What is Provocative Therapy?

A brief form of psychotherapy which combines reverse psychology and warm-hearted humour to remarkable clinical effect.

Provocative Therapy is not about telling jokes or making people laugh in order to make them feel better. It is the cutting edge of the use of humour and reverse psychology in psychotherapy. Patients are catalysed into stating, owning and enacting the solutions to their problems. It can also be used as a method of achieving peak performance and has applications in sports and business, where it is sometimes termed ‘Provocative Coaching’.

Provocative Therapy FAQs

A: Provocative Therapy is the clinically responsible use of reverse psychology and humorous insights in brief psychotherapy.
A: The client is ‘provoked’ with reverse psychology and humour into locating, articulating and enacting the solution to his/her problem. Provocative Therapists believe that the answer to your problems is already within you but you may have problems locating it. Or you may be fully conscious of the solution but not been able to implement it. Provocative Therapy acts as a powerful stimulus to get you to kick start yourself into action.
A: Provocative Therapy uses a number of carefully designed clinical tools to mirror back to you some of the absurdity of the way you are not dealing with the problem right now. People don’t like being told what to do. So when a doctor tells them that they must continue doing exactly what they have been doing before (Provocative Therapy Tool: What’s wrong with that?) or that they should actually step up the behaviour that is doing them no good at all (Provocative Therapy Tool: Do more of the same!) they tend to insist they have to change and quickly say what changes they have to make, own those changes and enact them in their lives. The following diagram shows the dynamic of this process.
mirrored pattern interruption

A: Not at all. This is because it is the client’s behaviour, and not the client that is being lampooned by any of the 30 or more tools of Provocative Therapy. The client himself or herself always feels warmly supported in the process. This is why it’s so powerful. You will feel a wave of support and care for yourself when undergoing Provocative Therapy but the reverse psychology will make you aware of how ridiculous some of your behavioural patterns are. When your see this (and many clients laugh when they do) it becomes natural to drop that behavioural pattern.
A: Although I’ve seen clients respond dramatically to a single session of Provocative Therapy, I recommend a course of 4 sessions. In my experience, many issues can be sorted out in this amount of sessions. The majority of my clients come for this course of 4 sessions and then come back for the odd session when they feel they need a ‘booster’.
However there are cases that need more regular sessions and I do have clients who come for weekly counselling or Client Centred Therapy. However this is counselling with a difference: I have permission to use Provocative Therapy whenever I think it appropriate.
A: No it is not. People may have problems that are due to physical problems such as diabetes and hypothyroidism. As a doctor, I would consider it highly inappropriate to ‘provoke’ such people and would instead ensure that they receive the correct medical treatment. There are also cases of very severe depression and psychosis that are not suitable for Provocative Therapy but I have often been amazed at the wide range of problems that do respond well to Provocative Therapy. It can also act in a complementary way to other forms of psychotherapy and psychiatry including the use of medications.
A: The word ‘provoke’ in colloquial use tends to mean ‘incite to anger’ However the actual meaning is derived from the Latin: pro vocare which literally means ‘to call forth’ That is exactly what Provocative Therapy tries to do – to ‘call forth’ the true solution to your problems. And that solution invariably lies within you and not within any grand map of the human condition understood by therapists but not their patients. In Provocative Therapy you will be ‘provoked’ or (catalysed, initiated, gently pushed etc.) into verbalisng, owning and enacting the inner solution to your problems – which we believe was always in you to begin with.
A: Yes, but only with your explicit permission. In a typical 4 session course I like to put the first 2 sessions on audiotape and the 3rd one on videotape. These are purely for your benefit. When you hear how you sound (and later see what you look like) when attempting to justify the very behaviour you want to change or try to defend that behaviour against the lampooning process of Provocative Therapy, it can add a great deal to the provocative process. Many patients watch their DVD several time and say that it acts a bit like another session of Provocative Therapy. This is bad for business but good for patients ;-)
A: You certainly can if you want to. It has helped some patients to share the sessions with family or close friends. They all tend to laugh empathically at key moments and the DVD tends to generate really productive conversations at home. Still, most patients tend to keep their DVDs to themselves.
A: For security reasons I choose to delete the tape as soon as I’ve confirmed that you have received your copy.
A: Not at all. Most provocative therapists do not routinely record their sessions and still get excellent results.
Q: How long has Provocative Therapy been around?
A: He was seeing an inmate of Mendota State Institute (psychiatric hospital) who had been there for a long time. This was the 92nd interview between Frank and this particular patient and no progress had been made at all Suddenly Farrelly said: ‘Okay, I agree with you – there is no solution to your problem.’ This was the one thing the patient did not want to hear and he began to insist there had to be a solution. Farrelly, amazed at the determination suddenly expressed by the patient, continued the process and said that they had explored everything and from now on he was going to agree that ‘nothing could be done’. The patient insisted something could be done, said what it was, did it and was soon discharged from the hospital – never to return. This is how the first tool of Provocative Therapy was born –There is no solution to your problem! Farrelly went on to design at least 20 more such tools including Do more of the same! Play the Blame Game and What’s wrong with that? all of which use clinical reverse psychology to provoke you into solving your own problems.
A: No it definitely is not. The object is not to make you laugh but to provoke you to change your life for the better as soon as possible. Some patients/clients may be stunned into silence by the process but still derive the full benefit of the process. A few may even cry a little as they see how they have sabotaged their own chances of happiness – and then express a strong desire to change. But yes, the great majority of people find the whole process very amusing and energising. But this does not make it laughter therapy. Laughter therapy uses anything it can to get you to laugh because it recognises the health benefits of laughter (http://www.drkaplan.co.uk/humour-and-health.htm) This will certainly make you feel better for a while but it won’t provoke you to come up with the solution to your problems. Still that’s a lot better than taking psychiatric drugs.
A: I’m sure you can. My first question to you will be: ‘What do you want?’ You don’t have to have a problem to answer that! Here is a small sample of the many ‘issues’ that I love to treat that are not exactly considered to be ‘psychological problems’:

