their stead.

De Bono continues: "Essentially (Socrates) believed in argument (or dialectic). He seemed to believe that if you attacked what is wrong, then eventually you would be left with the truth. This has left us with our obsession with criticism. We believe that it is much more important to point out what is wrong than to construct what is useful". pp9-10. Emphasis added,, JB. (How can I apply this idea to Mr X and Michael Neenan?)

If De Bono remains correct in claiming that Socratic dialogues ended with no positive outcome at all; and that Socrates believed in argument and was obsessed with criticism; then I will have no use for "Socratic questioning" in my work as an REBT therapist. I may use questions to collect information (about the A, the B and the C of the REBT model); to focus clients' attention (for example, on what they are telling themselves about the A); to clarify perceptions; and much more besides; but I will not use questions to demonstrate that my clients are "wrong". Nobody is "wrong"! Some ideas, perceptions, beliefs and so on "are" "better" than others, because there seem to "be" good reasons to support them.(Chaffee, 1998). And besides, arguing with people, in the "Socratic/Destructive" sense, seems to me unlikely to prove a good way to get them to think, in my (MA-in-Education-based) opinion.

(When I say some ideas "are better", this is what I mean: "Some ideas seem better to [a named individual] because [of this piece of evidence; that experience; this data; this goal or objective], BUT this cannot be demonstrated to be an absolute truth, or even an opinion fixed for all time!) See Chaffee (1998).

Furthermore, Socrates (as described by Plato [in Ricken 1991 and Popkin and Stroll 1996]) believed that we cannot acquire knowledge through learning. His process of questioning (called rhetoric) he saw as a process of midwifery (according to Ricken, 1991). The meaning here suggests this: By questioning a respondent, Socrates merely helped them to recall what they already knew. In other words, all knowledge "is" innate! For example, in the Meno, Plato describes Socrates questioning an uneducated slave boy, and "drawing out of him" mathematical principles which the boy had not been taught! This proved, according to Plato, that all knowledge "is" innate! If we were ever to apply such unscientific thinking in REBT, then we would "be" sunk. We cannot draw out of a mind what has not previously been "placed" there (in the sense of memory storage), or created there, by some kind of learning experience, including internal reflection on internal dialogue. Therefore, I think it follows that it seems best to see the role of questioning in REBT as being secondary, and subordinate to "teaching", where "teaching" gets defined as helping the client to learn a new, more empowering philosophy. Any system of "open ended" questioning that does not fit this model seems to me unlikely to prove particularly helpful, because I am primarily concerned with my clients' learning, not with how many "surprises" I get during my work.

(That Plato/Socrates held firmly to the view that all knowledge is innate - or deduced by internal reasoning processes acting independently of sense data - seems evident in the strength of Aristotle's repudiation of this view. It can also be inferred from the extract from the Euthyphro - which is one of the Socratic dialogues written up by Plato - quoted in Trusted (1997) - in which Socrates is talking to Euthyphro about whether "the holy" is loved by "God" because it is "holy", or is it "holy" because it is loved by "God". (See pages 19-21). See in particular the final statement by Socrates which contains the statement (after he has led Euthyphro into obvious self-contradiction, by use of false analogies): "And it looks as if you, Euthyphro, when you were asked what the holy is, were unwilling to reveal its essence to me..." (Emphasis added, JB). Here Socrates seems to be implying that Euthyphro knows that of which he patently fails to demonstrate knowledge. (And indeed, in modern Europe, most rational secularists, and many rational Christians, would deny that anybody could have "knowledge" of "God"; and "the holy" has ceased to have any social meaning beyond the most esoteric religious sub-grouplets.)

One practical application of the "non-innate" nature of human knowledge that I apply in my practice is this: I never ask a client "Where is the evidence that you must (achieve 'x')?" until after I have "taught" them that there is no evidence that anybody absolutely must achieve anything! ("Taught" here means: "I have done my best to help them to learn ...[something]...")

I never ask a client "How does it follow logically from your preference (that you really want to get 'y') that therefore you must (get 'y')?" until after I have told them: "I'd love to look like Michael Douglas rather than this (pointing to my non-photogenic face). If I strongly, strongly, strongly prefer that outcome, does it then follow that I MUST look like Michael Douglas?" Of course, with the benefit of this illustration of "the meaning of the question", I provide them with a schema which they can then use to answer the more therapeutically relevant question: "So why do you believe that just because you strongly desire something that THEREFORE you MUST get it?" None of my clients has failed to learn the lesson intended here, since I have given them an "advance organizer" in the form of a powerful illustration. (The concept of the "advance organizer" comes from David Ausubel, a US educational psychologist. [Ausubel (1968)]. More on this in Part Two of this article).

