This post is about patterns or logical bubbles in psycho therapy. As we will see there are some parallels with lateral thinking.
There are several reasons why a person attends psychotherapy. Someone may attend psychotherapy because she is suffering because she thinks herself into a situation she doesn’t want to be in. She visits a psychotherapist to get an alternative for her mental state. Or someone visits a therapist because he does something compulsively, and wants to get rid of that compulsory habit. We can represent this situation as someone being caught in a destructive thinking path, as show in the image as a road from A to B. The patient is looking for an escape to an alternative path to help them get into another thinking or behavioral habit. In the picture represented as side way C.
Some readers will recognize this as the way Edward de Bono explains main stream thinking and lateral or creative thinking. With main stream thinking we mean how humans normally and routinely make sense of, interpret, represent or model the world they experience, and to make predictions about that world (A -> B). The thinking involved with discovering new inventions, coming up with new ideas and concepts and non-obvious alternatives need breaking away from standard thinking patterns (A -> C)
An assumption in psychotherapy is that the therapist has to diagnose the patient before a treatment plan can be made. In order to do that the therapist will delve into patient’s past, his problems, how he solved them, and how he digests uncomfortable feelings and emotions. Psychotherapists must be ood active listener: re-stating or paraphrasing what they have heard in their own words, encouraging the patient to express feelings, showing complete understanding and empathy.The therapist is responsible for a solution. That solution is per definition outside the standard thinking or behavioral patterns of the patient, so a big challenge is the acceptation of therapist’s solution by the patient. If he doesn’t do that, the therapist is not professional enough. This phenomenon is called psychological resistance in which patients either directly or indirectly oppose changing their behavior or refuse to discuss, remember, or think about presumably clinically relevant experiences.
Everyone who ever ventilated a breakthrough idea – an idea outside accepted thinking – will recognize this mechanism. It is rejection and you will have to come up with a better idea, That is why much therapy processes takes years. The patient refuses to alter his thinking, so the therapist is forced to make a better diagnose. Both patient as therapist are caught in a perpetual pattern in which the patient does not want to leave his comfort zone, a behavioral state within he operates in an anxiety-neutral condition, using a limited set of behaviors to deliver a steady level of performance, usually without a sense of risk.
Does this remind you of a situation in which you do want to come up with fresh ideas, and you are trying and trying, erring in circles with no results? You are still in main-stream thinking (A->B).
An alternative to classical psycho therapy is Provocative Therapy, invented by Frank Farrelly which advocates radical (and sometimes humorous therapeutic moves intended to jolt the client out of his current mindset.
That is exactly what lateral thinking also is about. To escape from taken for granted thinking to alternative perceptions by deliberately setting up Provocations.
Imagine, someone tells you that she is depressed. Normally you would comfort her, you would do your best to cheer her up, give her a fresh look on the situation or just show empathy. But what if you respond that she is absolutely right and perhaps still far too cheerful? What would happen?
Regarding Jeffrey Wijnberg there are some rules that form the basis of Provocative Psycho Therapy. As you will notice, these are radical different as what therapists usually do:
- The therapist gets an equal speaking time as the client;
- The therapy starts immediately as the patient enters the clinic;
- The therapist uses deliberately no structure during the talks;
- The therapist never use hands solutions;
- The therapist tries to get in the “laughing state”as soon and well as possible;
- The therapist don’t prepare the sessions, but transfers that task to the client;
- The therapist uses a (played) pessimistic attitude;
- The therapist understands little or nothing of the deeper meanings of what the client tells him;
- The therapist is paradoxical in his communication: non-verbal he is signalling warmth, passion, empathy) but verbally he is critical, provocative (doubt, challenging, incomprehension);
- The therapist says whatever comes to him.
Please note, it is vital to create a “safe container” when using Provocative Therapy. The work is carried out in an environment designed to be positive, there is a regard for the client and a belief in their capacity for change.
3 Replies to “I Am a Depressive Character – You’re Absolutely Right”
Very focussed and thought-provoking essay. Therapists should spend less time digging and more time provoking clients out of their rut.