Saturday, January 29, 2011

People’s expectations

I had another person ask me the other day about this video that I have on my YouTube. Why did I do it, how I did it?

The glasses, the solarized effect and the apparently odd manner of my presentation on a serious topic like panic attacks. People apparently who know me or have seen my work as a psychologist in some way expect a video presentation of a more ‘professional’ style. So I get asked why did I do it like that? To which I answer, there is an old rule of psychotherapy - don’t give people what they expect. Its really a rule of human communication in general - don’t give people what they expect.

After they hear this explanation they seem to be satisfied because no more is said or asked by them. This has struck me as a bit odd because my answer I think begs another question - why not?

Why not give people what they expect?

Girl dog

If anyone ever asked me this I am not sure what I would answer. My first thought is that it would depend on the situation where the unexpected communication occurred. In psychotherapy I think it certainly has its place. If a client comes to therapy they will have an expectation of what is going to happen what they will say, what I will say and so forth.

If they leave with what they expected then the session was OK to average, to not much good. If the person gets what they did not expect in the session then it is much more likely that the session was more effective. Of course not every session a client attends can provide some kind of profound epiphany. But in the overall approach there needs to be at times unexpected communications by the therapist.

This will stop the therapy becoming routine. In one way psychotherapy is about unbalancing the client or putting them in a state of disequilibrium. They enter therapy with a psyche or psychological makeup that is a functional whole. That functional whole may be causing them pain but it still is a functional whole. If therapy can destabilise that functional system then the parts of that system are more able to be rearranged such that a new structure is obtained. That new structure can then lead to less pain being experienced by the individual. It seems reasonable to conclude that if the client gets something they did not expect then that will have a destabilised effect.

Riot man

Society is like personality. Revolution destabilzes it. Once done then change is more likely to occur. Psychotherapy can be seen as creating a revolution in the personality.

Another reason is something far less ethereal and recondite. It gets the Free Child of the client into the room and that is something you certainly want in therapy. If that video was of me standing there is psychotherapist type clothing, in a psychotherapist type manner in front of a white board with a pointer what ego states of the viewer are going to be elicited. Probably Adult with maybe some interested Child if the topic of panic attacks was of interest.

Because of my presentation I would suggest that much more Child ego state in the viewer is elicited. First they are far more likely to remember it than if it was done in the other way. As indeed would happen in a therapy session if something unexpected happened. If I can get the client’s Free Child into the communications with me that is a very good thing for a successful outcome for the session.

Tiger woman

However we now have another problem. Because I have let out one of my trade secrets people will now begin to expect the unexpected. Thus we end up back to where we were before.

However there are ways and means to deal with these things and I can’t tell all my trade secrets. Well not all at once.



  1. I have a love/hate relationship with therapy.

    I always feel in limbo for a few days afterwards and then on a different plane once I get past that.

    Yet, even though I anticipate the same thing prior to the session and thus prepare for it, I still have the same sense of having the rug pulled out from under me for a few days afterwards.

    Sometimes I hate it (and the psychologist) because of the turmoil.

    But, you know, it is good too.

  2. Me too Linda

    I am anxious the day before therapy, on the morning look forward to seeing my therapist and then in the session feel sure I am going to say oh to heck with it and throw in the towel as is seems so predictable.

    I am a control type of person and think its time for a change where someone will challenge me and not let me be the one who takes control, I want my therapist to "catch me off guard"

    I too sometimes hate my therapist.

  3. Bought the book Tony,

    Its hidden in a drawer, bit like me.

  4. Those are good comments linda, Thanks.

    I would say that what you say is a good thing and it kind of relates to what I said in the post. If therapy is a pleasant experience (most of the time) then probably not much is changing. Sometimes I have clients say to me when leaving that they don't feel any better than when they walked in. To which I say, great!

    Therapy is not meant to be a happy pill. If it becomes a feel good experience then stop going.

    Thanks again for saying your stuff about therapy and as a psychologist if I have a client tell me they hate me or are angry at me then I know that is usually a good thing


  5. Hello Anon,

    Good to hear you sometimes hate your therapist as well!

    Hope you find a way to let go of the control. It seems to take up so much energy and such a relief when it is finally let go of.

    Glad you got the book but I am not too sure why you have hidden it in the drawer?

    When you have read it if you ever write something on the internet about it remember to include the title so it shows up on google searches.

    thanks for your comments