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Be provocative!

By on February 27, 2015

Provocative therapy was developed by Frank Farrelly. It involves ‘taking the side of’ the problem, and encouraging the client to argue against you. But how does it work? A recent study by Emily Falk of Penn U and her colleagues gives us a clue as to the answer.

Before we discuss that study, perhaps we should explain little more about what Provocative Therapy is and how it is used. As we mentioned, the therapist or coach will take on the part of the problem or the part of the client that is responsible for the problem. so for example coach might say:

” Wow it’s really great that you have that fear, it’s really doing a lot for you, and you should be afraid more often!” is really important to realize that, when you’re employing provocative therapy, you need to adopt a certain mindset and attitude of playfulness. If you come across as being all serious, you’re simply confuse the client and you could even make things worse. when you come across as being playful you give the client the opportunity to argue against you, so they might say something like, ” No, I really want to change”. You as a coach can then continue to ‘support’ the problem, and the ‘benefits’ that the problem is providing to the client.

to take an even more extreme case, the coach might say something like, ” What’s your star sign?”, and on learning that the client is a Taurus exclaims, “Ah,well that explains it. All Taurii have the same issue, there’s nothing you can do about it unless you prevent to change your birth sign”. The client, of course, will argue that that’s ridiculous and that they fully intend to change.

So how does this all work? Well the research study we mentioned earlier indicates that when someone is informed that their opinion is incorrect, and told what they should be thinking or doing instead, there is a natural resistance to those new ideas. The level of resistance varies from individual to individual of course, in NLP we refer to this as being ‘internally framed’ (if you trust your own opinion more than others) or ‘externally framed’ (if you need to be told what to do or validated by other people). In extreme cases we might say somebody is a ‘polarity responder’, meaning that you automatically disagree with everybody else around you! This is all probably pretty obvious, and what you would expect.

The interesting results of the study indicate that when someone is asked to persuade somebody else of a new belief, or the benefits of a new behavior, even if they don’t believe that or agree with that themselves when they start, they typically end up convincing themselves of the truth of their argument, even though they didn’t believe it to begin with!

In the study, a sample group was asked to explain the benefits of new healthy behaviors to somebody else. Getting people to change that behavior is for health reasons can be surprisingly difficult, as anyone who works with smokers to quit will know! What the researchers found was that the sample group who had been asked to explain the benefits of the changes in behavior to somebody else were more likely to change their own behavior than those who had simply being lectured about the benefits of the change. Explaining the change was more effective than listening to the changes explained!

In Provocative Therapy the client is forced to defend the reasons they want to change to the coach or therapist. This is much more likely to set a positive frame for the change work than if the coach or therapist tries to convince the clients that they should change. Here is the research:

How to open up the mind to change and avoid a defensive reaction. A very simple exercise self-affirmation can open up peoples minds to behaviour change, a new study finds. When given advice about how to change, people are often automatically defensive, trying to justify their current behaviour. How To Open Up People’s Minds to Change

Picture courtesy of imagery majestic and

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