Essential exercises for the Provocative Therapist

"When practising these exercises it is crucial for the therapists to do so with a twinkle in their eye and affection in their heart."

One way of getting into the right state is to remember a time, when you were with your best friends, laughing and enjoying their presence. See what you saw, hear what you heard and feel what you felt in this time and maintain this state throughout practising these exercises. If for any reason you slip away from this warm feeling, pause and return to this state. These exercises help in developing a greatly increased variety of responses when working with clients to ensure that the client is unable to remain in "the problem state".


1. Don’t help the client.

The therapies makes no effort to be helpful, he brings up irrelevant remarks, and wanders off onto side topics, meanders into surrealistic "dreamscapes".

2. Blame the client.

Make the client ludicrously "responsible" for everything that happened in the past, the present and the future. Give him in a ridiculously humorous way "responsibility" for all types of things (cf "carnival hall of mirrors").

3. Life is to blame for the client’s difficulties.

Everybody and everything else is responsible for what happens to the client.

4. Idiotic solutions will solve your problem.

Offer totally impossible solutions to the client how to handle his problem. The more idiotic the solution, the better. The client then makes the effort to find the answer to his problems by himself.

5. Imitate the client, mimic the client.

Imitate the client (e.g. his affect), imitate his verbal and non-verbal behavioural patterns. E.g. with the over-intellectualised client, the therapist becomes more and more abstract and increasingly difficult to understand; or e.g. with the anxious client, therapist begins to (ineptly) attempt to control his obviously increasing "panic".

6. Go back and forth.

Play ping-pong. First explain to the client that everything else and everybody else are the reasons for his disaster; then, when he agrees, you begin to explain that he himself is the culprit – then switch back.

7. Interrupt the client.

To interrupt the client is especially suitable when the client is boringly repetitious. It doesn't matter how, when or with what topic you interrupt the client.

8. What’s wrong with that? (More of the same).

The therapist show the advantages of the client’s dysfunctional behaviours and encourages the client; "Do, think, feel more of the same". In an exaggerated manner, giving crazy "proofs" and "instant research" to support this.

9. Unilateral hypothesis to explain everything idiotically.

The therapist gives only one explanation for the symptoms and problems of the client and from then on he uses everything the client says to support this hypothesis. E.g. the client says the reason for her problem is that she becomes old; from then on, the therapist interprets every client statement as evidence that she is aging rapidly.

10. Communicate about the client’s communication patterns.

E.g. Client reports in a low voice how he yells at his children. The therapist ludicrously expresses disbelief in a virtually inaudible tone of voice that the quiet-spoken gentlemanlike client could possibly yell or scream.

11. Red-green-coloured-blindness.

Find the point where the client is extremely sensitive (often body-image). When the client signals "STOP!" just keep going (i.e. approach what the client avoids).

12. Overemphasize the client’s assets to the total exclusion of his problem.

When the client has a strong asset (e.g. physical beauty), you can dismiss his problems and say "for a handsome guy like you these problems don't even count!"

13. Amuse and amaze me.

The therapist acts as if the client's task is to interest and entertain him. He shows marked boredom with the client's story, he barely suppresses yawns, and says e.g. "this problem must bore you to death", or "you can imagine how tired I get listening to this crap all the time".

14. Minimize the client’s problem.

Therapist "resign yourself to your problem, it's so common and frequent that every second person has it."

15. Maximize the client’s problem.

The therapist ineptly anticipates the catastrophic fears of the client. E.g. "what you're going through now is nothing. Just wait – the symptoms will increase." Or, the therapist, shocked, gasps "you did WHAT??!!" Or, your catastrophic fears are not so bad – just wait and see how good your wife feels when you are dead!" Etc.

16. Illustrate the impact of the person’s behaviour on others (affective, verbal etc.).

If client is aggressive and loud show that you are afraid of his threatening behaviour. If client is seductive, pretend to be overwhelmed by his/her attractiveness.

17. Ludicrously misinterpret the client's weakness and strengths.

Example: if client is timid, humorously suggest that his not responding indicates a serene calmness and self-assurance and compliment him on this.