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A-1150 WIEN, Eduard Sueß-Gasse 10               Tel.: (+43-1-) 985 95 66    Fax: 982 48

Paradoxical Intention is no symptom prescription. A letter (1986)

E.Thomas Dowd, Ph.D., Director

Counseling Psychology Training

University of Nebraska

116 Bancroft Hall

USA-Lincoln, NE 68588-0345

Vienna, March 29, 1986

         Dear Dr. Dowd:

thank you for your letter of February 10, 1986, which I am able to answer only now due to many external circumstances. I want to apologize for that.

The way you have incorporated my suggestions is very helpful for the reader for clarifying. I wrote the letter after many in­structions I had the chance to learn directly from V.E.Frankl (thanks the fact that we work very closely together since a couple of years). Thus I find it correct that you referred the source to a "personal communication from Dr. Frankl".

If it is still possible at this time to change one little thing, than I would suggest to omitt the last sentence of page 19A: "Paradoxical Intention thus attacks directly the fear of contami­nation." The sentence brings, as I see it, nothing new, and might be misunderstandable.

You initiated a  very interesting discussion in your letter, about the distinction of Paradoxical Intention and Symptom Prescription.

By stating that "symptom prescription as currently practiced also involves prescribing actual behavior..." you already made clear another striking difference between these two techniques. Para­doxical Intention (PI) is a technique restricted to the coping of expectancy anxiety. PI cannot be used for prescribing any beha­vior. From this it can be seen that symptom prescription, as com-pared with PI, also has a certain manipulative quality.

You invited me to give my opinion about an example of two sib­lings "who  fight continously". A symptom scheduling would pre­scribe them to "fight even more, or longer, or for a certain period each day". You continue in your letter that in this event "the symptom and the object of that symptom are functionally identical. In my example the symptom and the object are both fighting behavior." Thus you hold that PI is a special case of symptom prescription, restricted for cases involving fear.

Going into this I have first to ask, if it is legitimate to speak of "symptom prescription" in this case? Is it fighting a "symptom"? A symptom of what then? The term is engendering an underlying dis­ease. Shouldn`t we make a difference between symptom and behavior? (Figh­


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