A systematic approach to psychotherapy developed by E. Lakin Phil lips, based upon the theory that neurotic tendencies can be traced to faulty assumptions and expectations.Phillips (1956) believes that the characteristic behavior of any individual can best be understood in terms of the implicit assertions he makes about the world of people and relationships. These assertions are not viewed as functions of the unconscious but as hypotheses used in meeting the situations of life. Some of them turn out well, others poorly; some lead to constructive relationships and effective action, others produce conflict and failure. The healthy individual governs his behavior by assertions that are “confirmed” by positive experiences. The neurotic, on the other hand, adopts assumptions which are “disconfirmed” by reality, but instead of discarding them as faulty he tends to repeat his behavior patterns in a circular, self-defeating manner.The therapist’s basic job is to “interfere” with what the patient is doing in order to make him aware of his faulty assumptions and teach him to “bet” on principles that have a greater probability of being confirmed. Phillips does not believe this process requires any long, complicated probing into the depths of the unconscious. Rather, he proposes a clear-cut procedure designed to rid the patient of inner tensions and outer conflicts, and to enable him to solve his own problems more satisfactorily. The following four steps show the way this procedure is applied to children’s problems:“1. Assertion. Child’s expectations are for constant attention, accord, interest; he expects to get his own way; expects to have others give in to him in the interest of his comfort and his immediate demands.“2. Disconfirmation. The school and other out-of-home environments cannot treat the child in this way; therefore they act to disconfirm the child’s expectations. These social facts conflict with the expectations themselves.“3. Tension. At school or in other atypical situations (i.e., not typically like the home setting) tensions develop from this conflict.“4. Redundancy. Child redoubles his efforts to get attention, refuses to make academic effort, becomes a behavior problem owing to tension and partly to his fighting back at disconfirming experiences. The child now falls behind in school work in real and formidable ways; this failure, in turn, becomes more disconfirming to him and his original assertions. Thus the vicious circle proceeds and until it is entered into in effective ways, it continues.”To break through this vicious circle, the therapist attempts to get the child to abandon his rigid, defensive adherence to one mode of behavior. He tries to modify his hostile or egocentric attitudes, and reduce his fear of trying alternative solutions to his problems. Then he helps the child to see that he can make his way more effectively by adopting another pattern of behavior based on different assumptions—in this case, recognition that he cannot claim more than his share of attention, and that he will do better by cooperating with others.

Cite this page: N., Sam M.S., "ASSERTION-STRUCTURED THERAPY," in, November 28, 2018, (accessed August 9, 2022).


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