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Nick Kemp Explains: What is Provocative Therapy?

Nick Kemp Explains Provocative Therapy

Frank Farrelly the creator of Provocative Therapy describes Provocative Therapy in the following way

"Provocative Therapy is a system of psychotherapy in which the therapist plays the devil's advocate, siding with the negative half of the client's ambivalence toward his life's goals, his relationships, work and the structures within which he lives.

The therapist also plays the Satanic role by facetiously agreeing with the doom and gloom feelings and expectations of the client, and "tempting" him to continue his "sinning," his self-defeating attitudes and behavioural patterns.

The purpose of this therapy is to change the client. One of the therapist's main tools to implement this change is warm-hearted humour in its varied forms -- exaggeration, irony, self-deprecation, Daliesque absurdities, etc.

With a twinkle in his eye, a smile playing about his lips, and genially employing the style of affectionate banter between friends, the therapist uses humour both to sensitize and desensitize the client to problematic cognitive, affective, and behavioural patterns. This is the key to Provocative Therapy -- humour. Jocular, whimsical, caring, supportive humour.

The root meaning of provocative is pro + vocare, to "call out", and there are five different types of behaviours that are "called out" in the client in this approach. Every single interview with every single client does not elicit all five of these, but each interview with each client demonstrates at least some of these five.

The client, then, is provoked by the therapist to:

1.Affirm his self-worth, both verbally and behaviourally.

2.Assert himself appropriately both in task performances and relationships.

3.Defend himself realistically.

4.Engage in psycho-social reality testing and learn the necessary discriminations to respond adaptively. Global perceptions lead to global, stereotyped responses; differentiated perceptions lead to adaptive responses.

5.Engage in risk-taking behaviours in personal relationships, especially communicating affection and vulnerability to significant others with immediacy as they are authentically experienced by the client. The most difficult words in relationships are often "I want you, I miss you, I care about you" -- to commit oneself to others."

I first came across Frank's work in early 2000 and read his original classic book of the same name, first published in the early 1970s. However it was not until 2004 that I first met Frank and was immediately convinced that I was in the presence of one of the all time greatest communicators. We subsequently became firm friends and for the next four years I literally immersed myself in learning about this approach having attended numerous events in both the UK and Europe, writing articles for numerous magazines, recording all of Frank's events in audio and video formats which were the first ever released commercially available Provocative Therapy material in the public domain.

In 2006 I began to set up online resources for Provocative Therapy including and in 2008 with Frank's approval I set up The Association for Provocative Therapy (AFPT) to promote standards and trainings in Provocative Therapy.

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