Eliminating Low Expectancies

In addition to changing goals, the therapist tries to eliminate patients' low expectancies of success and its analog, low freedom of movement. People may have low freedom of movement for at least three reasons.

First, they may lack the skills or information needed to successfully strive toward their goals (Rotter, 1970). With such patients, a therapist becomes a teacher, warmly and emphatically instructing them in more effective techniques for solving problems and satisfyhig needs. If a patient, for example, has difficulties hi interpersonal relationships, the therapist has an arsenal of techniques, including extinguishing inappropriate behaviors by shnply ignoring them; using the therapist-patient relationship as a model for an effective interpersonal encounter that may then generalize beyond the therapeutic situation; and advishig the patient of specific behaviors to try out in the presence of those other people who are most likely to be receptive.

A second source of low freedom of movement is faulty evaluation of the present situation. For example, an adult may lack assertiveness with her colleagues because, during childhood she was punished for competing with her siblings. This patient must learn to differentiate between past and present as well as between siblings and colleagues. The therapist's task is to help her make these distinctions and to teach her assertiveness techniques in a variety of appropriate situations.

Filially, low freedom of movement can spring from inadequate generalization. Patients often use failure in one situation as proof that they cannot be successful in other areas. Take the example of the physically feeble adolescent who, because he was unsuccessful hi sports, generalized Ins failure to nonathletic areas. His present problems come from faulty generalization, and the therapist must reinforce even small successes in social relationships, academic achievements, and other situations. The patient will eventually learn to discriminate between realistic shortcomings in one area and successful behaviors in other situations.

Although Rotter recognized that therapists should be flexible in their techniques and should utilize different approaches with different patients, he suggested several interesting techniques that he found to be effective. The first is to teach patients to look for alternative courses of action. Patients frequently complain that their spouse, parent, child or employer does not understand them, treats them unjustly, and is the source of then problems. In this situation, Rotter would simply teach the patient to change the other person's behavior. Tins change can be accomplished by examining those behaviors of the patient that typically lead to negative reactions by spouse, parent, child or employer. If the patient can find an alternative method of behaving toward important others, then those others will probably change their behavior toward the patient. Thereafter, the patient will be rewarded for behaving in a more appropriate fashion.

Rotter also suggested a technique to help patients understand other people's motives. Many patients have a suspicious or distrustful attitude toward others, believing that a spouse, teacher, or boss is intentionally and spitefully tryhig to harm them. Rotter would attempt to teach these patients to look at ways in which they may be contributing to the other person's defensive or negative behavior and to help them realize that the other person is not shnply nasty or spiteful but may be frightened or threatened by the patient.

Therapists can also help patients look at the long-range consequences of their behaviors and to understand that many maladaptive behaviors produce secondary gains that outweigh the patients' present frustration. For example, a woman may adopt the role of a helpless child in order to gam control over her husband. She complains to her therapist that she is dissatisfied with her helplessness and would like to become more independent, both for her sake and for the benefit of her husband. What she may not realize, however, is that her current helpless behavior is satisfyhig her basic need for dominance. The more helpless she acts, the more control she exercises over her husband who must respond to her helplessness. The positive reinforcement she receives from her husband's recognition is stronger than her accompanying negative feelings. In addition, she may not clearly see the long-range positive consequences of self-confidence and independence. The task of therapists is to train patients to postpone minor contemporary satisfactions for more important future ones.

Another novel technique suggested by Rotter is to have patients enter into a previously pahiful social situation, but rather than speaking as much as usual, they are asked to remain as quiet as possible and merely observe. By observing other people, the patient has a better chance of learning their motives. Patients can use that information in the future to alter then own behavior, thereby changing the reactions of others and reducing the painful effects of future encounters with those other persons.

In summary, Rotter believes that a therapist should be an active participant hi a social interaction with the patient. An effective therapist possesses the characteristics of warmth and acceptance not only because these attitudes encourage the patient to verbalize problems but also because reinforcement from a warm, accepting therapist is more effective than reinforcement from a cold, rejecthig one (Rotter, Chance, & Phares, 1972). The therapist attempts to minimize the discrepancy between need value and freedom of movement by helping patients alter their goals or by teaching effective means of obtaining those goals. Even though the therapist is an active problem solver, Rotter (1978) believes that eventually patients must learn to solve then own problems.

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