Discussing expectational sets in therapy with Frank Farrelly

Discussing expectational sets in therapy with Frank Farrelly

“What we see depends mainly on what we look for”
John Lubbock

NICK:   I thought it might be interesting to talk about expectational sets in client sessions, especially when things don’t go to plan…
A
Frank FarrellyFRANK:   Every time people talk about clients, well I talked about the book, The Anatomy of Psychotherapy Systems Communication and Expectation by Leonard and Bernstein.  Not Leonard Bernstein, Leonard and Bernstein.  It’s funny, I think they were related to the conductor/composer kind of thing, but anyway  … this woman … whenever people bring this topic up, I think of this woman who came to see me and she said ‘They say you’re a hypnotist’.  I said ‘Yeah, well, whatever’ and she said ‘What, are you going to hypnotise me’?  I said ‘I don’t know, depends’ and she said ‘Well, if you hypnotise me what are you going to do’? and I said ‘Whatever I want’!  And she goes ‘Urgh’.  And then she started …. and I burst out laughing and stuff like that she said ‘Well they say when you’re hypnotised you won’t do anything, you know, that you wouldn’t normally do’.  I said ‘Do you have a dirty mind’?  She said ‘Well, I mean of course I have’.  So I said ‘See there, so that’s no reassurance for a woman like you’.  I mean just bang.  We were just off to the races before they ever sounded the gun you know.  So communicational expectations and stuff like this.  And people have got a freight load of these things you know.  Then another thing.  I was coming to Europe and somebody called me and wanted to see me.  I said ‘I’m going to Europe and don’t have time to see you’.  They said ‘Well would you have time for 1 session’?  I said ‘Well yeah’ but I mean ….  They said ‘I understand that you work so fast that a lot of times that’s all it takes.  1 session from you is equal to 10 from someone else’.  I said ‘Well I don’t know where you heard that but, alright if you want to come’ and I did see him and he said it was very helpful and when was I coming back.  I told him and he said ‘Ok if I still have trouble you know will you ….’ And I said ‘Pay now’ and stuff like this.  He said ‘If I still have trouble can I come back and see you’? and I said ‘Yeah bring money’ you know.  He said ‘If I need you, I’ll call you’.  I said ‘Ok’.  I didn’t hear from him again and maybe that was the end of it.  We got a lot work done in that 1 session.  So again some people think it’s going to take years and years you know.  Therapists say this sort of stuff ‘Well it took you a long time to get this way and it’s going to take you a long time to un-get this way’.  What a …  Jesus.  Well maybe the way they go about it.  We’re going to have to …..  I tell people that this is what Freud, he was a pioneer, and when he was doing his work the rage for everybody was archaeology and they discovered Troy sometime around this kind of time. So they think ‘wow’ the thing to do is to dig deeper, and what do you hear from psychoanalytical oriented ….?  Dig deeper.  Dig deeper.  They are so hooked into this anti-theological, dig deeper we’re searching for Troy in your mind, that you think God, what’s wrong is wrong now.  It may have been going around and around and around for decades in your head, but its amazing how quickly you can clear up peoples stuff, well as you know from your work.
A
NICK:   One of the things, when I was writing  for my  Provocative Therapy Website, one of the things I wanted to make very clear was that, from my experience of watching you work, and from seeing and having interviewed hundreds of people myself, that there is a very different emphasis in that it is exactly about what’s happening here and now, and not when you were 10 years old did you run off into the forest with your rabbit and this kind of stuff.  And not analysing all past events, but really responding very much with what’s happening in the session.  What I found hugely reassuring and refreshing, is that you’re just working in the moment.  And I was interested, I mean, having originally trained as Karl Rodgers, that must be a pretty big shift in terms of, from a therapist’s expectation of working and operating from, how you started out.
A
Frank FarrellyFRANK:   Well yeah I mean when I first got a guru as a psychoanalyst priest, or something, but yeah he would talk about every child thinks it was adopted.  I had never heard that.  I said ‘Are you sure’?  He said ‘Yeah’.  Finally I decided you know, not within the week or so, that I never once thought that I was adopted, no, no, no.  I am number 9 of 12 kids, in a family of 12 you know, and on the nuttiest day of their lives my parents never went out in 1931 to adopt one other kid in the depths of the depression.  I mean they miss the cultural, ergonomic, you know, birth father all this kind of stuff, they just blithely ignore it.  I think boy not me.  Whatever they write about parents and children, its mother and child, fathers are just kind of blithely ignored.  Serious famous research, 722 parents and stuff da, da, da, which therapists and clinicians refer to a lot, not one father in the whole assembly, not one father, by God my father was not overlooked.  He was an Irish patriarch.  So the familiar consolations and the number of kids are so vastly different.   I was giving a talk to a University in Philadelphia and it was called Analysing the Analyst and Badler and Grinder came from the West Coast to model on it.  Me and then Dr Spurge in English who was a grand psychiatrist, a grand old man of psychiatry, great guy, just great guy, anyway but, what was I going to say.   I was talking to this group of 40/50 psychoanalysts, physicians, psychoanalytical therapists and psychologists and all sorts and they say that every child develops a complex.  I said not me, I was standing too far back in the line.  A couple of people went mmmm.  They get real.  Seriously My God Almighty, you know, angry, da, da, da.  So one by one, I had to unlearn a lot of the …..  Then there are 3 parts to everybody.  Ego, Super Ego and It.  Only 3.  My God what I have going on inside me, since I was a little boy, there was a lot more than 3.  Jesus help me.  Any rate.  I forget what the hell you just said that go me off on that!  But oh yeah to un-learn that kind of stuff and then also with clients, I just adored Karl Rodgers, what a man.  He was always very kind to me and stuff like that  and one night I called him, he was still in Madison, and said ‘da da da, I got this thing and da, da, da’ and I told him about this interview I was that damn excited I was flying off the ground, and he started laughing and said ‘Frank this sounds like an Irish stew’ and I said ‘Yeah it’s more than just 1 thing, 2 things, 3 things.  There’s a hell of a lot more wrapped up in this’.  And then the laughter and imagery and I said ‘I was just any damn image that came to mind, I just gave it to this guy and any rate boy did he start, I mean, chronic schizophrenics don’t sit on the edge of their chairs and look at you and gesturing and getting beet red with embarrassment, bursting all out.  Whatever the hell is going on.  They say chronic schizophrenia.  After 6 interviews he got up and got out.  You know.  Out of the nut bin, the acorn academy.  That’s another I learnt.  I learnt very very rapidly, was that to talk the patients language you know, not this polished terminology with Latin and Grecian which therapists like to talk and utilize it because it makes them sound more professional and scientific and blah, blah, blah.  People don’t talk this way, at least not normals you know.
A
NICK:   What did Karl Rodgers make of what you told him because that must be quite a big difference to his … what he really started out with his approach.
A
FRANK:   Yeah, yeah.  Well. We had administrated medians of the group research thing he was doing each week and then we’d have clinical meetings and stuff like that.  And I said I don’t want to become a mid-wife which was an image he utilised and I don’t want to be a horticulturist which is another image he used.  I said ‘I want to pry about the deep answers of whatever the hell and then I want to penetrate through to the core of these schizophrenics and inject some life into them’ (with those gestures) and he said ‘Frank you’re so phallic’.  But I did want to inject some life into them.  I mean working with schizophrenics, you don’t know what slow motion is.  And even Karl talked about glacier slowness.  Well my God when I discovered I’d broken through this new therapy, I didn’t even have a name for it, but boy I tell you a lit a fire under some asses and they started movement and the thoughts started coming out and even their rate of speech and choice of words and imagery and this kind of stuff.  They’re bursting out laughing.  So there were a lot of very specific behavioural changes that took place.  I knew I was on to something, I just knew it.  I could smell it, taste it, see it, hear it, feel it.  You know.  And I wasn’t composing a response.  I talked to people all over the world and I owe a real debt of gratitude to the client centring group and Karl of course.  They were so helpful and so supportive and they listened and stuff like that and then they looked at the results and they played tapes and stuff like that.  Yeah yeah.
frank farrelly
A
NICK:    What’s interesting for me is from having …
A
FRANK:   Karl was very tolerant. Very tolerant. As a matter of fact there was a group of clinicians that came up from Chicago and one of the radars told me he heard Karl tell them if I were a young man entering the field of psychotherapy today, I would be progressing along the lines that Frank Farrelly is doing therapy.  And I couldn’t believe it.  I didn’t think that’s what he said.  I didn’t miss hear him.  I’m not making up words or giving some inadequate distorted summary.  That’s what he said!  And I don’t have any hearing difficulties.  That’s it.  Ok when somebody gets pissed off that much, you can sort of begin to trust him!  And yeah, that’s another thing.  In our regular speech and this kind of stuff we take ‘How do you establish rapport?  How do you know to trust someone’?   Well they got pissed off enough.  My brother-in-law said one more word from me and he was going to beat the shit out of me.  So I mean right away I could trust him you know, this type of thing.  And it’s not just oozing empathy from every pore.  That just doesn’t necessarily work with sociopaths and murderers and rapists and child fiddlers like I did, from the Wisconsin Central State Hospital for the Criminally Insane.  I got a bunch of those.  Anyway they, just thinking empathy, oozing empathy, worked and I prize your work and dignity.  You’re either queer or you’re some clinician with a weak sister.  So a lot of times when some of these clinicians think they’re communicating.  The message sent is not necessarily the message received.  Communication theory one on one.  Excuse me, I interrupted you.
A
NICK:   I was going to say from my point of view, I never did client centred therapy, from an NLP perspective when we first met in May 2004, in Bournemouth, to start with I didn’t know what to make of it.  I just felt this whole approach seems completely nuts in a kind of nice way, but it doesn’t seem to make any sense.
A
FRANK:   That’s what I thought.  This is nuts.  It’s not making any sense.  But by God, the stuff coming out of the patients …..
A
Here and NowNICK:   The main thing for me, well there are a couple of things that I found that made a big, big, difference.  Right from the start, I’ll always remember one phrase, because I was writing up the whole workshop on an evening, so I really wanted to get my thoughts down, and one you would say was ‘Haul it up that flagpole and see if they salute’, which has really resonated.  And also you’re working with what’s there.  You’re not bringing a whole stack of theoretical ideas, techniques, this whether you like it or not, or it’s relevant or not, we’re going to do this or that’.  That has made for me, personally, a huge difference it terms of accelerating good outcomes with clients and this is across a big range of behaviours you know.    Things which people come along with …. I had a lady who had OCD for 24 years, and within an hour (Obsessive Compulsive Disorder) her whole way of maintaining that state had pretty much started to disappear.  By the second interview it’s not even there.  Her psychotherapist is saying ‘What happened’?  Because they have analysed every tiny little nuance to the ength degree and of course it’s clear from having an insight into your work, that that’s pretty much the polar opposite of what provocative therapy does.
A