De Bono goes on to talk about perception: "We now believe that perception occurs in a self-organizing information system operated by the nerve networks in the brain. This means that the information and the surface have their own activity and the information arranges itself as groups, sequences and patterns. The process is similar to rain falling on a landscape and organizing itself into streams, tributaries and rivers. Those interested in such processes should read my books The Mechanism of Mind, and I am Right - You are Wrong". (Page 8, De Bono 1995).

(I have just finished reading The Mechanism of Mind (De Bono 1973), and I found it a fascinating journey. It places De Bono, in my view, in the Information Processing school of thought, within the cognitive psychology fraternity. Information processing provides an alternative model to behaviourism for understanding and analyzing human behaviour, and it seems particularly useful in helping us to focus on goal directed behaviour, the small size of human Working Memory, and the limited nature of human attention span. However, it neglects the role of language in thinking, the role of communication in the transmission of culture, and other key ingredients of the Social Constructionist movement, which seems to me to "be" a more useful paradigm of analysis and interpretation. Nevertheless, De Bono 1973 contains many interesting ideas concerning models of how a "memory surface" like the human brain might work).

Inspired by De Bono's idea of perception occurring in "a self-organizing information system", De Bono (1973), I see the existence of well-established cognitive terrain in the minds of our clients. And that existing terrain can be expected to shape the incoming information, including incoming information from us, therapists. As such, it seems to me not difficult to see why Dr Ellis decided back in 1956 that it remains important to vigorously challenge the existing "terrain", and to struggle relentlessly to promote a re-forming of well established patterns of automatic perceptions and spontaneous thoughts.
(However, it seems important to distinguish this "struggling" and "disputation" from "arguing" and "criticising", and to use skilful means [as Dr Ellis clearly does] to prevent clients from using a misinterpretation of disputation as a pretext for resistance, refusal or rebellion in therapy sessions).

It seems to me that one of the best ways to distinguish the type of vigorous challenges that would work best in REBT would be to say: assertive challenges (as distinct from aggressive challenges) are likely to work best, (Clinard 1985), especially if we know how to handle any backlash. And it seems to me to be fair to infer that it is precisely this type of vigorous challenging and relentless struggling from which Neenan (1997) and Neenan (2000) appears to "be" backing away!

At this point I want to remind you of my questions about the relationship between questions and thinking: "Does it not seem plausible that questioning remains a key component of the skill we call thinking? Could it remain that thinking essentially functions as a process of asking and answering questions?" I hope to be able to argue convincingly in a later part of this series of articles that infants are driven into action in the world by a biologically based quest, or questing tendency, which seems to be about seeking gratification from the environment, which process cannot go on without necessarily collecting information - in the form of experience - from the environment; and that this tendency can be seen as the original, biologically driven basis of a later verbal questioning. In the process of our development, we all utilize this tendency to quest/question, and to find ("create") answers for ourselves. These answers, made at every conceivable age and stage, regardless of "readiness" or "competence", form the essence of De Bono's "terrain" of mind.

(The way in which the emerging verbal skills - around about age two - get overlaid on the original non-verbal thinking and non-meaningful speaking is nicely described in the work of Lev Vygotsky, a Russian educational psychologist whose work is becoming increasingly popular in the west as social constructionism pushes individual constructivism (Piaget) out of the
educational system, (at least in the UK). See Britton (1989), especially his discussion of Vygotsky's view that the child's egocentric verbalizations "...become internalized and continue to operate as the genesis of thought, perhaps moving through the stages of inner speech to verbal thinking and thence to the most elusive of all - thought itself". [p211].).

One of my hypotheses is this: Because this terrain was constructed by its "owner" - ("who" seems not to "be" separate [though theoretically distinct] from the biology doing the computing) - using the process of questing/questioning (probably normally at unconscious levels) and thereby "creating" answers, (again often at unconscious levels), the process of question-ing remains "technically/biochemically linked" to the integrity and durability of the terrain. Thus it seems to me not to have been accidental that Dr Ellis developed a process of vigorous questioning as his "technology" for deconstructing (or, more accurately, helping clients to deconstruct) erroneous/irrational/non-viable cognitive constructs. (Of course this strategy seems not to "be" without its difficulties, as described by Neenan (1997), but the best solution seems unlikely to be to take the passive road out. And the middle way between passivity and aggression - the assertive option - "is" difficult to learn. [Clinard 1985]).

I am suggesting that the vigorous challenges, that are typical of Dr Ellis's work with clients, may not be a question of personal style, but rather an apparently essential element (meaning "important for success") (in many but perhaps not all situations) of the process of helping individuals to deconstruct their unhelpful, neurotic, overly-upsetting belief-constructs.

However, I would also infer that Dr Ellis's years of training and experience in Rogerian therapy, coupled with his very obviously high level of questioning-insight-seeking-urges; followed by his years of training in neo-Freudian analysis, again coupled with his profound questioning-insights; and then combined with his couple of years of transitional research (e.g. of more than 200 alternative forms of therapy, again seeking and developing insights); and the development of his early thinking on paper about Rational Therapy, in the form of academic papers and books; provide him with a rich body of distinctions, and a subtle grasp of "the mind of the client", which render his questioning techniques profoundly effective. I'd better not mislead myself into thinking that I could reproduce such effective questioning by modelling myself on a few superficial aspects of this man's superb performance.

The idea that it "is" important to vigorously challenge the unhelpful beliefs of the disturbed individual is not peculiar to REBT, as illustrated by this comment on Transactional Analysis counselling: "In order to be effective, the counsellor must also be able to offer the client what Berne referred to as 'potency'... The word 'potency' is used here to describe the counsellor's vigour and self-assurance when dealing with the client's Parent ego state (or set of Parent-inspired irrational beliefs - JB) which is usually very strong. ..." page 83, Hough, (1994).

Referring back to the basis of Dr Ellis's therapeutic competence, I believe it is not just conscious distinctions, such as those displayed in Ellis (1962/1991), Ellis (1994), or Ellis and Harper (1975), that account for Albert Ellis's profound ability to interact therapeutically with his clients, - as shown in public demonstrations - but also his unconscious cognitive skills derived from more than half a century of reflexive practice. If I were to model myself on the obvious and superficially visible aspects of Albert Ellis's skills, that would probably be quite helpful (as the NLPers point out); but only to a limited degree. For it obviously would not "be" sufficient, in and of itself, to produce the rich body of distinctions and the range of unconscious cognitive skills that would guarantee effective and impressive performance, and which can normally only be expected to arise out of an extended range of experiences, combined with extensive questioning-insight, based on reflexive practice.

Unfortunately, returning to the link between questioning and thinking, De Bono (1995) does not help me with this investigation or argumentation. Although he uses questions skilfully to construct thinking devices (heuristics) - such as his To-Lo/Po/So-Go device - a five-stage thinking model which can be used for all sorts of thinking activities, such as planning, problem solving, creating, designing, etc., etc.; he gets stuck at this "macro level" with questioning. He does not seem to see any role for questions at more micro levels, such as questing out into the environment, at any and all stages.

(In an earlier work - [De Bono(1977)] - he comes closer to the approach I am currently investigating and trying to develop. This occurred when he distinguished all human thinking into two categories: 'follow-on thinking' [or association] and 'connect-up thinking' [which "is" characteristic of insight thinking/problem solving]. He goes on to say:

"In problem solving the statement of the problem is no more than the description of your intended destination", and thus problem solving involves 'connecting up' your present scenario to your intended destination.

"Obviously all ... problems can be stated as questions: 'How do I remove this ink stain...?, 'Why does the black cylinder fall over?' What a question really asks is: 'How do I get to this statement?' or 'Show me the way I can get to this statement'. These are but ways of saying: 'Connect up what I already know with what I want to know'.

"This trick of pushing ahead with a question and then connecting up makes a huge difference to thinking because it gives direction. By asking questions you can move where you want to instead of just carrying on along pathways set up by experience. ... Setting up the far end of the gap is asking the question". (pp59-60; emphasis added - JB)

This comes close to saying that we think in two ways: (1) By running fixed patterns of association in networks laid down by experience; or (2) by asking [conscious or unconscious] questions. And my step beyond that is to say that all thinking that involves constructing knowledge "is" based upon conscious and unconscious processes of asking and answering questions, plus non-verbal [visual/kinaesthetic] processes of questing/ solving. (Now that does not mean that we never take over concepts and ideas from others as 'empty categories' to be defined and refined as we develop; - we do! - but rather that the refinement process itself involves questioning/questing). (Of course, I am aware that the British Psychological Society [Hartland, 1991] distinguishes eight kinds of thinking of which only one [daydreaming] cannot be "reduced" to questioning-answering processes. These are: (1) Problem solving: ["Have you thought about how to get there?"]; (2) Daydreaming: [Does not fit my pattern!]; (3) Paying attention: ["What is going on over there?"]; (4) Requesting reflective opinions: ["What do you think about Mike going out with Nicola?"]; (5) Lateral thinking: ["What are some alternative approaches?"]; (6) Creative thinking: ["How can I generate something new in {area 'x'} using ideas from 'y' and 'z'?"]; (7) Logical thinking: ["Why did the black cylinder fall over?"]; and (8) Conscious, cogitative remembering: ["Where did I leave my car keys?"]. See Hartland, 1991).

I think it is possible, and valuable, to develop this idea further. (If we can understand how clients construct their "cognitive terrain", it may prove easier to challenge it and help them to reconstruct it). However, I will wait until later sections of this work to try again to establish a link between the process of questing/questioning and the processes of thinking/learning/ constructing mental schemas. Until that time, I am forced to conclude that De Bono (1995) and I seem to represent two distinct paradigms of interpretation of the nature (operationally) of thought and thinking. (As a holding operation, because I normally like to "steer my mental ship by reference to some set of established landmarks" - even while attempting to discover/construct new "fishing grounds" - I looked up "thinking" in Encyclopaedia Britannica (1984) and found this: "In the sense on which psychologists have concentrated, thinking is intellectual exertion aimed at finding an answer to a question, or a means of achieving a desirable goal". (Page 641 - my emphasis, JB)).

My current hypothesis is that De Bono (1977) is correct as far as he goes, and that thinking other than 'automatic thoughts' (which occur by association, and which are fully explored in De Bono (1973)) is mental striving for answers to questions. But I additionally believe that the schemas along which automatic thoughts run are also set up by questing/questioning at an earlier period of development. What normally happens after we have arrived at answers to our questions - and this can be increasingly observed in children aged, roughly, between seven and early teens - is that we close down questioning in that particular "area" and hold our answers to be "absolute truths". Thus we spend most of our lives making assertions, based on answers, the "parent-questions" of which have been lost in the mists of time: or, more precisely, in the inaccessible reaches of our unconscious minds. (And where I would disagree with Beck [1989] and Neenan [2000] is this: Although the source of my current over-upsets "is" most likely to be found in my current thinking [both conscious and unconscious], it seems important to be aware that my current thinking probably produces my over-upsets by agitating subcortical neural networks, at least some of which may predate my capacity to think in words. And those unconscious visual/kinaesthetic neural networks were laid down by my earliest frustrations, when my inborn tendencies towards "demandingness" (i.e. "musturbation"), awfulizing, damning and low frustration tolerance were triggered, when I failed to get what my "heart" desired. This seems to "be" the lowest level source of emotional disturbance in humans - which seems to me to work "upwards" (from the limbic system) in a "clutch-like" drive "mechanism" to drive the cognitions (in the neocortex) in demanding and musturbatory ways. REBT is so effective (in my view) because cognitions can be used to drive downwards, through the very same "clutch-like" drive "mechanism", to becalm both the historically constructed networks of irrational beliefs (of a verbal and pre-verbal form) and the innate tendencies towards demandingness/awfulizing etc.. But, because CBT only deals with - in the sense of challenging - the immediate products of perception, plus (non-awfulizing and non-demanding) conclusions based on interpretations and inferences from "rules", this form of therapy can hardly claim to reach the deepest levels of human disturbance. These "syllogistically derived conclusions" (Beck, 1989) seem to mainly be conscious "abstractions of higher orders" [Korzybski 1933/1990], which exclude the unconscious iB schemas and the inborn tendencies towards irrationality which are more important targets of REBT practitioners. To describe this distinction, Ellis (1993) uses the perfectly valid labels of "elegant" and "inelegant" therapy).

I want to pursue the idea of REBT and CBT as distinct paradigms further, but since this would take me beyond the question of the role of questions in REBT, I have set up a new file on a different subject area, including CBT, which I will describe below.

