An Adlerian Version of the Magic Shop Technique
The Magic Shop is known as a psycho-dramatic technique used mainly for the
purpose of warm-up. Since its first uses, a number of psychodramatists have
developed several variations for it and broadened its applications. In this paper
I will offer practitioners a new version of the technique, based on the
assumptions of Adler’s theory – Individual Psychology (IP). I will first describe
the Magic Shop Technique (MST), its purposes, advantages, variations and
applications. I will then present the basic tenets of IP as a rationale for the
proposed version. Next, I will introduce the Adlerian Magic Shop version,
illustrating it by means of an example with IP psychotherapy students. Finally, I
will put forward a few ideas for future research and development of the
The Magic Shop Technique
The Magic Shop Technique is a psychodramatic activity, aimed at self-
evaluation, personal growth and self-actualization (Barbour, 1992;
Verhofstadt-Deneve, 2000). The MS was created by J. L. Moreno (Moreno Z. T
in Moreno, Joseph, 2005) and further developed by Hanna Weiner, Leon Fine
and Ancelin Schutzenberger. It was first played at the Moreno Institute in 1943
(Kellerman, in Blatner 1998).
The MS is “magical” in so far as it can contain any intangible human property
one can imagine or desire. Customers at the MS can find there qualities such as
assertiveness, peace of mind or courage. Like in any shop, costumers are
required to pay, but in the MS the payment is also done with the same abstract
currency. Then a bargaining process begins. This is the heart of the technique
As in any creative activity, the MS is performed differently by different
psychodramatists. The following description of the technique presents a
combination of a few of the major variations the literature offers.
Stage 1: Introduction and invitation to participate. The therapist introduces
the technique to the group, proclaiming that the MS will be open soon, and
that this is a very special occurrence, since it happens only once in a very long
time. This makes the visit to the MS a real privilege. Sometimes the
introduction includes guided imagery or music, leading the group to a fantastic
journey toward the MS. Thus the dimensions of time, space and reality are
transformed (Kipper, 2001) and a background for the unusual, magical surplus
reality is created (Blatner, 1973, in Treadwell, Stein & Kumar, 1990; Moreno,
2005). Usually the director will act as the owner of the MS (Verhofstadt-
Deneve, 2000), but in experienced groups participants can act this role as well
(Barbour, 1992). The owner is sometimes characterized as a special figure – a
wizard, a jester or a very old man/woman (Carnabucci, 2010). He or she invites
protagonists to barter for intangibles in the MS. Usually there are many
customers-protagonists, but sometimes the whole session is dedicated to one
protagonist (Verhofstadt-Deneve, 2000). Customers in the MS are invited to
acquire an intangible that satisfies a need or a want, which they perceive as a
potential improvement in their lives. The owner of the MS explores each
participant’s request by considering the equivalence of what is offered and
what is gained:
Ideally, there will be a match or a degree of appropriateness between
what is acquired and what is given in return (Barbour 1992:92).
Stage 2: Exchange and bargaining. Once a customer steps into the MS, she
starts an exchange with the owner: what would she like to get, and what is she
willing to give in return? For Barbour (1992), both quality and quantity of the
client’s asset to be paid with is set as the ground-rule for accepting what she
The customers ask for what they believe they need or would like to have… customers are
expected to trade in an intangible that they either prize highly or have in excess (ibid, p.92).
As for addiction recovery groups, Rustin & Olsson (1993) suggest to ask the
client what she wants or is willing to give up as payment, and only then to
explore what she may take in return. They ask the client to pay with a devalued
…Something about yourself that was useful once, but has now become a burden… something that might interfere with your recovery (ibid, p.15).
This principle underlies Rustin & Olsson’s (1993) suggestion, as well. They argue
that the client’s willingness to give up traits and habits which had once been
useful for her survival is an important measure of their motivation for recovery.
Their focus is on giving up dysfunctional, and yet highly-valued, personal
Weiner & Sacks’s invitation is similar, but
An individual is encouraged to seek out something of
value for himself and to leave in a transaction of barter with the shopkeeper those
things of value he no longer can use (1969: 94).
In the classical MST, the protagonist is invited to purchase freely any positive
quality she may want or need, and pay with one of the dysfunctional traits she
The personal qualities that are wanted may include a
range of traits, such as honesty, warmth, ability to take risks, gentleness, self-control,
patience or assertiveness. The personal qualities that are to be bartered at the shop for new
ones may include traits that do not serve healthy functioning, such as rigidity, rage, low self-esteem or fear (Carnabucci, 2010:31).
