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Provocative Therapy

Provocative therapy uses an alternative approach to psychotherapy. The therapist takes a devil’s advocate role, defending the negative aspects of a client’s life.

They agree with and encourage the continuation of the negative behaviour patterns and potentially defeatist perceptions of the client. The method is practiced with good humour and utilises irony, exaggeration and self-depreciation in an effort to change the client’s mind-set.


The technique was conceived by Frank Farrelly. He began looking at new approaches to psychotherapy that could treat patients who were resistant to conventional forms of therapy. He gave a number of demonstrations of his theories, most notably at a 1978 conference at Temple University, where he attracted the attention of Richard Bandler and John Grinder. They applied their findings to the development of Neurolinguistic Programming.


Provocative counselling was radical for its time. The therapist encourages the client to defend themselves and affirm their self-worth by the use of reverse-psychology.

The therapeutic relationship is intended to be good-natured, with humour forming an important part of the process.

How can Provocative Therapy Help?

Provocative therapy can be used in conjunction with additional counselling or as a stand-alone treatment. It has been used to treat problems such as anxiety, procrastination, resentment, low self-esteem and panic disorders. Its use is becoming increasingly popular in Europe and the USA and is an effective alternative to more conventional types of therapy.

Useful Resources for Provocative Therapy

Provocative Therapy