I want to make a brief digression into another area of questioning. It seems to me important to recognize that REBT therapists, as well as using questions for therapeutic purposes, also could benefit from having skills in the use of questions in evaluating research papers and journal articles which claim to be "scientific" and therapeutically helpful to the practitioner. One author who may be helpful in this respect is Chaffee (1998). Despite the fact that he presents a substantial chunk of Polyannaish idealistic speculation about the great society we could have if we all could become better critical thinkers (unlike Ellis, who seems to me to come close to Eric Berne's view that there is not much hope for mankind); and the fact that he follows Sartrian "free-will" beyond the reasonable limit described by Epictetus (who, in The Enchiridion, clarified that there are certain things which are quite definitely beyond our control); and the fact that he inserts "God" into his conclusions; nevertheless, he has a very interesting chapter on developing the skills of "critical thinking" which notably involves developing a range of questioning strategies. Another author who is useful in this area is McLeod (1997) who has a useful chapter on doing counselling research in which he looks at how to read a research article critically, and how to develop a critique. These ideas can usefully be applied to the other half of Neenan (2000), which is an attempt to refute the distinction between the elegant and inelegant approaches to therapy, and to dump the "musturbation hypothesis". On the surface Neenan's arguments seem reasonable and plausible. However, some critical investigation reveals enormous weaknesses in Neenan's claims, and in the articles he quotes in his support. Many REBT therapists will probably have felt uneasy about Neenan's arguments, because they as individual therapists, like me, have been able to verify and validate the general theory of REBT in their own lives, and in their practices. I have begun an analysis of Neenan (2000) and Neenan (1997), and my results will be published in an article to be entitled: 'Science, musturbation, cognitive therapy and the REBT philosophy'. Until I have completed my analysis it would be unreasonable to publish any preliminary conclusions here. But I can state that my aim will be to take the "simple facts" concerning the validity of REBT theory, which I have generated in my personal life and in my "clinical" practice, and to develop them into "reasoned facts", using the most defensible ideas that I can find in the philosophy of science and the literature of the social sciences.

On pages 6 and 7, De Bono (1995) talks about logic and perception. "The ingredients for thinking are provided by perception", he says. And "Perception is the way we carve up the world into chunks that we can
handle...". "Most of everyday thinking takes place in the perception stage of thinking". Here he seems to be distinguishing perception from reflection, or conscious action upon incoming data, such as with logic or mathematics. And in that sense he seems to me to sound correct, in that he subsumes all the automatic cognitive processes under the heading of "perception". This is part of his critique of logic: "It is perfectly true", he says, "that in hindsight logic can point out inadequacies in perception but that is not the same as pointing out these inadequacies in the first place".

De Bono is here saying that humans do not normally think logically, and I tend to agree. (That is to say that our "natural thinking", or automatic thinking, seems not to "be" structured logically, but rather in patterns of association, formed by habit or custom, and organized into integrated neural networks. See De Bono (1977) and (1973). In order to think logically we "wake up", pay attention to our goals, and work out some rationale for taking a particular series of steps in our thinking response). There is evidence in the cognitive psychology literature to the effect that humans think idiosyncratically, but within the bounds of a socially shaped set of schemas in long term memory, but again with a substantial element of unconscious automaticity. And those schemas are affected by mood and motivation. But does this have any implications for the art of questioning?

One of the implications could be this: When we are disputing clients' irrational beliefs using questions about logic - e.g. "How does it follow logically that...etc., etc.?" - it seems to me to be important to recognize that we are helping the client to correct a deficit in the normal functioning of an intelligent human adult; and not teaching more advanced logic to a logic-deficit individual. We can see the lack of logic in the client's conclusions, because Albert Ellis's work revealed that irrational beliefs are not structured logically, and that therefore one way of undermining our clients' attachment to them is to draw attention to this lack of logic. Thus drawing their attention to these logical errors is a service to them, on a par with a person with restored eyesight pointing out to a blind man that he has wandered into the middle of the road! It is not about our cleverness, for we also are prone, - at least until we teach ourselves the generic insights of REBT, and determine to live by them, - to "foolishly" make "logical" links between our preferences and our demands, just below the level of conscious awareness, as we quest out into the world, using unconscious questions and coming up with unconscious answers to the effect that we should get what we prefer! Because we prefer it! And it also isn't about getting "surprised" about why they think they should get what they prefer. Quite frankly, I don't think it matters why they misperceive. That they misperceive, as an inherent characteristic of how their brain works, is for me of much greater therapeutic importance. (The one exception here for me is the "critical A". [Dryden and Yankura 1995]. I think it "is" very helpful, and therapeutically effective, to know the precise inference that triggered the client's iB. But having found the client's iB, I see no point in working backwards to explore the backwaters of their minds in the hope that they might surprise me).

