Open or Closed – that is the Question?

Taking notes concept illustration Free Vector

Open questioning and closed questioning can be useful in therapy, particularly CBT, because it can give us facts about the client and allow the client to explore in more depth. Mostly open ended questions are used during formulation or assessment process in therapy to allow the therapist to collect as much detail as they can about the client while in the early stages. But sometimes a closed question is needed to find a clear answer. Closed questions are those that have short, often one word answers such as yes, no, last week, tomorrow, mother, father etc or maths type questions such as what is 2+2? Open questions allow the client or answerer to go into depth/detail about the information being sought. They can explore a memory or past event in their own words and give as many details as they like.

Below I have listed 15 questions I would most likely use in a formulation session with a client. They are mostly open ended questions to allow me to find out details about the clients past and experiences so that the client and I can build a clear and detailed picture of the issues bringing the client to therapy and the type of outcome the client would like.

  1. What issues have caused you to seek therapy?
  2. Have you had therapy before, what type was it and did you find it helpful?
  3. When did you first notice this issue? Or How long have you felt like this?
  4. Can you remember if that was the first time you felt like this? Can you describe the event you just recalled?
  5. What events or actions cause you to feel like this?
  6. How is this issue been impacting on your life?
  7. How does this issue make you feel?
  8. What do you do when you feel like this?
  9. Why don’t you like that behaviour/feeling?
  10. Where does this happen – work, home, friends, family, relationships, gym etc
  11. What part of the behaviour/issue do you want to change?
  12. How would you like to feel?
  13. Do you have any specific goals you would like to achieve?
  14. If you can wake up and the issue/problem had gone what would have changed?
  15. Are there any other issues impacting on this issue?

Overall these are the main 15 question I would use during a formulation with a client, mostly they are open questions allowing the clients to explore and understand their life in detail and make links to actions and events. These will help me create a therapy plan with the client and use the correct therapeutic techniques to aid the client to the best of my therapeutic skills and abilities. So if your counsellor seems to ask a lot of questions in an initial assessment this could be why.

If you’d like some face to face counselling in the Stoke-on-Trent, Newcastle-under-Lyme or Staffordshire area please do contact Wright Minds at or on 07598810304