FRANK:    Exactly.  Well for a lot people, therapists and clinicians, would say ‘Well it’s plugged into health’.  Symptom substitution and they’re just going to develop an even worse blah, blah, blah.  And I say How about this.  She’s being going around and around like a broken record and after several decades of this, client’s, patients, patients families, spouses, brothers, sisters, father, mother, wives, husbands, children, co-workers, they just can’t wait for change.  So the patient is ready for change, like 98% ready for change, and the matrix of their significant others, all important people in their lives, they’re ready for the person to change.  They’re sick and tired of this crap, you know.  And so if the person changes, people say ‘Flied into health’.  Flied into health my ass.  They were ready.  I mean they were way beyond ready.  They’d been ready you know.  Jesus. God Almighty.  By their approach you shall know them, the man said.  Carpenter once said that.  And you don’t gather figs from thistles you know.  So when you get changed behaviour and changed ideational patterns and change … and this stuff is spontaneous and coming out quickly too it’s not this paper thin sounding made up kind of …  Insight and stuff like that.  I have gotten so many people who have been to a dozen different therapists, a dozen different therapists.

A

I had this one woman in New York and she said after the first session, I can’t believe my ears.  Do you actually help people by talking to them this way.  I said ‘Help.  Who the fuck’s talking about help.  I mean you know, talking you can get help, but help is harder to come by.  Phrase patterns kind of stuff, because I had all these Jewish graduates in New York (Yawk).  Anyway I said talking you can get but the help is harder to come by which is proved by the 12 dried out husks of therapists that you’ve left in your wake.  She was like … I pictured her as a blood sucking, what are these things that suck out the juices of some insects … just leave the dried husk.  But boy did she change.  She changed.  Jesus H Christ boy.  And people get into patterns you know.  Patterns of having to … they are so sick and tired of having to … when I see someone who is a certified government inspected loser, clinical failure case, I mean it’s … ‘I don’t know what to do with her will can have her’? and I said ‘Sure, bring the body in as long as it’s still warm we can do therapy with it’.  This one psychiatrist he burst out laughing he said ‘God Frank.  Thank God for you’.  But this woman.  She had 25 suicidal attempts.  I mean you could hear the death rattle in her throat kind of stuff and her family had to run around to every … She’d go these motels you know, and sign herself in, and then take all these different kinds of drugs and stuff to say goodbye cruel world kind of thing.  And they would find her.  They had these pictures and they got this thing down to a t.

She may have used this, this and this.  Idiocies and everything.  Ah well that’s Mrs Spencer she’s in room 6 you know.  Open it.  No she’s very very suicidal.  Call the ambulance.  25 of these then I get her.  I started to talk to her and said ‘Why don’t we talk about his because maybe 26 you get really lucky because I’m not chasing your ass all over the city looking.  You die, you die, ok.  You can have your family doing that stuff but not me.  So we talked about all kinds of stuff.  How her ex-husband got her to suck horse’s cock as he had horses and stuff like that.  Oh boy I’ll tell you, that was something else I’ll tell you.  The lurid stories, anyway.  When is a person ready to change?  After they’ve warn out their family, therapist, etc, and sometimes they’ll do the changes over there.  Not going to do them here.  They’ll do them over there.  I told her, I said, maybe next time you’ll be successful and you’ll find people coming over and saying ‘Come on dear we’re going to work on some of the things that Frank was trying to help you with’.  And this one scientist, she had a … longer than your arm and she would carry around 2 poisons in her purse.  One was a dozen times more powerful to kill any person and number two was much more powerful.  100 times the lethal dose .  100 times.  I mean she enough poison to kill a herd of elephants.  And she was a kind of petite thing.  My colleague said ‘Get that poison away from her’ and I said ‘Why, she could get 200 times by lunch tomorrow’.  I don’t know what the fuck.  I talked with this one guy and he said ‘I see what you’re thinking.  You’re thinking that that’s the wholly biotical last rites of church and the priest who gives you you know.  My brother did this for people.  I had 2 brothers who were priests.  Poison is the wholly biotic for a bunch of sceptics and words against atheists.  I don’t believe in any of that superstition shit but I got my poison here to help me off the planet here.
 frank farrelly
A
NICK:   I have my own theory but I mean I’m curious to know your take on this.  What sort of people does it really take to become provocative therapists?  Because I’ve seen, we were in Munich earlier in the year, and I got to talk to Nonie extensively.  Our takes are very similar.  So I am just interested because we’ve got DIP in Germany   Association of Provocative Therapy in the UK.  But what sort of people just go, like I did, oh my God what is this, from your experiences?
A