At the end of his section on Socrates, Plato and Aristotle - to whom De Bono (1995) attaches the label "The Gang of Three" - he has this to say: "In summary, from the Gang of Three came a thinking system which was based on # analysis; # judgement (and boxes); # argument; (and) # criticism". (But not design or construction of answers or solutions - JB).

"We find our way around by fitting new experiences into the boxes (or principles) derived from the past", continues De Bono. "This is perfectly adequate in a stable world where the future is the same as the past" - and if and when the boxes line up with social agreements about what's what, JB - "but totally inadequate in a changing world where the old boxes do not apply. Instead of judgement we need to design our way forward"

And of course one of my problems is that at least some of my "conceptual boxes" to do with questioning come from unhelpful areas of my past, and are inadequate for my current purposes.

"While analysis does solve a great many problems, there are other problems where the cause cannot be found and if found cannot be removed. Such problems will not yield to yet more analysis. There is a need for design. We need to design a way forward, leaving the cause in place. Most of the major problems in the world will not be solved by yet more analysis. There is a need for creative design", (p11)

"The traditional thinking system is very lacking in constructive energy, creative energy and design energy. Description and analysis are not enough". (p12).

Perhaps my use of questions and questioning with my clients could be seen as being stuck at a certain stage because analysis of my own questioning style (by me or Mr X) doesn't make any difference to my performance. Furthermore, making judgements about my performance probably won't bring about any change. And arguments (about how to do it) and criticism (of my performance) also probably won't help. Could it be that I lack a solution derived from "design" and "construction"?

Could I design a way forward, leaving the cause of my relatively poor questioning practise in place? Possibly. I am willing to experiment with that idea.

For example, could I set up a "triggering mechanism" to alert me (on a daily, or hourly, or pre-session basis) to the importance of asking questions? Could I establish a structure in my sessions with clients which would ensure that I:

* Ask fishing questions? (About the A, B or C)
* Ask shooting questions? (About client comments)
* Ask probing questions? (About the responses I receive)
* Check client understanding of my "teaching" points?
* Ask "involving questions" which promote participation and thus greater learning?

Yes. I could design a checklist and paste it on the front cover of each of my clients' files. The rules would be: (a) Read this checklist when preparing each session plan, and incorporate appropriate questions into the plan. And: (b) Read this checklist at the start and end of each individual session, and assess my performance. Plan remedial action as appropriate.

Yes. I could have a general rule that every other session would be structured into (a) a review of the ABC model and related distinctions, or (b) the work done in the previous session, using the full range of questions shown above.

Yes. I can continue to work on my multi-part article on the role of questions in REBT, which may raise my awareness, change my consciousness, impact my behaviour, expand the number of distinctions I have about questions and questioning, and improve my unconscious cognitive skills in this area.

And, yes. I can keep the ABC model in mind, and ask myself: "What questions had I better ask to find out from my client: 'What happened?' 'How do you feel about that?' And: 'What did you tell yourself to upset yourself?' "

There are three parts to this conclusion as follows: (a) A brief recapitulation of the general shape or structure of this article; (b) A return visit to my original five questions; and (c) Final comments and a brief preview of part two.

(a) Recapitulation
In this first part of this proposed multi-part article, I did several things. I want to remind you that I:

(1) Introduced the problem of the role of questions and questioning in REBT; and linked that problem to the views of my supervisor and to Michael Neenan's article (Neenan 2000).

(2) Listed five questions that are important to me. (And began to provide some elements of the answers to some of them).

(3) Reviewed five sections of De Bono (1995) which seemed relevant to my quest for insights into the nature of questions and questioning.

(4) Distinguished three types of questions: fishing, shooting and probing questions.

(5) Raised serious doubts about Socrates as a thinking skills role model.

(6) Reasserted the probable "need", in many situations, to vigorously dispute IBs, given the highly resistant "terrain" of the mind of the client, and our goal of helping the client to deconstruct and reform their belief system.

(7) Pointed to the paradigmatic nature of the distinction between REBT and CT/CBT.

(8) Drew attention to the retrospective nature of logical analysis. And:

(9) Investigated the possibility of designing/constructing a solution to my problem, instead of looking for a solution in analysis and remediation of my past training, learning and conditioning.

(b) Revisiting My Five Questions
In this part of my conclusion, I want to go back to my original five questions and see if I can now provide any kind of even partial answers.

(1) What does Mr X (my supervisor) mean by "being more Socratic"?

