Many patients are unable to solve life's problems because they are pursuing skewed or distorted goals. The role of the therapist is to help these patients understand the faulty nature of their goals and to teach them constructive means of striving toward realistic goals. Rotter and Hochreich (1975) listed three sources of problems that follow from inappropriate goals.
First, two or more important goals may be hi conflict. For example, adolescents frequently value both independence and protection-dependency. On the one hand they wish to be free from then parents' domination and control, but on the other, they retahi then need for a nurturing person to care for them and protect them from pahiful experiences. Then ambivalent behaviors are often confusing both to themselves and to their parents, hi tins situation, the therapist may try to help adolescents see how specific behaviors are related to each of these needs and proceed to work with them hi changing the value of one or both needs. By altering need value, patients gradually beghi to behave more consistently and to experience greater freedom of movement hi obtaining their goals.
A second source of problems is a destructive goal. Some patients persistently pursue self-destructive goals that inevitably result hi failure and punishment. The job of the therapist is to pohit out the detrimental nature of this pursuit and the likelihood that it will be followed by punishment. One possible technique used by a therapist hi these cases is to positively reinforce movements away from destructive goals. Rotter, however, is both pragmatic and eclectic and is not bound to a specific set of techniques for each conceivable problem. To him, the appropriate procedure is the one that works with a given patient.
Third many people find themselves in trouble because they set then goals too high and are continually frustrated when they cannot reach or exceed them. High goals lead to failure and pahi, so histead of learning constructive means of obtaining a goal, people learn nonproductive ways of avoiding pain. For example, a person may learn to avoid pahiful experiences by physically running away or by psychologically represshig the experience. Because these techniques are successful, the person leams to use flight and repression in a variety of situations. Therapy in this case would consist of getting the patient to realistically reevaluate and lower exaggerated goals by reduchig the reinforcement value of these goals. Because high reinforcement value is often learned through generalization, the therapist would work toward teaching patients to discriminate between past legitimate values and present spurious
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