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How To Use The Socratic Method To Help You Get Organized

How To Use The Socratic Method To Help You Get Organized



Socrates was a great educator of his time. He was known for teaching his students by asking questions and thereby would draw out answers from them.


Socratic questioning is an effective way to work with those struggling with clutter. It works especially well with the hoarding population. The purpose of this line of questioning is to challenge accuracy and completeness of thinking in a way that helps motivate people towards their goals. Unlike questioning, the Socratic Method is systematic, disciplined, thoughtful, and focused on problem-solving. When using this line of questioning we aren't telling someone what to do, but rather prompting them through questioning to get them to see any faults in their thinking and to be able to make a more healthy choice for themselves.




The Method involves different types of questions:

Questioning clarification:

  • What do we already know about this?
  • What exactly does this mean?
  • Why are you saying that?
  • Can you give me an example?

Questioning assumptions:

  • What would happen if?
  • You seem to be assuming?
  • What could we assume instead?
  • Why would someone make this assumption?

Questioning rational & reasoning:

  • Why is that happening?
  • How do you know this?
  • What do you think causes ...?
  • What evidence is there to support what you're saying?

Questioning viewpoints:

  • How else could we look at this?
  • What is the difference between ... and ...?
  • What are the strengths and weaknesses of ...?
  • Who benefits from this?

Questioning consequences:

  • What effect would that have?
  • What is an alternative?
  • Then what would happen?
  • What are you implying by that?
  • How could ... be used to ...?


Using Socratic Questioning can help our clients or our loved ones reflect on how they have come to think the way they do in terms of their relationship with their belongings. It can also help people reflect on how they support their thinking in either positive or negative ways. 


Have you used the Socratic Method in working with people to reduce their clutter? What has been your experience? 


Categories: Mental Health / Hoarding


  • I don't think I knew I was using the Socratic method, but many of these questions are ones I typically do ask. I think it is a way to have a conversation about beliefs and values without being aggressive. Interestingly, I often find that when I ask about a belonging, there are often very good reasons why it is in the space. Some of these reasons justify the item's continued presence, while others reveal that the good reason was valid in the past, but is no longer at play. I have also learned that my own beliefs and values differ from those of other people. Something I might give away is a possession that another may highly value and want to keep. I learn so much from this method... perhaps more than my clients! It has helped me to grow in wisdom and nurture my love of people. Very interesting!
    2/16/2018 7:50:30 AM Reply
    • @Seana Turner: You've been doing this long enough Seana that I didn't have a doubt you were using this line of questioning! But, yes this is what it's called. I've also seen it referred to as the Downward Arrow technique. But as you said, just opening up the dialogue allows for a better understanding of what's going on in the client's head and often helps in getting them to really examine why they're keeping or not keeping an item and the reasons and thought process behind it.
      2/23/2018 4:51:19 PM Reply

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