Thus, the owner in the Magic Music Shop accepts negative feelings or qualities
in exchange for positive ones (Moreno 2005), e.g., the shopkeeper may trade
self-confidence in exchange for shyness, courage in exchange for fear or peace
in exchange for anxiety. Barbour (1992) and Verhofstadt-Deneve (2000) raise
the price by demanding to give up a valued quality in exchange for an even
more desired one. This seems to be the case of the protagonist who was
required to give up status and prestige in order to acquire the ability to get
The therapeutic contribution of the owner in the bargaining process is
What takes this exercise out of the realm of the
ordinary and into the realm of the remarkable is how the keeper of the MS bargains
with the customer about the trade-off (Barbour 1992:93).
Throughout this process, the MS owner acts as a skillful facilitator, helping the
customer to find out what she really wants, and make sure that what she
wants is a healthy choice – not a mere repetition of past unsuccessful choices.
Then, in the same manner, the MS owner will help the client find out what she
will have to give up to “really” get what she wants. It is the owner’s task to lead
the customer to a challenging, but realistic “deal”.
The role of the group in this stage is also of importance at this point. The
participants are invited to propose ideas in the capacity of the protagonist’s
doubles – expressing what they think the client may want or need (Verhofstadt-
Deneve, 2000). However, one must keep in mind that the protagonists are not
always insightful about what they may need (Barbour 1992). It is remarkable
how easily participants can see what others need to take and give, but are
blind about what they may need themselves. This is where the group can come
in, and why the MST is especially effective in cohesive groups; knowing each
other well, participants can provide valuable observations and feedback.
As already pointed out, the negotiation of the intangibles is one of quality as
well of quantity. The idea is that traits are not positive or negative in and of
themselves, but over or underused. For instance, too much assertiveness can
turn into aggression, and lack of sufficient assertiveness – to over-pleasing. By
looking into the advantages and disadvantages of qualities, participants can
broaden their perspective of self and others. The criterion for the
appropriateness of the exchange is thus not judgmental, but rather practically
Stage 3: Mini drama or vignette. Each exchange in the MST can be developed
into a mini-drama or a vignette (Barbour, 1992). In a mini-drama the
participants can explore what the customer wants and what she needs to leave
behind. She can play a scene where she operates without the desired quality,
and re-play it after acquiring it (Rustin & Olsson 1993; Verhofstadt-Deneve,
2000). Qualities can so be tried out in brief scenes with members of the group
acting as auxiliaries. For example, the protagonist can experience what it is like
to be assertive. The protagonist may find the newly acquired quality to be
uncomfortable or disappointing. Or, it may turn out to be highly rewarding, as
expected. This exploration is carried out in the safe space of surplus reality. It
can therefore offer a valuable role-training opportunity for the protagonist to
expand her possibilities (Barbour 1992). Also, a new cycle of negotiation can
now be opened, geared to promote movement-enhancing self-awareness. It
may also encourage the customer to invest in a commitment to try out a new
behavior. To achieve this, the director can develop the drama further by means
of psychodramatic techniques such as interviewing, role reversals, doubling,
asides, mirroring, etc. (Treadwell, Stein & Kumar, 1990; Rustin & Olsson, 1993).
In other words, although originally meant to be used as a warm-up technique,
the MST can often evolve into a full-fledged psychodramatic process.
Stage 4: Closure. The shopkeeper can dramatically close the shop, calling out
for a last chance for exchanges. Then, as in most psycho-dramatic sessions,
participants are invited to share experiences, feelings and insights. At later
sessions it can be useful to follow up on how the participants actually “use”
their new acquisitions in reality (Rautiainen, 2002).
The MS has several therapeutic goals: motivational, cognitive, behavioral and
emotional. Though I will present these separately, the process itself is designed
so that the director and the participants work towards all the objectives in an
The first set of goals is motivational in nature. The MST aims to create a
potential space for development in a playful setting, offering an extended
experience of reality, i.e., “surplus reality”:
… a mode of experience that goes beyond reality, which provides the subject
with a new and more extensive experience of reality, a surplus reality…
This expansion of experience is made possible in psychodrama by methods
not used in life… (Moreno, 1965, in Kipper 2001:142).
