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  • Writer's pictureDeric Hollings

Use of Psychotherapeutic Questions


Long before I became a psychotherapist and began practicing Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy (REBT), I served in the United States Marines Corps. My military occupational specialty was military police (MP) and I retained focused training related to interrogations.


After discharging from the military, I decided not to continue in the field of law enforcement. Still, I wanted to use my acquired skills of quickly establishing a rapport, interviewing people concerning difficult topics, and cutting through defense mechanisms in order to determine truth.


Psychotherapy affords me this opportunity without a period of incarceration resulting from what people tell me. Also, the field in which I currently practice allows me to help people free themselves from needless self-disturbance rather than imprisoning themselves due to public disturbances.


Interestingly, there are some similarities between my role as an MP and my performance as a psychotherapist. Namely, question-asking is a large part of what both fields entail.


Regarding this topic, pages 50 through 53 of The REBT Therapist’s Pocket Companion invite REBT practitioners to consider how use of psychotherapeutic questions is properly conducted. For instance, clinicians are encouraged to ask questions one at a time instead of interrogating clients.


Stacking questions is something I was also advised against as an MP. Here’s how this unhelpful method of information-gathering works:


Me: You went in alone? And then what? Were there other people around? If so, approximately how many? Did you know whether or not anyone else would be present?


Suspect: [Error 404]


People, especially those under stress, don’t exactly respond well to stacked questions. This is the same for suspects and clients alike. Therefore, I monitor myself when posing too many questions and without giving people a chance to answer what I’ve asked.


This means that I will, from time to time, need to sit in silence so that people have time to think about the answers they wish to provide. After all, it isn’t always possible for a person to readily recall what they believed about an event that happened since our last session. As an example:


Client: I got into an argument with my partner a week ago. He said something about the meatloaf I cooked and I just went off.


Me: What was it you were telling yourself in that moment about what your partner said?


Client: [long pause] I think I told myself, “How dare you! You should appreciate the fact that I cook for you!”


Aside from giving ample time for clients to recall information, I vary my style of questions. For instance, I may use open-ended, closed-ended, forced, or multiple choice formats, as follows:


Open-ended – From where does this notion stem that people should appreciate the fact that you cook for them?


Closed-ended – Is it true that people should value your cooking?


Forced – If you had to guess, are you extremely satisfied, very satisfied, moderately satisfied, moderately dissatisfied, very dissatisfied, or extremely dissatisfied with how you handled things when your partner remarked about the meatloaf?


Multiple choice – Which option best sums up how you’d like to handle similar conflict in the future?

Option 1: Immediately dispute the irrational belief that led to your reaction regarding your partner.

Option 2: Immediately use unconditional acceptance towards your partner.

Option 3: Disturb yourself even more than before by use of unproductive beliefs.

Option 4: Do nothing at all and let the chips fall where they may.


Switching up how questions are posed breaks up the monotony of a session. It also affords people an opportunity to contemplate about different alternatives to actions they’ve taken in the past.


Even with varied questions, and similar to my experience when serving as an MP, sometimes people don’t directly answer posed questions. They may provide an answer, though not one related to the question I ask. For instance:


Me: I’m noticing that you shift around in your chair quite a bit when I disagree with you. What’s that about?


Person: Hey, what time is it? I have somewhere to be right after this.


Whether in an interrogation or a client session, I think seeking answers to questions from which people deflect may prove useful. Sometimes, I’ll repose the same question. Other times, I’ll ask it in a different way.


Although the examples listed herein are only some methods related to use of psychotherapeutic questions, I find that whether in my former role as an MP or current practice as a psychotherapist questions serve a useful function for determining truth. Would you like to know more about how I practice REBT in this regard?


If you’re looking for a provider who works to help you understand how thinking impacts physical, mental, emotional, and behavioral elements of your life—helping you to sharpen your critical thinking skills, I invite you to reach out today by using the contact widget on my website.


As a psychotherapist, I’m pleased to help people with an assortment of issues ranging from anger (hostility, rage, and aggression) to relational issues, adjustment matters, trauma experience, justice involvement, attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder, anxiety and depression, and other mood or personality-related matters.


At Hollings Therapy, LLC, serving all of Texas, I aim to treat clients with dignity and respect while offering a multi-lensed approach to the practice of psychotherapy and life coaching. My mission includes: Prioritizing the cognitive and emotive needs of clients, an overall reduction in client suffering, and supporting sustainable growth for the clients I serve. Rather than simply helping you to feel better, I want to help you get better!



Deric Hollings, LPC, LCSW





Ann, T. S. (2024, January 18). Error 404: What it is, what it impacts, and how to fix it. Semrush. Retrieved from

Dryden, W. and Neenan, M. (2003). The REBT Therapist’s Pocket Companion. Albert Ellis Institute. ISBN 0-917476-26-3. Library of Congress Control Number: 20031044378

Hollings, D. (n.d.). Blog – Categories: Disputation. Hollings Therapy, LLC. Retrieved from

Hollings, D. (2022, March 15). Disclaimer. Hollings Therapy, LLC. Retrieved from

Hollings, D. (2023, September 8). Fair use. Hollings Therapy, LLC. Retrieved from

Hollings, D. (2023, October 12). Get better. Hollings Therapy, LLC. Retrieved from

Hollings, D. (n.d.). Hollings Therapy, LLC [Official website]. Hollings Therapy, LLC. Retrieved from

Hollings, D. (2023, May 18). Irrational beliefs. Hollings Therapy, LLC. Retrieved from

Hollings, D. (2023, September 19). Life coaching. Hollings Therapy, LLC. Retrieved from

Hollings, D. (2023, April 24). On truth. Hollings Therapy, LLC. Retrieved from

Hollings, D. (2022, March 25). Rational emotive behavior therapy (REBT). Hollings Therapy, LLC. Retrieved from

Hollings, D. (2022, November 1). Self-disturbance. Hollings Therapy, LLC. Retrieved from

Hollings, D. (2022, October 7). Should, must, and ought. Hollings Therapy, LLC. Retrieved from

Hollings, D. (2022, July 11). Unconditional acceptance. Hollings Therapy, LLC. Retrieved from

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