The whole and its parts

The whole & its parts

Approaching problems

Understanding your favorite approach to solving a problem can be as simple as knowing your preferred question.

When encountering a problem, what is your preferred question?

Is it why, where, what, or how?

All four questions are powerful. And yet they can lead to very different methods.

See for example how these questions describe four different branches of psychotherapy.


Cognitive psychotherapy has the assumption that understanding the “why?” of a problem will allow to resolve our emotional and behavioral problems. It’s the approach Sigmund Freud, Alfred Adler, Carl G. Jung, and others who followed them used.


B. F. Skinner, Albert Bandura, Joseph Wolpe, and others who developed behavior therapy preferred the question “what?” They assumed that what we feel and how we behave is a result of operant conditioning. Understanding what it is would allow transforming the conditioning. By understanding what, they searched for ways enabling to change behavior by changing thinking and vice versa.


Laura Perls, Fritz Perls, and others engaged in affect therapy were focused on the question “how?” For them, awareness and expression of affect is an essential way to maintain mental health. Their work thus involved to help people become aware of how they feel internally (affect) and how to express it. They sought to change how people experience life.


Physiological therapy assumes that “where?” is an essential question. By understanding where muscular tension and physiological retroflection are located they would learn more about the ways the body uses to reduce awareness of unrequited needs and unexpressed affects. F. Matthias Alexander, Moshé Feldenkrais, Ida Rolf saw that by improving body movement they could also change a person’s psychological state.

How does your preferred question affect your work?


Share this post:

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *