The Association for Provocative Therapy providing Resources, Training, Interviews and Products supporting the Provocative Therapy Community

Association for Provocative Therapy Training Frank Farrelly
Join The Association for Provocative Therapy on Facebook

The Association for Provocative Therapy providing Resources, Training, Interviews and Products supporting the international Provocative Therapy Community.

The Association for Provocative Therapy (AFPT) promotes the standards, professionalism and good practice in Provocative Therapy and is supported by Nick Kemp and Dr. E. Noni Höefner who are co-directors.

Our vision is to collectively make a positive difference to society by encouraging international Provocative Therapists & Provocative Therapy Trainers to deliver PT in a professional, responsible and congruent manner. AFTP recognises Frank Farrelly as the sole creator of the field of Provocative Therapy and recommends those trainings which are personally endorsed by him and his acknowledged trainers/coaches in the field of PT. All international AFPT members agree to adhere to the AFPT professional code of ethics.

We created The Association for Provocative Therapy to promote the highest standards in Provocative Therapy which recognises Frank Farrelly as the sole creator for the field of PT. Provocative Therapy has been described as 'sophisticated simplicity' and in our view is an extraordinary approach for producing therapeutic change. When you are thinking about training in Provocative Therapy make sure that it's an AFPT endorsed course so you learn Provocative Therapy as intended by its creator Frank Farrelly. This site contains articles, interviews, video clips and a schedule of approved AFPT trainings. Also ensure that you check out our Provocative Websites: Dr. E. Noni Höefner's website in Germany - and Nick Kemp's website in Great Britain

"I am Frank Farrelly the creator of Provocative Therapy July 7th 1963 and the author of the book “Provocative Therapy” by Frank Farrelly and Jeff Brandsma. I have known Nick Kemp since 2004 and can confirm that he has the necessary skills to see clients as a Provocative Therapist, and to instruct others in my work. I have regular consultations with Nick, discussing numerous client conditions and case studies. I support Nick Kemp in the setting up of the Association of Provocative Therapy, in the U.K., to promote ethical standards in practice."
Frank Farrelly

The Association for Provocative Therapy Membership

Association for Provocative Therapy Logo Approved AFPT members may use the AFPT logo in their literature and advertising. When used on internet web-pages, the logo for AFPT must include a hyperlink to the website There are 2 levels of membership, associate membership and full membership.
For membership details please contact us.

Latest Provocative Therapy News


Provocative Therapy is named from the latin-provocare-to “call forth from” and is effective in its ability to call forth new and useful behaviors from clients who have previously exhibited negative behaviors and beliefs. Provocative Therapy works with the client within their bio-psychosocial world to assist them to develop more effective behaviors and strategies.

 Originally developed in 1963 by Frank Farrelly while working with chronic schizophrenics, the techniques used in Provocative Therapy, with its sensory rich language, are applicable to the full range of client issues, groups and family work .

 Historical Context

 Trained as a master’s level social worker in 1956, Frank Farrelly, the founder of Provocative therapy, worked with Carl Rogers for many years at Mendota Mental Health Insititute, Madison, Wisconsin, and was a therapist on Rogers’ research project with chronic schizophrenics

He took part in therapy listening sessions where client interviews were taped and presented for discussion in weekly meetings with colleagues. In 1963 he began to develop Provocative Therapy. He found that by confronting his own feelings in response to a client, and being emotionally honest, he could build trust very effectively and rapidly. The level of honesty, self awareness and flexibility required of the provocative therapist in an interview may be quite challenging for an aspiring provocative therapist to achieve, and supervision is required during this process.

Provocative Therapy was eventually used in individual therapy, group therapy, family therapy, and within the therapeutic community work at Mendota.

Farrelly subsequently became a Clinical Professor in the School of Social Work at the University of Wisconsin and Assistant Clinical Professor in the Department of Psychiatry at the University of Wisconsin. In the 1970s he was one of the individuals that Richard Bandler and John Grinder modeled when they were developing Neuro-Linguistic Programming. He also worked in private practice and gave seminars and lectures around the world until his death in 2013. Provocative Therapy continues today, and provocative techniques have also been subsequently incorporated by his students into Provocative Coaching, as well as into Nick Kemp’s Provocative Change Works.

Theoretical Underpinnings

Provocative Therapy shares many of the existential-humanistic theories, in that it assumes that people can change at any point in their lives, and that choices people make impact on others and society. Additionally it embraces post-modern beliefs in the importance of understanding the nature of communication and language, and that solutions can be found relatively quickly. Given these theoretical underpinnings, 12 assumptions that drive the theory include:

1. Growth occurs in response to challenge. If a challenge is not overwhelming, a “fight” rather than “flight” response is stimulated, and people develop coping strategies and new and useful behaviors. Farrelly would say “when the pain begins the learning starts.”

2 .People can make major change in their lives, and maintain this, regardless of the duration or degree of the problem state.

3. Change doesn’t have to take a long time.

4. If individuals receive useful feedback they can make changes themselves.

5. Clients need to recognize the choices they make impact on society and take responsibility for their behaviors. As Farrelly would say, ”some people need boundaries taking out, and some people need boundaries putting in”.

6. People are treated as they are subjectively perceived.

7. Therapists have the responsibility to have their client hear feedback given to them, and to have their clients act on this feedback, by taking responsibility for their actions, and developing their own solutions to their problems.

8. People have more ability than is generally assumed, and can develop new coping strategies and useful behaviors.

9 All experiences, including those in adulthood, are very important for the change process, and growth can occur at any point in a person’s life

10. The client’s behavior with the therapist is a good approximation of their habitual behavior.

11. Non verbal communication is significant; it’s not what is said but how it is said.

12. People can be understood

 Major concepts

 Most of the major concepts are incorporated in the twelve assumptions, listed under “theoretical underpinnings,” and the techniques that follow. In general, the approach tends to focus on demonstrating acceptance of the client non-verbally, and producing change in the client with appropriate provocation and humor.


Although many techniques from person centered counseling, and other humanistic and post modern therapies can be used, some techniques specific to Provocative Therapy include talking as if talking to an old friend, use of sensory rich language, use of non verbal communication to demonstrate acceptance, use of humor, playing devil’s advocate, and being in charge.


Talking as if talking to an old friend.

The therapist talks to the client as if they are talking to an old friend, with a twinkle in the eye and affection in the heart, putting aside their professional dignity on behalf of the client. In addition the therapist uses the language of the client, in the present, and avoids professional jargon.


Use of sensory rich language and non verbal demonstration of acceptance

Using sensory rich, varied language, with metaphors and story-telling, verbal and non verbal responses, the therapist gets the attention of the client, and conveys their reactions effectively to, and on behalf of, the client, demonstrating their acceptance of the client non verbally.

This enables the client to confront their issues not avoid them.


Use of humor

Humor, exaggeration, and mimicking are used to lampoon the problem, not the client.

Humor is a key tool to assist the client to make insights and increase their understanding in an acceptable non overwhelming fashion.


Playing devil’s advocate

The therapist plays devil’s advocate on behalf of the client’s problem thus provoking the client to “do the work” and take responsibility for themselves.


Being in charge

The therapist uses all these devices to remain in control of the interaction, responding to what comes back from the client, rather than letting the client control the interview and avoid change.

Therapeutic Process-

 Provocative therapy has 4 stages, the duration of therapy being 20-25 sessions on average, but can range from 2 through 200 sessions. The stages include:-


1)Assisting clients to confront their issues,

2) having clients acknowledge that change is required by themselves,

3)assisting clients in clarifying their self image and the development of adaptive behaviors, and

4) consolidation and integration of new behaviors.



 See also:

Existential-humanistic therapies: overview; Person Centered Therapy; Solution Focused Therapy


Further Readings


1.Brandsma ,J. and Farrelly,F. Provocative Therapy Shields Publishing Co., Fort Collins, Colorado 1974

2.Rogers, C.R.(1951)” Client Centered Therapy” Boston, MA: Houghton-Mifflin

3.Freud,S.,(1928)”Humor.”International Journal of Psychoanalysis. 9:1-6




 Nick Frank


View news archive...