So ‘speech and confidence’ is simple enough, but what’s this ‘provocative’ all about?

Frank Farrelly and me, struggling to stay focused

Frank Farrelly and me, struggling to stay focused

Provocative Therapy

Provocative Therapy is a style of psychotherapy that uses humour and storytelling to test beliefs and explore taboos, to poke at the tender bits, and challenge people to assert themselves. Rather than taking the view that people are damaged and need to be coddled, it seeks to push them and exercise their resilience. Something remarkable happens when we laugh, and Provocative seeks to harness it.

It was developed by the late Frank Farrelly. He was a brilliant and cranky old bastard that found success dealing with mental patients by treating them like humans, taking the piss out of them like a good mate might, and encouraging them to laugh at their problems.

It’s about noticing people, as they are, warts and all, and reflecting that to them so they can gain an understanding about how the world sees them. The therapist plays the devil’s advocate, and finds funny ways to voice a patient’s own darkest fears and insecurities. The patient hears their horrible thoughts spoken out loud, and while laughing, they argue against them – which is a powerful experience. It finally gives them a voice to say “I can do it!”, rather than listening to other people say that, and arguing with them.

His style can be challenging (particularly for the therapist), but it is very effective.

Provocative Style

I have come to see being Provocative as a way of being, for life.

Being Provocative with people often encourages them to be Provocative in return. They’ll bite back – and that is liberating. You feel freed to be you, to step outside the bounds of social conformity, and express yourself exactly as you’ve always wanted to. It’s fun, a little bit flirtatious, and an enriching experience for everyone who experiences it (even the people just watching you). It’s addictive and contagious.

The Provocative Style also offers some interesting possibilities for dealing with certain games people play – to fish for compliments, play the victim, or perpetually ask for advice (and not follow it). By reflecting these behaviours, and refusing to engage, or making light of the situation, you can set your ‘Rules of Engagement’, and develop rich and meaningful relationships with the people in your life, deliberately, with love and good humour.

So I’ve called it Provocative Style. I employ this style in all of my workshops, coaching sessions, and almost every interaction I have in my life. Provocative Style is a way of building relationships filled with love, honest feedback, and loads of laughter.

More on Provocative:

A great interview with Sue Knight, from whom I learned Provocative:

And Frank talking about some of the core tenets of Provocative. This has many layers, I’ll discuss it in more details in a post soon: