Behavioural and Cognitive Psychotherapy

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Behavioural and Cognitive Psychotherapy (2010), 38:83-93 Cambridge University Press
Copyright © British Association for Behavioural and Cognitive Psychotherapies 2009

Research Article

The Science and Art of Asking Questions in Cognitive Therapy

Ian Andrew Jamesa1 c1, Rachel Morsea2 and Alan Howartha3

a1 Northumberland, Tyne and Wear NHS Trust, UK
a2 South Tyneside District Hospital, UK
a3 Northumbria Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust, UK
Article author query
james ia [PubMed]  [Google Scholar]
morse r [PubMed]  [Google Scholar]
howarth a [PubMed]  [Google Scholar]


Background: Questions underpin all aspects of therapeutic assessment and intervention and are a vital component of the clinical process. Over recent years frameworks have started to be applied to obtain a greater understanding of questioning formats and processes. Method: This paper examines the use of questions in cognitive therapy (CT). An overview of the main types of questions identified in the literature is presented. In addition, we examine a range of client and therapist characteristics that may impact on the questioning process. Conclusions: Asking questions in therapy is a complex, yet under-taught, skill. This paper provides a set of frameworks to assist in identifying helpful and unhelpful questioning skills. Thus the article has implications for further training and research.

Keywords:Questioning; communication; scaffolding; platforms; psychotherapy


c1 Reprint requests to Ian James, Newcastle Challenging Behaviour Service, Newcastle General Hospital, Westgate Road, Newcastle upon Tyne NE4 6BE, UK. E-mail: