Dangling the Carrot: Hope and Humility

TEAM Therapy promotes a concept of “Dangling the Carrot” in which we convey to a client a strong sense of hope and clarify exactly what we have to offer in TEAM therapy. The “carrot” we are offering is relief from the symptoms (e.g., mood struggles, relationship problems, habits/addictions). We “dangle” the carrot by suggesting that positive outcomes are quite plausible as long as the client is able to commit to the hard work necessary to achieve change. Dr. Burns (2011) indicates that “successful use of this technique may serve as a ‘hook’ to encourage the patient to commit to the necessary work to achieve recovery.” Research supports that instillation of hope is an important, if not necessary, component of building positive outcomes in therapy (Snyder & Colleagues, 2000; Yalom, 1995). I remember when I was first learning TEAM Therapy, I worried about whether I had much to offer to clients. While I found the practical tools offered in TEAM Therapy to be exciting, I wondered if I could really deliver powerful and life-changing results to my clients.

Recently, in a training group that I lead, we gathered examples of resistant thoughts that clinicians have regarding “Dangling the Carrot.” Thoughts included things like:
“I haven’t learned enough TEAM therapy to offer much.”
“I don’t want to get people’s hopes up if I can’t deliver.”
“Clients may be disappointed if I Dangle the Carrot, but we don’t see rapid recovery.”

These thoughts reflect the genuine humility of these clinicians. As TEAM therapists, we learn to “leave our ego at the door” and humbly approach the training with a willingness to “fail as fast as we can.” This allows us to learn most quickly as we are exposed to tangible feedback to improve our skills.

Many clinicians wonder: how do we balance remaining humble while we instill hope? I believe we do so by offering an honest assessment of what we have to offer clients and conveying our hopefulness about those tools. Clinicians new to TEAM Therapy may do so by disclosing to clients that they are still learning the model while specifying exactly what they do have to offer (e.g., “I am newly practicing a method that has some really powerful tools. While the tools are still new to me, I strongly believe they could be very helpful for you. Would you be interested in working on those tools together?”). As clinicians commit more time to practicing TEAM Therapy and mastering the methods they may feel empowered to Dangle the Carrot in a more powerful way (e.g., “I’d love to help you with the problems that you’ve described. I have a number of powerful tools that I feel confident could turn your life around. Would you be interested in working on those tools together?”).

Successful use of Dangling the Carrot requires tailoring the delivery to the personality and training of the clinician as well as the needs of the individual client. As a clinician, if you continue to struggle to Dangle the Carrot, you might consider writing out your own negative thoughts about what would happen if you did incorporate this tool. You may find you are able to talk back to those resistant thoughts by balancing hope and humility.

Burns, D. B. (2011). Paradoxical agenda setting, basic concepts and techniques, V3 June 2011. Unpublished manuscript.

Snyder, C.R., Feldman, D.B., Taylor, J.D., Schroeder, L.L., & Adams, V.H. (2000). The roles of hopeful thinking in preventing problems and enhancing strengths. Applied and Preventative Psychology, 9, 249–270.

Yalom, I.D. (1995). The theory and practice of group psychotherapy. New York: Basic Books.

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