FRANK:   The quickest person to ever learn provocative therapy was a student nurse.  And she came in to me when I was a social worker and I would talk about the patients, the families and all this kind of stuff da da da.  Then I got to talking about if you didn’t have your nursing supervisor looking over your shoulder and filling up your diary on this patient, what would you like to say to them?  Boy you should have heard the stuff coming out.  I said ‘What would your supervisor say if she could her what your saying now’?  She said ‘God, I’d be kicked out of the class’ etc, etc.  So I said ‘Why don’t you tell the patient this’.  She was a cute little thing and stuff like this.  Anyway I said after she’d had the interview with them to come in and talk to me again.  She came in and I was in stitches and I said ‘Yeah well thanks a lot nurse.  I wouldn’t have worked my balls off for 5 years to find you, diddy-bop in here in 15 minutes and get it.  God this is depressing’.  And she said ‘Oh Frank don’t get so upset about it, if it makes you feel any better this is the way we think and talk in my family so you know I’ve been studying this for 19 years’.  Thank you nurse it helps.  It did.  They think this way, they talk this way.  Things don’t have to move in steps, digital, sequential movements you know to get from a to b to c to d and then arrive at e.  Fuck it.  Just boing boing.  The human mind works like this a lot of times, I mean, not certain people who have got a mind like a constricted anal sphinture, but the rest of us, our minds works like this.  You can call it increased association of ideas and difficulty in reaching and all this other kind of thing.  Oh god, you know.  Some sweet Jesus.  You know sometimes this aarrgghh this tight, digital, sequential, logical, rational, data, problem solving.

A

Frank and NickI find that very constricting and stuff like this.  Landing in an aeroplane, and my niece is flying these like gasoline stations in the sky, and she’s not in it, she’s piloting it.  I call her the general.  I guess she’s captain or something like that.  What a girl.  Just a petite little something.  She had us in stitches telling us about survival in the desert when her compatriot or someone had died.  They were supposed to go kill a snake, chew its’ head off or something like that and spit its’ head off and eat this raw snake meat.  They’d been out there a week with nothing, just a knife and they learnt how to make fire and stuff like that and roast the snake.  Wow, whoopee doo.  And how to cut the pulp out of some certain kind of cacti and chew and suck on this stuff to get some liquid.  Oh my God.  Anyway she knows how to do digital, sequential and stuff like that, but she also had us in stitches talking about experiences she had and all that kind of stuff.  Captain Jennifer Farrelly, what a girl.  Any rate.  People who can be spontaneous, who can have some respect or who can acknowledge others.  And who could listen to other people and who could have a sense of fun and a sense of humour.  And who believe like the Chinese proverb says ‘Gaiety is wiser than wisdom’ and ‘Laughter is the sound of victory’ etc.  And who can see the comic side of things and the sad, tragic side of things.  Because you know there’s that too.

A

Any rate in Berlin they were saying ‘Could you tell us, 78 Germans, and this one guy who was a psychiatrist asked if he could stand up and I said no he could sit down but they said let him stand because we can hear him much better, not just talking into the hair. So he would say ‘Frank could you give us the pre-requisite of a person who would make a good provocative therapist’ and I said ‘Yes’.  He said ‘Yes’?  And I said ‘Oh you want me to do it? Alright number 1 (hold up the right index finger) to begin with it helps to be born Irish.  They all tilted to the right or left of me.  And I thought of that student nurse, because her ability to just play with words.  That words are fun to play with and you can, and we did this on her family, if you said something that was a turn of speech, or a comparison or mispronounce something and it was funny, pretty soon you were being quoted all over the family and other people.  Then they would forget who said it and it just became part of the family.  So it’s playing with words, having a sense of humour, being able to play with your own thoughts and feelings, being able to easily share your thoughts and feelings and there are a number of other factors.  I haven’t gone down and made a list in rank order and stuff like this.  I don’t know.  When it happens it happens.

A
NICK:   I think a lot of people who I’ve seen who demonstrate to your approach really well, interestingly don’t often take themselves too seriously.
A
FRANK:   There you go.
A

Copyright in all mediums Nick Kemp 2016