Psychological Self-Help

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It may take only a few minutes to say, "to hell with struggling with
this problem any more" and think of ways of increasing or
exaggerating your problem. Ordinarily, the results will come in a week
or two and, occasionally, even sooner. Sometimes you will need to
read about the method and put considerable effort into producing the
unwanted habit ad nauseam. 
Common problems
This method, thus far, has almost entirely been used by therapists
with clients. In most cases, the therapist does not explain the method
to the client but instead with tongue in cheek prescribes more and
more ridiculous behavior. For example, a therapist may seriously tell a
compulsive housekeeper that cleanliness is important and perhaps she
should get up at five AM to do a couple of housecleaning chores before
breakfast, then wash and vacuum the floors every day, wax all the
wood work, and hire a cleaning person once a week to wax her floors,
take the wax off the woodwork, and clean the silverware. Furthermore,
throughout the day she should take five minutes every hour to tell
herself how important it is to everyone in the world that her house be
spotless, that her dishes sparkle, etc. Eventually, as more and more
cleaning is added to the daily schedule, the patient realizes that the
therapist is being facetious. This kind of playful teasing and ridicule
may not be possible in self-help, certainly you can't deceive yourself
about the purpose. But you can learn to laugh at yourself. 
Effectiveness, advantages and dangers
Many therapy cases have demonstrated that paradoxical methods
work, but case studies are open to a lot of misinterpretation. Frankl
(1975) also mentions that many people have simply read about
paradoxical methods in his books and applied the methods in their own
In the last ten years, more research has been done (Weeks, 1991).
One finding is that different methods are needed with resistive clients
(those who rebel against the therapist's directions). For instance, when
procrastinating students were told to "try to bring about your
procrastination deliberately," only the resistive ones procrastinated
less. The non-resisters didn't reduce their procrastination (Shoham-
Salomon, Avner, & Neeman, 1989). Paradoxical methods have been
shown to work with insomnia and maybe agoraphobia and other fears
but many studies have design faults. We need better controlled studies
and research that compares a variety of treatment methods, including
self-application or bibliotherapy. 
The greatest advantages of these methods are their simplicity and
speed (when they work). 
The greatest danger, obviously, is that trying to make the problem
worse may work. It would be foolish for a suicidal person to attempt to
make him/herself more depressed and destructive. There is no data,
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