Socrates: Helping Treat Depression 2,400 Years After Death

Josh Mur
August 18, 2015

(ANTIMEDIA) Anyone who paid attention during their world history class in high school ought to be familiar with the name “Socrates.” Socrates was a classical Greek philosopher who lived from approximately 470 BC to 399 BC. Along with being one of the greatest Greek philosophers ever to live, he was a teacher to other philosophical greats like Xenophon and Plato. At age 71, he was charged with corrupting the minds of the youth and impiety (defying the gods of the state). He was sentenced to death in 399 BC.

In addition to having an interesting life, his teachings and methods resonate with modern society 2,400 years after his death. Aside from presenting general ideas about critical thinking such as the common “I know nothing” philosophy and “What I do not know I do not think I know,” Socrates’ methods of guiding his students to their own answers and perspectives with thought-provoking questions ─ otherwise known as “Socratic questioning” ─  has not yet been forgotten.

The method is simple in theory. One is asked a series of systematic questions based on circumstance and responses, similar to the methods of the average psychotherapist. The key difference between conventional therapy and Socratic questioning, however, is that Socratic questioning does not present answers for the “patient”—like a typical therapist does. Instead, this method works to create a platform for one to dive deeper into their own thoughts, allowing them to identify negative or destructive thought patterns and ideas and rearrange them into a more positive and constructive order.

To put it simply, it is a string of questioning that helps people better understand themselves. Simple questions such as, “What are some other ways to think about *blank*?” and “Can you explain why you assume this about *blank*?” are used to assist individuals in probing their inner thoughts and the factors that shape their perspectives.

This method isn’t necessarily helpful just for dialogue between teachers and students or therapists and patients, but rather, can be used as a tool for inner dialogue. According to a recent study’s co-author Justin Braun, a doctorate student in psychology at The Ohio State University,

Patients are learning this process of asking themselves questions and being skeptical of their own negative thoughts. When they do, they tend to see a substantial reduction in their depressive symptoms.”

Socratic questioning has generally been used as a critical thinking tool in the past. Nevertheless, the results from the Ohio State University researchers may imply that critical thinking in and of itself could be an effective and pharmaceutical-free way to combat the emotionally and physically crippling symptoms of depression.


This article (Socrates: Helping Treat Depression 2,400 Years After Death) is free and open source. You have permission to republish this article under a Creative Commons license with attribution to Josh Mur and theAntiMedia.org. Anti-Media Radio airs weeknights at 11pm Eastern/8pm Pacific. If you spot a typo, email edits@theantimedia.org.

Josh Mur joined Anti-Media as an independent journalist in January of 2015. His topics of interest include culture, alternative medicine, and government corruption. He currently resides in Sacramento, California, where he was born and raised. Learn more about Mur here!

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