Another motivational goal is to create a vision of a desired self on one hand,
and awareness of what is standing between the client and her possible self to-
be constructed, on the other (Barbour, 1992).
As for the cognitive goals, the MST is geared to developing the client’s self-
awareness of her traits, qualities and behaviors that are no longer useful to
her. A complementary goal is to create a substitute for the qualities to be
discarded. This is achieved by aiming to expand the client’s schemas and
scripts, thus allowing for a more flexible interpretation of her complex reality.
Similarly, the MS offers an opportunity for cognitive expansion through
development-oriented learning (Verhofstadt-Deneve 2000) – for example, by
realizing that positive traits can also be negative in some situations.
Verhofstadt-Deneve also points out that the dialectical nature of the method
allows protagonists to move between opposite poles, which can eventually be
integrated into a new, coherent, context-sensitive behavior.
Another cognitive objective is to incorporate the client’s new experience into
her already existing repertoire (Kipper, 2001):
…reintegration creates a new experience pool
with new combination of experiences, a process that results in modifying feelings,
perceptions, attitudes and dysfunctional behaviors (p.138).
The MST is meant to integrate successful existent and new life choices. It thus
aims at promoting behavioral change through enriching the client’s well-
functioning role repertoire (Rautiainen, 2002).
Finally, the MST can attain emotional catharsis. This emotional goal is
anchored in Moreno’s (2005) acknowledging the value of feeling expression
per se. This can help the participants enjoy the impact of a rich therapeutic
experience – both on the cognitive and the emotive level.
Advantages of the MS
Change is the hard-core of all therapeutic work. This makes the MS an ideal
tool for the therapist, as it is an effective promoter of change. Following is a list
of the qualities inherent in the MST, which enable this.
Promoting commitment. When the client steps into the MS, she declares what
she wants to acquire. This is a public declaration of a personal wish or goal; it
creates a chance for a real commitment to change in a positive direction
Promoting self-acceptance. The non-judgmental attitude of the owner can
enhance the client’s self-acceptance. She can now see that her faults,
imperfections, and mistakes are human and normal. It is also a positive
experience for the other participants to see that what she so strongly wants to
get rid of can be really desirable and useful for someone else.
Promoting awareness. The MST promotes self-awareness about choices and
their prices. This is how Barbour (1992) explains this existential inevitability:
The magic shop is a metaphor for life, death and rebirth.
We can´t get anything without giving something away. A part of us should die and then
something new could be born. There is no personal growth without giving something up (Barbour 1992, in Rautiainen, 2002:4). Promoting behavioral change. As mentioned earlier, The MS is an ideal
practicing arena for the clients in which to actually act as if they already own
the desired quality. Blatner (2003) emphasizes this ontological validity of
surplus reality. He agrees that actions that are performed “as if”, they are real
become what Moreno calls “psychological truths”. Moreno demonstrates the
feasibility of their occurrence in life, and not only in (psycho) drama. As
Moreno (2005) puts it, those truths are experienced as possessions for life:
…he or she owns the created positive music and that nobody can take it away (p. 4)
This crucial quality of the technique enables the participants not only to
experience the new choice, but to seriously deliberate its desirability and
Integrating life skills. The MS is a behavior change promoter thanks to its
integrative nature: it allows the individual to integrate what she has learned in
the group and incorporate it to her repertoire of useful and productive
behaviors outside the group (Barbour 1992).
A lasting learning effect: The MST promotes an enduring change thanks to its
“magical” combination of contextual qualities: the situational and affective
involvement of the protagonist, the positive influence of the group and the
special MS atmosphere (Verhofstadt-Deneve, 2000:13).
Practical Advantages of the MST
The MS also has a few important practical advantages. First, it is “cost
effective”, as it can meet the needs of various group members in a single
session, and every participant can take home something valuable from the
experience (Carnabucci, 2010). In addition, some people are willing and able to
learn things in a fantastic space, which they resist learning elsewhere. The
fantastic quality of the activity is further corroborated by the MS playful-
serious atmosphere, in which it is performed (Verhofstadt-Deneve, 2000). This
contributes to creating an ambiance of relaxation on one hand, and curiosity
and expectation on the other.
Variations and Versions of the Technique
Variations of the MST have been developed by a number of practitioners.
Following is a review of these variations by their most prominent
Variations in the setting. Goldman uses the MS to create “closure” for
psychodrama sessions or processes within sessions (Goldman 1984, in
Treadwell, Thomas, Stein & Steven 1990), without going throughout the whole
process (Blatner, 1998). Rustin & Olsson (1993) practice the MS not only with
cohesive groups, but also with newcomers. They believe that the MS can help
them become comfortable with the psychodrama process, and begin their
warm-up toward dealing with their personal issues.
Participant variations. The MST is practiced with special populations. Rustin &
Olsson (1993) developed the Sobriety Shop Technique for addiction recovery
groups. Here they focus on establishing solutions and practicing new
behaviors. As mentioned earlier, they first ask what the client is willing to give
up in order recovering in the belief that only then can she get something from
Carnabucci (2011) notes a variation called “the Compassion Shop”, designed by
Lorelei Goldman for therapist’s well-being workshops, addressing professional
Using accessories and expressive tools. Joseph Moreno (2005) suggests adding
music, imagery and other non-verbal expressive tools to the MST, especially for
clients with low verbal skills, or for the “most troubled and less spontaneous”
(p.36). In this variation clients will play the music standing for what they want;
then the shopkeeper will ask to listen for what they want. In addition, the
technique is practiced using a significant object, e.g. clock, picture, teddy bear
to induce surplus reality. The protagonist is asked “to become” the significant
object and is interviewed in that role (Goldman, 1984 in Treadwell, Thomas,
Stein & Steven, 1990).
Individual Psychology – Five Basic Principles
Individual Psychology (IP) is the theoretical foundation for the version of the
MST version to be presented here. We will now turn to a brief survey of its
main tenets. I will start with a single sentence which presents the theory in a
According to IP, humans are social beings moving
holistically toward a [psychological- fictive] goal. The goal is a self-created
subjective idea of perfection or superiority. The idea can be more or less appropriate
to life demands, and eventually can be changed [freedom of choice] (Shaked, 2010).
Let me now elaborate each one of these principles.
Humans are social beings. The priority by which humans function is social
rather than biological. The rationale of this principle is the fact that humans
can survive only in social communities and that life itself depends on
interrelatedness to others. Moreover, the meaning of one’s-life depends of his
or her contribution to others. Every thought, feeling or action is thus related to
other humans (Dreikurs 1991; Stone 2011).
Holism. The term “Individual Psychology” reflects this principle of Adler’s view
of human nature – the in-divisible nature of personality:
The only way to understand a system is to understand
that entire system. There is a qualitative distinction between the whole and the sum
of its parts. The whole cannot be understood by examining the parts in isolation from
the entire system (Strauch, 2003:452).
In similar vein, Abramson (2005), states that
All (human) parts are interconnected and inseparable,
and all strive for the same goal, even when it does not seem to be so …humans are not
made of different parts, pulling and pushing in different directions. The body, the mind,
the soul, the intellect, the unconscious, moral values, desire and performance –
are all parts of the same whole; all directed to the same goal which is chosen by the individual,
as are thoughts, feelings and actions, at home, in the supermarket, at work, in love and war, awake or asleep…( p. 6).
The immediate therapeutic implication of the holistic principle is that the
individual cannot be divided into components, nor treated as a collection of
traits or parts that he or she can exchange for others. All “parts”, as it were,
move holistically towards one goal. For example, within Verhofstadt-Deneve
(2000) dialectic approach, one can note a discrepancy between what the client
thinks, and feels and what she does. In the example he gives, the client
indicates that she appreciates her boyfriend and loves him, but she doesn’t
confront her mother and tell her what she thinks and feels. Adlerians may
view this discrepancy not as one between feelings and actions, but rather
between two opposite wishes: the wish to do as she pleases and the wish to
be accepted (or not to be criticized or overpowered) by her mother. According
to IP, a situation such as this one is about conflicting wishes in reality, not
about inner conflicts in psyche, which is indivisible (Dreikurs, 1971/2000).
Goal-orientation. Any human movement, i.e., any thought, feeling or
behavior is perceived as oriented toward a single goal. The meta- goal of
every individual is to reach a sense of having a place in the world – a sense of
belonging, worth and meaning (Stone, 2011). Embracing this teleological
thinking, Adlerians look for the purpose of behavior rather than its causes.
In case the client’s goal is exaggerated – there is a risk for developing a
The entire picture of neurosis, as well as all its symptoms, are influenced,
(and) are designated by a fictional final goal (Adler, 1927, p. XV in Stein 2002).
A goal is defined as exaggerated in a situation whereby the individual aims at
supremacy and superiority, but at the same time experiences low self-esteem
(Adler, 1931/1958). This means that the individual does not believe she can
reach her goal. In this state, she might develop a safeguard against the danger
of failure, which might expose her in her “weakness” – being less than perfect,
i.e., far from supremacy or superiority. This safeguard takes the form of a
neurotic symptom. The symptom is perceived and presented by the client as
her problem: “I suffer from depression (or anxiety, or eating disorders, etc.)”.
Subjectivity. According to this principle, everyone has her own private
perception and interpretation of reality. This notion bears two major
implications. First, we cannot really understand what another person says until
we clarify what he means (Abramson 2005). The second, and even more
striking, is that the subjectivity which makes each of us a unique individual is
the basis for equality between us: if nobody owns “the truth”, all perceptions
are equal. Equality, Adler believed, is the essential base for good relationships
and for personal and social well-being (Dreikurs 1971/2000).
The whole subjective perception of an individual is his private thinking or
private logic, which can be similar or different from the common logic or
common sense. Common sense in Adlerian terms means responding to the
demands of life out of social interest. This ensues from the feeling that one is
embedded in the stream of life, and has concern for the welfare of others
Subjectivity and goal orientation. The goal one creates and strives for in all
one’s actions, thoughts and feelings is at the heart of Adler’s model of
personality, and is entitled the lifestyle. As mentioned earlier, this meta-goal is
a subjectively perceived goal of superiority.
Another related concept is that of movement. In Adlerian thought, each
human act – be it emotional, cognitive or practical – is conceptualized as a
movement. Each movement is controlled by the goal, and is directed to its
Every goal has advantages and disadvantages, or in other words, prices and
profits. Every goal can be directed either to the useful or useless side of life. In
the first case, the profit is achievement, self-esteem and respect, and the price
paid is time and effort, the risk to fail, etc. In the second case, the price is
anxiety, depression and anger. The profit is less evident than the price; the
price, being more apparent, serves as the perfect alibi for a standstill or, in the
case of movement – for failure. Prices and profits are what we exchange in the
Freedom of Choice. While recognizing the influences of genetics and
upbringing settings, Adler believed that man has the creative power to choose
what he will be and how he will live his life within the limits of facts or
circumstances (Bettner, 2006). He thus believed that we can modify, broaden
or even change our mistaken goal. Changing one’s goal is basically a cognitive
change, which, in turn, generates a change in feelings and actions. A change
based on a new choice is therefore one of the main goals of Adlerian therapy.
Adlerian Version of the Magic Shop (AMS)
The critical difference between the classical MST and the AMST lies at the
exchange and bargaining stage. When the protagonist in the AMS asks for a
desirable feeling or quality, she will be required to pay not with a non-desired
feeling or quality, but with the gain or gains it yields.
Theoretical foundation of the Adlerian version of the MST. As I have
mentioned earlier, according to the holistic principle, there are no separate
“parts” in the self that can be exchanged, and there are no inner conflicts.
From an Adlerian point of view, symptoms are not the client’s problem; they
are rather her creative solution to the real problem – her painful feelings of
inferiority or inadequacy in relation to her exaggerated ambition (Ansbacher &
Ansbacher 1956). Verhofstadt-Deneve (2000), agrees too, that many
psychological problems arise from distortions or unrealistic expectations.
What does the client want? Clients come to therapy out of suffering and they
want to stop suffering. The client may think, for example, that if she can get rid
of depression, she will feel much better. But actually, removing depression
may create a new situation, whereby she will have to confront the challenging
tasks of life with courage! In other words, she will have to face the fact that
she has failed to be who she thinks she needs to be in order to be worthy.
Therefore, if we see depression as a safeguard against the pain of inferiority
feelings (Ansbacher & Ansbacher 1956), as Adler suggests, we cannot remove
this safeguard before we treat the “real” underlying problem. To do so, we
need to encourage the client. Our therapeutic goal is to enhance her self-
confidence and self-esteem, so as to persuade her to give up her grandiose
ideas, and accept her imperfect humanity. Only then will she be ready to visit
the MS and have a fair chance to bring about a successful exchange.
AMST in the exchange stage. Many owners of the MS will accept anything the
client is willing to give as payment for what she wishes to get: anxiety, shame,
fear, etc. Others have created a “recycling factory” behind the shop, aimed to
transform negative goods into desirable merchandise (Rustin& Olsson, 1993).
