Excerpt from Frank Farrelly interview 1982

The following is an excerpt from an interview Frank Farrelly did in 1982 and is part of the Frank Farrelly archive

Hello, and welcome to the Human Development Institute Series on Provocative Therapy
by Mister Frank Farrelly, originator of this unique approach to therapy.
The series you are about to begin is an important and significant event in your personal career development. For as you will soon realise, provocative therapy will have a profound effect on your personal thinking, of how therapy should be conducted.  The introductory session you are about to begin is crucial if you are going to gain the full benefit of each interview session. In this part, Frank Farrelly will outline what he feels are the essential components in provocative therapy. Finally, while the material in this series has been edited, no attempt was made to tone down the language used during the interviews. Nor was certain outside noises and other technical problems completely eliminated by editing. Any of the listeners who have had occasion to tape live unrehearsed therapy sessions, are aware of these problems.
Now, Mister Frank Farrelly, author, therapist, social worker, seminar leader, and the originator of provocative therapy.
Frank Farrelly: If I were to attempt a brief synopsis of provocative therapy, which is what I call my system. I would say that it’s playing the devil’s advocate with a patient. It’s siding with the negative half of their ambivalence towards themselves, towards significant people in their lives, towards their life goals. My basic purpose of this system, as in any other therapeutic system I think, is simply to change the client, or the patient, if you will.
That is, to change his behaviour, his feelings and his ideas, and to do this by provoking an affective experience. Not necessarily providing a theoretical explanation for his disturbance, although I will do that occasionally. I make a travesty out of that. I told one patient … She said, “Why did I become this way?” I said, “Well, you probably had crooked chromosomes to start off with. Your mother blighted your life, and your environment chewed up what was left. What the hell chance do we have of working with a nerd like you?”
My basic techniques to achieve this goal with the client, or those that precipitate and provoke an affective experience, both negative and positive. I want to get them laughing, and I want to mobilise their anger. Not just any kind of anger, we’ll go into that later. But to provoke an affective experience, both negative and positive, in the therapeutic relationship.
That is: I confront, I challenge, satirise, and mimic clients, in an effort to provoke them to do three things. Affirm themselves, both verbally and behaviorally. To assert themselves, and to defend themselves realistically, and appropriately. The last two words were obviously loaded. What do I mean by “realistically and appropriately?” We’ll go into that crap soon. Let me talk something about the beginnings of provocative therapy. In 1963, I was participating in Carl Rogers’ research project, with chronic schizophrenics at Mendota State Hospital. This incident has recently been published in a book entitled, “The Therapeutic Relationship And Its Impact,” by Carl Ransom Rogers, Eugene T. Gendlin I was a therapist in this project.
While in the 91st interview, with this particular patient, I “stumbled onto” a system of interacting with clients, which I later came to call “provocative therapy.” Up to this point in the therapeutic relationship with this client, I’d been utilising a basic client-senate approach with him, and had been essentially communicating three ideas to him.
Number one: you’re worthwhile and of value, which is certainly an attitudinal set, a value held by many therapists. Number two, the second message was that: you can change.
Number three: your whole life can be different…
Frank Farrelly


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