Frank Farrelly, my wonderful friend, respected mentor, second father, and creator
of Provocative Therapy has crossed over to re-unite with his beloved June (Dorothy).
He was and is a legend; a true creative genius, who shattered the myth that therapy
needs to be long, hard, and serious. I will miss him terribly.
He passed away on Sunday morning. He was 81 years old. I spoke to him just Thursday
in a scheduled "session", and I knew immediately something had changed. I wrote to
David Lake afterwards "I think this is our last session." And so it was.
Frank's carer, Kim told us that before he died Frank said June was there "to take
him for a dance". That is the wonderful image I hold right now as I think about
them. Together again, dancing.
Frank was a brilliant therapist. He worked with the legend Carl Rogers in his early
days, and went on to develop the ultimate rapport therapy, Provocative Therapy, of
which Carl could be proud. He was a huge influence on the development of Neuro
Linguistic Programming. Many big-name therapists have been thoroughly impressed with
Frank's work over the years, but nobody has been able to categorize what he did.
Even the paradoxical and brief therapists admired him but neither Frank nor the
therapy he developed can be put into a box. Which makes it a lot more like life than
any other therapy I learned in my training.
His therapy skills were there to the end, and even in that last "session" with
Frank there were gems for me. I'm forever grateful to him and I can't begin to
describe right now how much he has done for me, my family, and for the many clients
and workshop participants over the years with whom I (and my friend and provocative
buddy Dave Lake) have tried to share just some of what he gave us.
We talk about being "infected with the provocative virus", and when it happens to
you, you can't go back to serious therapy. I was infected way back in 1986 when I
attended my very first workshop with Frank. I was intrigued by the way I saw him
working with clients. But when I volunteered to go on stage and sat down to work
with him on my issues, I was blown away, astounded at how completely he understood
me, in seconds, not minutes. And I was totally enveloped in the healing warmth,
acceptance, and love which radiated out from him. It felt like coming home. Like I
WAS home. And I had a front row seat at my own personal comedy show where I was the
central character! It was deeply personal, profoundly moving, and incredibly healing.
Suffice to say I've never fully "recovered" from that session with Frank because
not only did the problems we touched on change, Frank also rewired my understanding
of what therapy could be. He helped me to see that change could be fun. Therapy
could be fun. Nay should be fun!
I knew that I needed more of what Frank had to offer. So I jumped at the chance to
work with him every chance I got, became coordinator of his Australian workshops,
travelled to Madison regularly to study with him, and attended his international
workshops and gatherings.
At an intensive workshop with Frank in Wollongong in 1990 I met Dave Lake and we
became instant friends. We soon met others with the same twisted sense of humour and
became members of a unique fraternity of brilliant, funny, open-hearted people all
over the world; a Provocative Family with Frank as our great patriarch.
Some years back we decided to form an international society for Provocative
Therapy. Frank immediately dubbed it the Intergalactic Society for the Advancement
of Truth, Sex, Money and Provocative Therapy! He could never allow us to create a
group without poking fun at it, to protect us from becoming too serious. Too
entrenched. Too mainstream. Too establishment.
Like all families, we have our dysfunctions. And Frank, our provocative father, as
David Lake says, was both the "good Dad" and the "bad Dad". I experienced him as
both. Which means we had a real relationship. Not a fake one, based on fantasy. As
Frank always said, "life is hot, sticky, and wet". Life is messy. He built his
reputation on being able to work with the messiest, most difficult stuff of all with
all kinds of people. And he showed us all that just because life is messy, doesn't
mean it can't also be fun!
David Lake and I are proud to carry on Frank's legacy, through our own Provocative
Energy Techniques (PET) combining tapping using Simple Energy Techniques (SET), with
Provocative Therapy. So we are spreading the provocative virus in our own way and we
strive to do justice to what Frank taught us. Though it must go on record that Frank
never believed the tapping was behind the great results we got, to him it was the
We've been writing a book on PET and in the past few weeks I've sifted through
hundreds of pages of notes from Frank's workshops. From one intensive workshop in
Schwabmulhausen, Germany in 2001 where Frank worked with a woman with cancer comes
this gem after just one session: "It's unbelievable to talk about death and have so
much fun!" We watched her come back to life over five glorious sessions with Frank.
What a liberation. What a privilege to have been there. And this was what Frank did
There are so many classic moments, sayings, images, jokes, metaphors from Frank,
enough to fill five books. But what's the key learning I've got from Frank? That
it's really about the quality of our relationships. That's what we're here to learn
in this "cosmic grade school" as Frank loved to call it.
Anyone who knows Frank wouldn't be surprised to hear that the most pervasive memory
that keeps coming up for me since I learnt of his passing is of Frank singing the
Irish funeral song, Isn't it Grand Boys:
Look at the coffin with golden handles
Isn't it grand boys to be bloody well dead
Let's not have a sniffle,
Let's have a bloody good cry
And always remember the longer you live
The sooner you'll bloody well die.
I still see and hear him singing it right now at the top of his voice, in the most
Irish of voices (Frank's Dad was Irish), just as it should be sung. I've been
singing it along with him, sometimes out loud, sometimes in my mind, over and over.
And every time I do, I can't help but smile.
P.S.: A tribute site to Frank Farrelly has been created at: www.frankfarrelly.com