The Adlerian owner is more selective and particular about the payment. He will
not accept depression or insanity for payment. It is true that depression can be
better than madness, but most of our clients are not so extremely disturbed.
Verhofstadt-Deneve (2000) accept positive qualities that can hamper the
client’s well-being and development when over-used. He also accepts negative
qualities with potentially positive aspects: the self-care behind egotism, the
self-expression behind over-dramatizing, etc. The Adlerian shopkeeper will
turn these down. Why? Let us take anxiety, for example. According to Adler,
anxiety, as any other neurotic symptom, is the price paid for the sense of
safety. However, this safety is attained through exemption from coping with
life tasks (i.e., the practical expression of social interest). In other words, in the
AMS, unless the customer will be willing to give up her gains of anxiety, such as
special care, exemption from functioning, safety etc., she will not be able to
make an exchange.
In Moreno’s Musical Magic Shop (2005), he encourages his clients to listen to
the positive music they create in the shop, and challenges them to leave other
familiar melodies behind:
The shopkeeper might say “I suppose you could re-create
some more of that old negative music, but why would you want to do that?” (p. 40).
Why, really, would clients re-create “old negative music”, i.e. symptoms, over
and over again – despite the high costs? The answer to this question is: thanks
to the profit- gained by the effective safeguard they have created and
mastered so well. Here it can be useful to remark that sometimes neurotic
symptoms are viewed as a primary suffering with secondary gains, while IP
sees it as primary gains with a secondary suffering (Ansbacher & Ansbacher
1956). Usually, therapists see the client suffering from anxiety, and look for its
origin or causes. They admit that anxiety has some advantages, too, but those
will be regarded as secondary to the primary suffering. In contrast, Adlerian
therapists see the client enjoying the safety of the illusion of self-worth
granted by the symptom, and the suffering as its inevitable – sometimes very
painful – price. The real suffering of the client in Adlerian view is from
inferiority feelings. This is a direct derivative of the harsh combination of the
mistaken goals of superiority on one hand, and the client’s perceiving herself
(consciously or otherwise) as unable to achieve the goal, on the other. Thus,
unless the client gives up the gains of her symptoms, she will not be
emotionally able to “buy” a desired quality or feeling.
Here is an example of the difference between the classical MST and AMST.
Rautiainen (2002) brings the case of a client who wanted as much “order” as
she could get in exchange for being “chaotically busy”. During the session she
gained the understanding that too much order can be boring, and she lowered
her request from “maximum” order to only 30 Kilos of the stuff, willing to pay
with the same amount of “chaotic business”. In the course of the mini-drama
she explored her priority of “People before papers”. This led her to an
immediate response to the needs of others, which interfered with doing her
job. With her purchase of order she gained the ability to set boundaries to
people requesting her immediate help. If this case were presented in the
AMST, she would be required to pay with the “spontaneity”, “comfort” and
“fun” that she got out of doing whatever she pleased, as well as “being
wonderful” in the eyes of others, whom she enjoyed pleasing.
In another example of an exchange in the AMS, if the client wants to buy
“harmony in relationships” instead of paying with, for instance, “anger”, she
will have to pay with her wish that all her wants will come true. The reason for
this is that what makes her angry in the first place is her wish to have
everything her own way, and anger is the feeling she uses to make it happen
(Rasmussen, 2003). Therefore, to avoid paying the price of lack of harmony in
relationships, she first has to relinquish this basic goal of controlling what will
happen in her life. In the AMST terms, this is what she will have to pay. Also,
similarly, if a client wants to buy “free time”, instead of paying with
“obsession”, she will have to give up her yearning to be the No. 1 top-notch
employee, plus some of the appreciation she gets, the sense of being better
than others, and finally- a few nice economical perks.
In essence, clients in the AMS first choose what they want to have, but they
are required to pay in advance! For example, if they don’t give up freedom,
they cannot get responsibility. They also step out of the shop with a warning: if
you cancel the payment, the purchase will disappear… That’s the problem with
Benefits for the AMST customers. In what way will the client benefit from this
version of the MS? First, the visit to the AMS is as a challenging invitation to
acknowledge the client’s suffering as the price he pays for fulfilling a mistaken
goal. In this way the AMST helps the customer develop awareness of her life
choices and prices, and creates a sense of owning: nobody can give up
something he does not own.
