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On the last track we discussed continued our discussion on effective response styles by focusing on the technique of clouding the critic. Our discussion included three different methods of clouding. These three methods are agreeing in part, agreeing in probability, and agreeing in principle.
On this track we will finish our discussion of effective response styles by discussing probing. We will discuss key words, a list of don’ts and techniques for probing the nagger. I find these three Cognitive Behavior Therapy techniques to be especially beneficial when working with a teen or adult client who has been abused, with self esteem issues.
Because much criticism is vague, probing is a way for clients like Maria to verify whether or not a particular criticism is meant to be constructive. I stated to Maria, “Probing, in addition to verifying any possible constructive intent behind the criticism, is also a productive way to begin to assert yourself to a critic.” In previous meetings with Maria, I found that much of the criticism she endured came from her husband and affected her because her mother was verbally abusive. Therefore, I wanted to provide her with tools she could use to clarify the critic’s intent.
For example, when Maria had explained how her husband told her that she let him down, Maria learned that she could clarify his intent by asking, “How exactly have I let you down?” Other probing questions Maria brainstormed where, “What specifically bothers you about the way I drive?” and, “Can you give me an example of my carelessness?”
A List of Don’ts
CBT Technique: Probing The Nagger
I stated, “It’s helpful to keep asking the nagger for examples of the behavior change he wants you to make. Insist that your husband’s complaint be put in the form of a request for a change in your behavior. Lead your critic away from abstract and pejorative terms.” For example, in role playing a recent criticism from her husband, Maria played his part and I played hers. Maria stated, “You’re lazy.” Using probing, I responded by asking, “Lazy how, exactly?” Maria stated, “You just sit around.” I asked, “What do you want me to do?” As her husband, Maria stated, “Stop being such a slug.”
At this point, Maria stopped and asked, “How in the hell was I supposed to respond to that? I felt like slapping him!” How might you have responded to Maria? I stated, “I’m certain it was frustrating to have to internalize a comment like that. One way to respond could have been to probe by stating, ‘No, really. I want to know what you’d like me to do.” Back in role play once more, Maria stated, “Well, do the dishes for one thing.” I stated, “And what else?” Maria stated, “How about stop staring at the tube all day?” I stated, “No, that’s what you don’t want me to do. What actual things do you want me to do instead?”
As Maria learned, this probing approach influences the nagger to move beyond name-calling and vague complaining toward some real requests that the client can consider seriously. Do you agree that probing can direct focus away from the recitation of past sins and toward the future, where the possibility for real change exists?
Finally, I explained to Maria that probing is most useful as an interim tactic. I stated, “Probing just clears up your understanding of the critic’s intent. Once you have that clarification, you still have to choose whether to acknowledge the criticism or to use one of the forms of clouding." Can your client, like Maria, benefit from probing or the other effective response styles on these last three tracks?
On this track we discussed probing. We discussed key words, a list of don’ts and CBT techniques for probing the nagger.
On the next track we will discuss obstacles to change manifested as habit and reflex. We will also discuss a technique called The Howitzer Mantras.
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