Laceweb - Therapeutic Binds and Double Binds


Posted 14 Oct 2000. Updated April 2014



Feedback & Email |


Binds tie or secure. Likewise, therapeutic binds are compelling. Therapeutic double binds so 'tie' people to wellbeing change, there is absolutely nothing they can do about it. They have to change.

Dr. Neville Yeomans, a psychiatrist, bought a house on the Atherton Tablelands and was surprised to find that he already knew his new neighbour across the road - from Fraser House days more than 20 years previous. Tony had been an outpatient attending Fraser House during 1960 and had being a member of big and small therapy groups lead by Neville.

In a series of interviews I had with Tony during June and July 2000 he spoke of sending, around seven years earlier, a local Atherton Tableland acquaintance across the road to see Neville.

Part of Neville's typical introduction is getting the client's agreement on the following protocol:

·         Neville says words to the effect, 'I have found that I can best help people if I can interrupt them at any time and have them immediately stop what they are saying or doing - if I ask them. Do I have your agreement that you will stop immediately if tell you to stop?'


This client agreed. He presented to Neville as:


·         angry and annoyed with everybody - because of 'what they do to me'

·         obsessed with finding fault, judging and blaming others

·         his life being a 'mess' - being helpless, hopeless, depressed - a victim

Getting a sense of this within minutes, Neville suddenly demands that he stop talking - yelling at him words to the effect:

'What are you telling me this for! I do not need to know this! Someone needs to set you straight! You blame! You judge! You condemn! You attack people! No wonder no one likes you. You're acting like a thorough pain. Stop it!

Interspersed with Neville's comments the man is 'blasting' Neville in return - words to the effect:

Heh! You have got it all wrong buddy! I'm not like that at all.'

Neville interspersed with words to the effect:

'You'd be are a pain to anyone! Get off your backside and do something! You can stop it! Instead of being a misery guts you can get off your backside and get on with life - now! Do all sorts of things!

Interspersed were replies from the client like,

''You X#@#$! Lies! More lies! No! Not true!

Neville continued in the following vain:

'You don't need me to help you! I can not help you! You need someone to tell you straight. Your behaviour is pathetic! You can do all sorts of things! You can change states. You don't have to be the way you are. Get off you arse and do something about it and don't come bothering me with nonsense!

The Client seethed with comments like –

'What the hell's going on here? Call yourself a psychiatrist! I'm a better psychiatrist than you will ever be! All this was shouted with considerable venom.

Tony across the road can hear the shouting. Shortly the client returns across the road to Tony's house and he is seething.

'You would not believe what that arsehole said about me. Calls himself a psychiatrist - I'm a better psychiatrist than he will ever be!!! This has never happened to me before. I am so pissed off. I will show the bastard!!!'

He then storms out of of Tony's place.

Later that day Tony told Neville that his friend had said that he could fix himself better than Neville ever could. Neville grinned and said,

I suspect he's right!

Months later Tony meet this 'client' again and he is a very contented happy fellow. He has friends for the first time in his life. Apparently they are very fond of him. He is using talents to earn regular income - for the first time in his life. He describes life as 'wonderful' and that he is having a ball. There is no trace of the prior dysfunction. Apparently he had taken steps and put his 'new life' on the road the same day he had had that appointment with Neville - 'to show that bastard!!'

Neville had placed the client in a therapeutic double bind. Consistent with the client's previous 'victim' 'blame' 'fault' patterns, the man has to find fault with, and deny what Neville was saying. And Neville is accurately describing him. So the man has to change to prove Neville wrong.

If he denies and profoundly distances himself from Neville's summary, then he has to change his behaviour to do that. The man HAD to completely drop any thought, belief or action consistent with his presenting behaviours; that is, the man HAD to change.

Neville had set up a double bind. Either the man agrees with Neville's judging, blaming and faulting, hence making a radical shift in his previous invariably regarding others who said things about him as being 'wrong' and 'doing things to him'


as stated, he disagrees with Neville and changes his behaviours to prove Neville wrong. Either way he changes. Herein lies the double bind.

Neville's tone, speed, volume and fervour stoked up the man's emotionality to peaking - what's called 'emotional corrective experience' - a new experience, acquired under the influence of an old emotion, leading to sustained correction - profound integral change; hypothothalmic limbic change (refer Healing the Mindbody).

Simultaneous, what the client perceived as 'disparagement' from Neville was saturated with imbedded suggestions and imbedded commands - shown in italics - that he can change, that he does change and that he is to change now.

Here is a list of these imbedded suggestions and imbedded commands Separated from the rest of Neville’s comments:

Get off your backside and do something!

stop it!

get off your backside and get on with life - now!

Do all sorts of things!

'You help you!

help you!

You tell you straight.

do all sorts of things!

change states.

Get off you arse and do something about it


Neville's comments to the client also contain neuro-linguistic therapeutic patterns such as implication, inference, presuppositions and generalisations. Neville has requisite variety and has tailored this particular intervention to this particular client.

Tony chuckled on recalling this experience. He had been similarly provoked by Neville back in Fraser House. In the Fraser House small group context Neville had asked him 'What are you?' Tony replied, 'I am an Artist.' Neville repeated the question. Again he replied, 'I am an Artist.' Neville continued to repeat the same question. First Tony was curious about what Neville was getting at or what he was on about. He gave the affected reply, 'I am an arteeest' - with all sorts of dramatic flair. When Neville kept up repeating the question, Tony quickly got angry, got up and left thinking Neville was a nut or a crank.

However, away from Fraser House found himself returning time and again to the sentences, 'What are you?' 'I am an artist'. Then it dawned on him. 'I AM an artist? ....ONLY an artist?.... What else am I?' Soon his conception of self started widening. Tony had been attending the groups to support his wife. In widening his self conception he started to see his life as really filled with problematics. He returned to the groups and resolved many of these problematic aspects.

In the late 80's Neville had two suicidal clients, unknown to each other both ring him within ten minutes of each other to say that they were not attending a therapeutic community gathering that Neville had invited them to attend. Both had rang to tell him they were going to commit suicide. With words and energy tailored to each client, Neville provoked enormous energy in both of them. Both had their suicidal states profoundly interrupted by this. Both had to see Neville to 'give him a piece their mind' so as to 'get things off their chest' and 'clear the air'. Both attended and made major resolving shifts through the potency of therapeutic community process. Neither suicided. The transforming processes used with these two suicidals is outlined in the Maria and Sally story on pages 251, 265, and 356 in Coming to One’s Senses.



Other links:


The Healing Ways of Old Man

More Healing Ways of Old Man

The Healing Art of Storytelling

Laceweb Home Page


Feedback & Email |



Back to the Top