  • I can’t find a boyfriend; all the good men are married.
    • Provocative Therapy has helped a lot of women with this one and I consider a result as finding a boyfriend/husband – not feeling better about not having one!
  • I can’t find a girlfriend or even get laid.
    • Again very good results with this one. This is a problem that really does respond to the mirrored pattern interruption of Provocative Therapy (link to diagram)
  • I need more money.
    • Financial issues are not necessarily considered things to take to psychotherapy but they certainly are a major cause of stress and decreased enjoyment of life. Some financial hardships cannot be avoided but many are caused by aberrant forms of behaviour such as gambling and ‘retail therapy’. Provocative Therapy works well with such problems and can also help provoke successful people become much more successful.
  • I want to: lose weight, stop drinking, stop taking drugs etc.

Provocative Therapy has been successful in dealing with difficult problems such as alcoholism, drug addiction and anorexia nervosa. Of course a full medical assessment needs to be made and not every case will be considered suitable for Provocative Therapy. Nevertheless a lot of people with these problems respond to the dynamic nature of Provocative Therapy especially those who tend to view some of the other approaches to these problems as somewhat condescending or prescriptive.

A: It certainly is. In fact most parents are very familiar with the use of reverse psychology in their families. Kids also don’t like being told what to do so when a friendly provocative therapist tells them that bad results at school are not ‘really a problem for them because nobody expects them to do much better’ they get the message loud and clear and determine to prove the therapist wrong! This is very simple but it in practice it works incredibly well.
A: I want to be able to find a girlfriend, boyfriend, partner, lover, wife, husband.
My results with this problem (which is not considered a medical problem or one that you would take to psychotherapy) have been very gratifying. Loneliness is one of the world’s most painful ‘dis-eases’. And yet in the vast majority of cases it can actually be ‘cured’. So many people find themselves trapped in ridiculous behavioural patterns that make it impossible for themselves to find a mate. To see people stand up in Provocative Therapy sessions, assert new patterns of behaviour and then see them carry that determination into their lives and go out into the world and create a healthy relationship is one of the most gratifying things I’ve seen in over a quarter of a century in medical practice.
A: In my experience, a course of 4 sessions of Provocative Therapy acts extremely quickly and produces results that are durable and long lasting. Some patients require the odd ‘booster session’ but this may only be needed some months (or even years) after the course.


Provocative Therapy Appointments

Sessions of Provocative Therapy tend to be energizing, enjoyable and effective. It is quite reasonable to book a single session to see if this approach is for you.

Sometimes one session is all you need and a short course of four sessions is Dr Kaplan’s standard course of Provocative Therapy for many problems.

Most patients do the four-session course and then book in for a ‘booster’ session whenever they feel they need one.

Make an appointment to see Dr. Kaplan

Phone: +44 (207) 487 3416
(8.30am – 6.00pm Monday to Friday)

86 Harley Street

NOTE: If you would like to ask Dr. Kaplan a few questions before making an appointment, please feel free to leave a message for him on 07956 870 951 and he will get back to you as soon as possible.