I will send a copy of this article to Mr X, and ask him to review it and let me have feedback on this question. This could serve as a supervision session, at least as valuable to me as getting feedback on my work directly with clients. (I did this and got some very useful and helpful feedback).

(2) Does Michael Neenan's emphasis on "surprise and discovery" in REBT therapy, arising out of "open ended" exploration with clients, seem like part of the roadmap for me?

Having had more time to reflect on this question, I now have a great deal of clarity. I believe REBT and CT/CBT are quite distinct paradigms of analysis, interpretation and, consequently, clinical practice. Tim Beck does not accept that he was influenced by Albert Ellis, but that they coincidentally developed cognitive-type therapies in the same era, - even though Ellis's system was well established more than a decade before Beck began publishing distinctly "cognitive" material - and that Beck found Ellis's work encouraging and confirming, because it endorsed his ideas. (Beck 1989, page 83). Beck is familiar with the ABC model, but he does not consider it to be more than an "interesting technique" which is not central to his method of therapy, and he rejects the idea of "irrational beliefs". (In fact, for Beck (1989), in the ABC "technique", "B" stands for "Blank"!) Although he accepts the "tyranny of the shoulds", he does not see them as being central to the causation of neuroses. As such, it is not very surprising to me that Beck has developed an approach to questioning which is quite distinct from that used in REBT. (Neenan 2000). Now, if there are any elements of that system of questioning that can be incorporated into REBT, and subjected to the guidance of the ABC model - as the fundamental psycho-philosophical model of the human-organism-environment-interaction - and the distinction between rational and irrational beliefs, then I would support that incorporation. However, what Neenan (2000) seems to be suggesting is the incorporation of types of questions that presuppose that we don't know why our clients are disturbed, (that is to say that there are "mysteries" to be "discovered" about why they are disturbed), and that, it seems to me, would be to throw away what makes REBT so very useful and so very powerful.

Furthermore, for me questions will always be subordinate to "teaching", or attempting to "enrol" my clients into a more empowering philosophy than the one they use to overly upset themselves. In that sense, I see nothing "magical" about any system of questioning. If I can use questions (combined with statements) to help clients to see through their "foolishness" then I believe I will be doing a good job.

(3) Does Socrates remain the best role model for REBT therapists? What was so effective about his questioning strategies?

As I indicated earlier, I think the various characterizations of Socrates are highly suspect as role models for a twenty-first century, "scientific thinker". (Socrates "was" most probably a politically reactionary idealist metaphysician whose dialogues achieved nothing. His questioning strategies are based on the questionable techniques of leading his respondents into self-contradiction by getting them to agree to two contradictory lines of reasoning; the use of false analogies to confuse his respondents; and the metaphysical view that his respondents definitely "knew everything" from previous incarnations of their "souls". When his (self)questioning strategies led him nowhere, Socrates was quite willing to "...obey.. an inner voice which knew more than he did [and](if we can believe Xenophon), [Socrates] called it, quite simply, 'the voice of God'." Dodds (1951/1984), pp184-185).

(4) Could we possibly develop a more effective questioning role model for REBT therapists? What would s/he look and sound like?

I think we could develop a composite role model. Albert Ellis would be central to that model - especially for: the ABC model; the distinction between rational and irrational beliefs; and for his pragmatic, logical and empirical disputing questions: Where is the evidence? How does it help you? And how does it follow logically...? But also for many other "anchors" in "reality". Additionally, I think we could benefit from insights from De Bono and other thinking skills specialists; a linguistic philosopher; a negotiation skills expert; a communications skills (assertiveness) expert; and perhaps several others. Those thinking skills would be derived from several disciplines, from several paradigms (but integrated into ours), and not wholly dependent on the image of one ancient rhetorician who got himself sentenced to death for his injudicious conflict with the Athenian "democratic" state. (Maybe?) But all of those fragments of our thinking skills role model would be subject to the disciplines of the ABC model and the distinction between rational and irrational beliefs. And instead of speaking, confusingly, and ambiguously, of "Socratic questioning", we might more usefully refer to our own, newly devised - or refined - system of Rational Emotive Debating Style, which would incorporate both questioning and describing skills.. This would be made up of distinct and definable competencies, goals, and delimiters which are capable of being "taught"/presented, learned, "observed"/monitored, evaluated, modified, and so on - none of which can be reasonable said of so-called "Socratic questioning". (It remains to be seen whether I can sustain and enhance this idea over the subsequent parts of this article).

(5) How can we as a fraternity of "helpers" make sure that we continue to operate from a more empowered "culture" than the culture from which we try to rescue "philosophic casualties"?

For me, there are two parts to this question. The first is to hang on to those aspects of our philosophy which we have tested for ourselves, (such as the overly-upsetting effect of the "must"; the liberating effect of unconditional self acceptance (USA); the importance of high frustration tolerance (HFT); and so on), regardless of the "critiques" of individuals who apparently have not had any personal experience of managing their own anger, anxiety and depression by eliminating musturbation and awfulizing, and developing USA and HFT. Or who have been able to do that for themselves, but can't figure out how to do it for most of their clients. (See Neenan (2000) and Neenan (1997)). And whereas Neenan (1997) advocates watering down USA (to greater self acceptance [GSA]) to avoid "protracted arguments" with clients - page 32 - I advocate the development of powerful interpersonal communication skills for all REBT therapists (such as those developed by Clinard 1985) to defuse any tendency towards arguments in therapy sessions. Instead of diluting HFT, as Neenan (1997) does, I prefer to use effective selling skills to sell my clients on the benefits of changing their beliefs and behaviours. (See Harvey (1989), e.g. pp54-55). And I imagine that highly skilled negotiation is the basis of the best REBT therapy: (cf.: Fisher and Ury, 1990). The bottom line for me is this: It is my job, if I am to be able to help my clients to eliminate their emotional suffering, to enrol them into my more effective (REBT) philosophy. It is an own-goal if I let them enrol me into their sub-optimal, demanding/awfulizing philosophy, (e.g. by agreeing with them that USA "is unnatural": Neenan (1997). [If Neenan (1997) had ever had "philosophy as a hobby", as Ellis had when a teenager, could he ever have gone along with such a simpleminded notion as that "USA in untenable because unnatural"? Could he really have seen this "unnaturalness" as a good reason not to pursue USA? Is not daily shaving "unnatural"? And do not most males do it every day? Why? What are the benefits? And what are the benefits of USA?][More than two thousand years ago, a questioner asked a Taoist sage about the distinction between "naturalness" and "unnaturalness". "That oxen and horses have four hooves is an illustration of the natural", said the sage. "That we put a collar around the ox's neck, and a string through the nostrils of the horse is an illustration of the unnatural", said the sage. [Paraphrased from Eliade, 1967]. By this definition, 98% of everything that we modern Europeans do it "unnatural". So why make an exception of USA by desisting from adopting it?).

Secondly, I think it "is" important to understand that it seems as hard to change ourselves as it is for our clients to change themselves. Therefore, I will work very hard, with whatever strategies I can find, to change myself into a powerful, potent, challenging (and supporting) therapist who can use questions to great effect. My current solution, designed as a result of this article, is to attach the following memo to the front cover of each of my clients' files as a triggering mechanism:

...see page 47...

Client's Name: _______________________________ File No. ____

When preparing Session Plans:
* Ask fishing questions
* Ask shooting questions
* Ask probing questions
* Ask questions to check client's learning
* Ask questions to involve: as participation improves learning!

In sessions, ask fishing, shooting and probing questions about the A, the
B and the C!

Sessions 3, 5, 7, etc., are to be review sessions, structured by
a range of questions!

When the buzzer goes, 45 minutes into my one-hour session,

The second part of my triggering mechanism is to have a copy of this note on a 3" x 5" card, in my hand, during sessions with clients.

Again, this might not seem like brain surgery, but it's a step up for me.

...continued on page 48...
(c) Final Comment and Preview of Part Two
Because of the large amount of work I did to set the scene in this first part of my proposed multi-part article, it was only possible to review one book from my list: Do Bono (1995). Now that the scene has been set, I hope to be able to review three or four books or papers in each subsequent part of this article. These books come from many disciplines. I am hoping that this will have a creative effect of the type claimed for Synectics, created by William J.J. Gordon. Synectics involves joining together different and apparently irrelevant elements to arrive at creative new ideas and solutions.

In part two of this article I will attempt to review:

* Sections of a book about the use of questions in the construction of knowledge, as developed by two followers of David Ausubel, an American educational psychologist.

* Sections of a book about the use of questions in effective teaching in higher education. Plus:

* Sections of two books about the use of questions in REBT, by Windy Dryden.

Books by Albert Ellis will be reviewed in subsequent parts of this article. His books are listed as numbers 9, 10, 11, and 13.

Text Ends


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For further information, please contact Jim Byrne at ABC Coaching and Counselling Services.