How to start your arse contd ...
What appears to be a real favourite is to paint larger than life canvasses of the client, in whatever obnoxious position he has them and their issue, complete with props, costumes and backdrops, such that one can vividly picture the client in their (un)happy state. Remarkably, everyone laughs, including the client. He takes them far more seriously than they are comfortable with. But that is his aim. To take them so seriously that they become uncomfortable with the picture he paints of them-much like an Escher print (see right), their problem sometimes distorted, fish-eyed, with a beginning that's difficult to distinguish from the end. Either way, its clear: The client does not want his portrait of their issues. And that's the energy he wants to harness for change.
In one module, he described and mimed three ways the alcoholic mother of a client could deal with the sperm of her lover whilst giving him a blow-job-spit it out, mouth it or swallow it-to raucous laughter from the audience, hands clutched to the mouths of the more prudish, knees jammed up under chins. Most notably, though, the client was also laughing. In this case, the 36 year-old woman began by saying she'd just managed to stop mothering, looking after and pampering her alcoholic mother. Farrelly assumed the mother had a long line of lovers who supported her drinking and launched into what appeared a well rehearsed and oft repeated tirade of the virtues of not giving up the role, pleading "Stay, stay, stay."
His message is rather simple in its essence: "Do more of that, think more of that and feel more of that." (See also his two central hypotheses below). And so he proceeded with the blowjob motions of the alcoholic mother. Three ways that women who need money to finance their boozing swallow cum. Sick! I was shocked- by him and my own Edwardian prudishness. Over and over I thought, he's wearing no clothes, the client can't possibly be feeling respected, empathically 'held', safe. He even did the hand-job-mouth-back-and-forth motions-his cheeks puffing out. And all this at age 73!
That's Frank Farrelly flavour.
But then, as many reported in the feedback, he wraps you in a kind of bubble. He throws a net of caring over a client in such a way that one doesn't feel threatened. This remains consistently difficult for outsiders to see.
At the end of the session, when his accomplice calls 'time', he does what all good therapists do. He ties together the loose ends of the client's story. He binds his stories and those of the client into one big picture. And strangely enough, the answer to his standard, somewhat narcissistic, end-of-module question "So what are your reactions too me?" tend consistently to elicit something positive from clients. Some verbatim examples I encountered are these:
• "I feel comfortable, nicely confused";
• "Something is happening";
• "I feel warm and fine"; and
• "It had an effect on me".
• His most negative comment at the end of a module was: "Well, that was certainly different from the usual stuff you hear from therapists!"
Although I left his chair as uncomfortable as I was on settling into it, and can by no means say that I felt in any way "helped" by what he said, I would be lying if I said nothing changed for me on account of my encounter with Farrelly. Some things have certainly changed, maybe moved 15° from their previous orientation.
Maybe Frank Farrelly was for me a bit like what the Titanic was for Edwardian morals. It flavoured up my pedagogical exchanges, took that bad stuff out of defences (in the good old Freudian sense). I've found it works wonders with "resistance" and adds humour to an otherwise drab therapy practice - it certainly adds some "vuma" to my therapy. Dr. Noni Höffner, the founder of the German Institute of Provocative Therapy and organizer of the seminar claims it's the best antidote to burnout for therapists. And I believe her.
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