Examples of paradoxical interventions that clarify the unique way of causing change:
Pointing to the solution by avoiding pain where the pain is “built in” anyway:
Customer: I have been a heavy smoker for 10 years. I know it’s not healthy and I want to stop the dependence on cigarettes. I tried to quit several times but it was for short. I do not know whether to stop immediately or reduce smoking gradually?
A “reasonable” comment: Good to hear you’ve decided to stop smoking. I think it is not so important how to do it, what matters is that you decided to stop and gave yourself a time limit to finish.
Strategic response: I can understand your concerns to stop smoking despite the damaging impact. What you can do, first of all, is to try and understand how smoking is functional or not functional for you. To do this I can offer you to choose one day where you smoke one cigarette every hour whether you need or not. By doing so you can identify when you smoke from a real need or you will find out sometimes quite stupid when you smoke. That way you can find less dependence on smoking. Incidentally, how many cigarettes do you smoke a day, 20? 40?
Here you can identify a pattern of trying to resolve the problem without pain when there is a particular pain in the coping process. For example, smoking, or other addicts, who want to quit the abuse, they hope for a “miracle” and weaned immediately. As a result, they do not work hard!
In terms of response, the “rational” way repeats what the client is already doing; he tells himself he must stop doing something he did not want to continue.
The paradoxical response is different: the therapist refers to the idea of lack of control of the client that says he wants to stop smoking. The therapist offers a “designed” process that demands smoking also at times not needed. Smoking in this way the client can find out that he does something he does not really need and thereby get a more controlled avoidance and ability to demonstrate self-control.
A similar situation can be identified in people who use drugs or sleep pills so they can not get rid of them. However, it is important to mention when it comes to drugs not to demand to take them every hour! In the case of sleeping or relief medications the therapist can instruct the client to stop using them for a week. The therapist should emphasize to the client that he knows it will be a very difficult task to the customer, during the week, and that difficulty may be reflected by a lack of sleep, restlessness and fatigue.
The first way the customer is trying to solve the problem of lack of sleep or restlessness by doing an effort to sleep or relax. He tries to be intentionally spontaneous! The second way the therapist guides the client to do an effort not to sleep or to remain calm for a week. All that can come with the argument “wrapped” well by the therapist. As a therapist, it is important to act according to the condition of the client with taking into account the influence of not taking medication.
Both solutions, that were brought by the customers, are not only an indication of what constitutes the problem but also determine the positions from which the therapist should avoid or, if necessary, decide to take the opposite position. Else – so, if the therapist can feel how the customer sees the nature of his problem – his “language” – he can decide how to display the directions so the client will be ready to accept them by meanings of his language.