Trent Codd: Socrates and CBT

Socratic Questioning for Therapists and Counselors

R. Trent Codd, III, Ed.S., is the Executive Director of CBT Counseling Centers, a multi-disciplinary practice specializing in evidence-based mental health care with several locations across North Carolina. Trent completed his graduate work at the University of Florida and has extensive post-graduate training in several empirically-supported treatments. He is a Fellow of the Academy of Cognitive and Behavioral Therapies and a Board Certified Behavior Analyst.

Trent has authored and co-authored several peer reviewed publications and books including Socratic Questioning for Therapists and Counselors: Learn How to Think and Intervene like a Cognitive Behavior Therapist. He can be found online at trentcodd.com.

How did you become interested in cognitive-behavioural therapy?

I developed a strong interest in behaviorism as a young graduate student, which led me to the writings of B.F. Skinner and other behaviorists. Consuming this literature led to my developing, among other things, a strong appreciation for philosophy. I am a psychotherapist and early in my clinical training the confluence of my interests in psychotherapy, behaviorism, and philosophy resulted in an admiration of the clinical applications of behavioral psychology.

Since most of the applied behavior analytic literature focused on the problems experienced by individuals with developmental disabilities, the literature pertaining to clinical problems seen in the psychotherapy clinic was immature. This is still the case today. Consequently, I gravitated to the Cognitive-Behavioral Therapies where I encountered the writings of Aaron Beck and Albert Ellis, both of whom articulated the Stoic underpinnings of their psychotherapies. This literature is where I first contacted Stoicism. Subsequently, I became particularly interested in Socratic dialogue because it was so central to Beck’s Cognitive Therapy. I was also influenced by Massimo Pigliucci and Donald Robertson’s work on Stoicism.

It is important to take the time to determine which ideas are truly problematic…

Trent Codd

What’s the most important concept or idea that you teach people?

The most important concept that I teach people is that of identifying truly meaningful targets. By this I mean it is important to take the time to determine which ideas are truly problematic and play a central role in a client’s maladaptive emotional and behavioral patterns; it is easy for a clinician to be distracted by a range of problematic thoughts reported by a client that on their face appear to be clinically significant. This may lead to premature and ineffective intervention. For example, many troubling thoughts reported by a client are fleeting and will resolve given the simple passage of time.

Furthermore, not all ideas contribute equally to the distress a client experiences. A more sophisticated clinical approach is characterized by a clinician who is patient and resists the temptation to intervene until they are confident they have identified a thought or belief, in collaboration with the client, that truly matters to the difficulty of interest. That is, they have identified a clinically meaningful cognitive target. Analogously, an individual working with their distressing thoughts on their own would similarly be wise to learn to identify the key ideas that are central to their challenges.

What do you think is the most important piece of practical advice that we can derive from your work?

Don’t believe everything you think. This phrase did not originate with me, but I think it perfectly captures the essence of the most important advice I have to offer.

Do you have a favorite quote that you use?

The only true wisdom is in knowing you know nothing.


The modern version –

If I know anything, it is that I don’t know everything and neither does anyone else

M.P. Lynch

What advice would you give someone who wanted to learn more about what you do?

I would recommend pursuing reading in the area, such as our book Socratic Questioning for Therapists and Counselors. I would also recommend pursuing experiential learning methods. One option in this regard is the workbook Mind over Mood.

I would also consider working with a good cognitive-behavioral therapist who is skillful in these methods. An effective way to identify this type of clinician is the international therapist listing maintained by the Academy of Cognitive and Behavioral Therapies.

Suppose you were able to give a talk or workshop at the original location of Plato’s Academy. How would you feel about that?

An opportunity such as this would be an absolute honor.

What do you think?