The Revolution of Corrective Counseling

[Editor: This is one of the last pieces of my father’s writings]
[Editor: HyperLinks added]
[Pillars of Madness]

This revolution revealed to those who cared to look that every successful method of corrective counseling owed its success, not to the factor guessed at by its inventor, but to the unintentional “prescription of the symptom.” Logical investigation of successful methods invariably led to the same conclusion: each useful method in its own way entails “symptom prescription” as practiced by Milton Erickson. It was clear to those who studied Erickson’s method of encouraging clients to practice their symptoms under his supervision that Rogers’s reflection, Kelly’s role assignment, Stampfl’s implosion, Wolpe’s reciprocal inhibition, Ellis’s insane sentencing, Moreno’s role directing, Adler’s logical consequences, Berne’s permission, Glasser’s bite-sized assignments, Skinner’s rewards, Eglash’s restitution, and even Freud’s free association, each contained an inadvertent ingredient of symptom prescription.

The word ‘symptom’ takes on a special meaning in the context of social field theory. Physical disabilities are said to be “diagnosed” if and when their physical “symptoms” are detected. Distracting tactics are “diagnosed,” which is to say inferred, when their disconcerting symptoms are detected, the diagnostic task being that of determining what distracting tactics an “identified patient”—a client—is deploying when under threat of being found out as unworthy of care. Each client has a repertoire of distracting tactics for self defense—

▪ Idealists depersonalize self [flutter, swoon, sunder, sacrifice] to gain alienation
▪ Guardians demobilize self [complain, dawdle, moan, sigh] to gain exemption
▪ Artisans beguile self [defile, deprive, risk, disgrace] to gain deception
▪ Rationals besiege self [repeat, horrify, avoid, blank] to gain cancellation

It’s not too difficult to tell the difference between these tactics. Once we determine which is being deployed, then we can take over that tactic by prescribing it. So instead of prescribing the symptom prescribe the tactic.

But with a twist. Just as our clients must continue to twist family conventions, so must we encourage them to do so, not for their covert objective, but for our overt objective. Also, and equally imperative, not involuntarily. but deliberately.

The crux of the matter, then, is to take over purposeless-spontaneous behavior and reframe it into purposeful-deliberate behavior. But why? What is gained by this takeover and reframing of our client’s distracting tactics? The reason is that deploying tactics deliberately and purposefully cannot be in the service of the hidden aim of shame concealment, cannot, that is, serve as a defense. Nor can our clients’ claim that they can’t help doing what we told them to do. After all they agreed to and were therefore obligated to continue twisting whatever family convention they were in the habit of twisting. When a distracting tactic doesn’t work it is simply forgotten. That is, if it does not provoke a negative response on the part of family members, then it is of no further use. If using the label affixed to them by an official as a substitute for a confession to their hidden offense—unworthiness—no longer affords them an excuse to put off facing the tasks of living (no excuse needed since they’re required to act that way), then repeating the confession is no longer of any use to them. Both tactics, provocative twisting and substitute confessing, have been co-opted and thereby rendered useless.

Now, this is not to say that tactical takeovers and reframing are easy to do. They are not, even after long practice and careful redesign of takeover and reframing procedures. Moreover, we cannot rest our case with having taken over our client’s distracting tactics. Something else must be done, especially in severe and enduring cases. What that is, is that we must arrange for our clients to make a positive contribution somewhere in their own social field, a contribution that can serve as a platform, however narrow, from whence to start building positive self-regard, remembering as we should that it is negative self-regard that got our clients into a demoralized state in the first place.

Milton Erickson, William Glasser, and George Kelly, each in his own way, developed methods for encouraging clients to take small steps toward doing something worthwhile, such as to gradually make them worthwhile in their own eyes. To acquire this sort of technology the reader is advised to study the methods these men have devised, especially those found in the case reports of Milton Erickson.

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About Keirsey

Dr. David Mark Keirsey is a scientist that is interested in how and why the world works. The first half of his professional career was as a Computer Scientist, specializing in Artificial Intelligence. Notably, he was part of a team who created the software for the first operation of an autonomous cross-country robotic vehicle. In the current latter part of his career, he has broaden his interest to include all of science, mathematics, computation, and the history and future of the world. His plan is to write at least three books, two of which are tentatively called Mathematics Itself and Existence Itself. The third is a book on Leadership. Currently he is part of a web-based company, Keirsey.com to develop interactive team and human personality tools based on his father's best-selling work on human temperament. He is a Architect Rational in temperament.
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4 Responses to The Revolution of Corrective Counseling

  1. David Keirsey says:

    Reblogged this on Please Understand Me and commented:

    It is a slow idea, someday it will catch on. Meanwhile, good luck for those in the grip of psychiatry and the DSM V, … DSM IV…

    • INFP physician says:

      Professor Keirsey was a dedicated and brilliant healer and teacher and you are creating much value for teaching this work. The level of insight is terrific, yet made accessible and useful by intentional simplicity. Lives are made better and collective understanding and reasonable action increase because of your effort, David. Thank you!

  2. kkeane29 says:

    Hi David,
    Thanks for continuing to post your father’s writing. It’s always so interesting!
    I noticed he mentioned William Glasser, whose books I just recently started reading.
    Ironically, a turning point in my life was reading PUM I in 1989, which my parish priest recommended. He was giving a parent orientation for our kids’ upcoming education prior to receiving First Communion, and he mentioned your father’s book. I stayed after to talk to him, and he lent me his copy. I couldn’t believe what I read. I eventually bought my own, returned the priest’s, and bought all your father’s books since. In fact, even though for me this is a “hobby,” as I am not a professional in the field , I attended the Certification in 2007 and met you, your father, and Edward Kim.
    Last year I talked to a different priest about a personal problem and he recommended William Glasser’s books. He gave me a small booklet to read as an intro first to see if I wanted to continue reading. He said “you’re the first person I ever lent this to…” Anyway, life goes on and I keep learning thanks to people like you and your father!! 🙂
    Kathy Keane (INFP)

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