Second, combined with the often humoristic setting of the MS, the client is
offered a chance swallow the bitter pill of responsibility with a little sugar
coating. It so happens, that quite often in the AMS, the client opts to give-up
the transaction altogether. An example was the client who wanted self-
confidence. She wanted to pay with competiveness, but was required to pay
with “victory”. She wanted to give up the tension that competitiveness brings.
When she was asked to pay with the sensation she experiences when she win a
competition, she said “No way!”
Third, the visit to the AMS can be encouraging, as clients get a non-judgmental
view of a wide range of choices and prices, and are therefore free to re-choose
what they originally wanted to give up, but this time more consciously and
therefore more prepared to pay the price. This, in turn, may contribute to a
more judicious use of the same quality, as well as the development of
willingness and readiness to make a different choice in the future. For
example, a client has admitted that she preferred to stay angry instead of
giving up getting her way.
Challenges for the AMS Shopkeeper. As we have seen, one of the MST
advantages is its creative pliability. Looking ahead toward AMST future
versions, here are several challenges that developers may wish to consider.
Understanding IP theory and practice. The shopkeeper has to be fully versed
with IP concepts and to accept its conceptualization. She has to be able to
assess the life style (LS) of her clients and understand the connection between
the presented problem or symptoms and the client’s private logic. As
mentioned earlier, it is crucial to assess the client’s personal underlying goal in
order to understand her movement in life.
Avoiding resistance. When there is a disparity between the client’s and the
therapist’s goals, we will find considerable resistance to the treatment
(Dreikurs, 1967). For example, if the expressed goal of the client is to quit
alcohol, but she still doesn’t believe she can make it to be a functioning
member of her community, her real goal may be to step back from the life
tasks in order to save her sense of worth. Her means to this end is staying on
the bottle. Thus, the symptom is not a real problem; it is the mistaken solution
for the problem.
Acquiring the expertise to identify the suitable price. When first practicing the
AMS, it is difficult for the therapist and the group to find out what price to set
for the desired intangible. Gains of symptoms are not obvious at all. With
practice, we find recurring patterns. Nevertheless, despite commonalities, the
therapist has to keep in mind that every client is unique, creative and
resourceful in her own way, and the deal has to be tailor-made to her needs.
Table 1 shows the bargains made by a group of 20 psychotherapy students,
who underwent the AMS process. The table can serve as an initial “price list”
|Desired intangible||Payment the client offers
|The required payment (gain of the symptom)|
|Peace of mind||Anxiety
|The wish everything will go as you wish
Control or sense of control
To be always OK
Freedom from obligation
|Health||Illness Discomfort||Spontaneity Joy|
|Optimism||Fastidiousness||The power that gives you the idea that you can control everything
The wish to be special
|Assertiveness||Fear of conflict||Protection from being hurt
Table 1: A price List for the AMS
Closing the activity. After the visit to the AMS, as in the classical approach,
vignettes can be developed, behavioral home tasks can be added and the client
can be asked to act as if they were already the person they would like to be:
The clinician might encourage him or her to act “as if” they were assertive or empathic several times a day until the next session. The rationale for this reconstruction strategy is that as someone begins to act differently they become a different person (Carlson and Sperry, 1998, in Watts, Peluso& Lewis 2005:381).
Suggestions for Future Research
Here are several ideas worth-investigating. First, it would be interesting to
learn about the differential impact of various variations on client’s lives. More
information on various effects of the technique may help therapists offer each
client a variation which will fit her more closely, thus hopefully enabling better
Second, it may be worth looking into the way additional aspects of IP theory
may be taken into consideration in further applications of the AMST. For
example, how can we work the client’s family constellation variable into the
process? For instance, it would be productive to enable the client to explore
her life choices in comparison to her siblings, and see how her commitment to
the transaction is related to her birth-order position in the family.
It would also be useful to learn about the contribution of incorporating the
subjectivity principle into the process. A possible way of testing this would be
playing a scene from the standpoint of the person the protagonist is in conflict
The MS is a creative, playful and effective technique to promote clients’ self-
awareness and willingness to make re-choices and new choices, as well as
encourage them to take risks and seize opportunities. The technique has been
applied by psychodramatists for decades, with very good results for clients and
group leaders. The Adlerian version offers a possibility of looking at clients
from a new vantage point, shedding light on underlying considerations for
clients’ choices. Hopefully, insight into these will contribute for more effective
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