Disavowal of Knowledge
events may not provide an accurate basis forknowledge. Many past events are reinterpreteddifferently as people fill in gaps in their memory(Ross & McFarland, 1988).When pushed for evidence to support theirclaims, many clients will admit they cannot sup-port their beliefs with absolute certainty (Vlastos,1985).The Socratic method can be used to helpeliminate false beliefs (Popper, 1989)
prepareclients for learning by helping them to accepttheir areas of ignorance. However, the proper useof the Socratic method does not involve usingquestions
to put clients
defensive or humili-ating clients into admitting their ignorance. In-stead, the therapist helps clients see the limita-tions of any one view. Because it can be anunpleasant experience for clients to recognizetheir areas of bias, the Socratic method will failunless it is laced with compassion (Guthrie,1971). For example, an adult female client wasfeeling overworked and stressed. However, shewas afraid to tell
boss she was struggling withthe heavy work demands because she "knew" herboss would be disappointed in her and he wouldprobably consider firing her. When she finallytold her boss she was feeling overworked, heapologized, said how
her, prob-ably too much, and began to distribute the workload mote evenly across the other employees.Thus,this client initially reported a belief thatwas disruptive to her life. When she attemptedto verify her
she found it was unsupportedand she needed to re-evaluate her appraisal ofthe situation.The therapist can help clients improve theirability to learn from experience. Some clientsneed to distance themselves from their view ofevents and become willing to examine the accu-racy of their beliefs without being blocked bypride, fear, or hope (Schmid, 1983). For exam-ple,habits and emotions may tempt clients toaccept their beliefs without evaluating them criti-cally (Larrabee, 1945). The therapist can bringprofessional objectivity
emotional distance toa discussion of the client's problems, helping toincrease the client's ability to evaluate the situa-tion objectively (Beck et al., 1979).
example,an adult male client had difficulty keeping jobs.Despite having attended college for three years,he was often fired from menial positions due todisagreements with different supervisors. At hiscurrent job as a waiter, he had many difficultieswith his boss, whom he described as irritable,picky, and critical of
workers. In therapy, theclient was helped to see the situation
work fromseveral different perspectives, including that ofseveral coworkers and the boss
Also, tobegin evaluating the role the client played in thenegative interactions, he tried to observe his bossdealing with customers and coworkers. The clientalso tried shifting his view of the job to see it asan opportunity to learn new ways of dealing withpeople, especially difficult people.
time, theclient learned that his boss was best viewed as aparticular type of person, a boss who pushed hisworkers by close inspection and criticism, notnecessarily intending to pick on the client. Later,he ran into a previous boss while out shopping
client was able
person,not as someone who was deliberately critical ofthe client. Thus, he had distanced himself fromhis feelings and was able to view these peoplemore objectively. He began to view people differ-ently, becoming more open to the role he playedin various social interactions.While attempting to challenge unsupported be-liefs,the Socratic method may produce a tempo-rary state of confusion when clients realize theyhave only beliefs and opinions instead of knowl-edge (Taran, 1985). Confusion often indicates theclient is puzzled and ready to begin clarifying theconfusion (Clarke, 1989). Then, the therapist canemphasize
developnew perspectives for understanding and copingwith the situation. It is often essential to eliminate
answer to more
correctanswer. The Socratic dialogue can help clientsreduce their reliance
unsupported beliefs (West& West, 1984). For example, a female collegestudent described her childhood sexual abuse by
older brothers, but she took full responsibilityfor what happened. She blamed herself and wasoften depressed and withdrawn because of theseevents. It was important for
to realize that shewas not to blame. She was too young to knowit was wrong, too small to fight back, and toofrightened to call for help. Thus, ignorance doesnot always imply a lack of information but mayinvolve a misunderstanding or misattribution ofevents. After discussing these problems with hertherapist, the client
views of whathad happened and no longer accepted blame forthese traumatic acts. The therapist helped the clientsee that her view of the events from her childhooddid not correspond to her general views of justiceand abuse and therefore needed to be changed.