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Fot is a psychotherapy approach that emphasizes how the future is dealt with in a person. It was originally designed by Frederick T. Melges.

This process of visualizing future possibilities is termed futuring. The aim of futuring is to bring future possibilities into the present and to develop a flexible set of plans to deal with those possibilities.


Fot[1][2] states that humans are by nature goal-oriented organisms. When the future becomes clouded a [vicious cycle] may result since the goal-oriented behavior of the person becomes impaired. This situation may lead to a progressive mismatch between future goals and expectations and further lead to a lack of control over the future.

Fot is based on the idea that “psychopathological spirals occur when problems with sequence, rate, and temporal perspective disrupt the normal interplay between future images, plans of action, and emotions”[2] (p. 49). By discussing the role of the personal future in human behavior, Melges points out that coping and a coherent future orientation go hand in hand. The failure to cope is often associated with a limited or fragmented [time perspective], further emphasizing the importance of an individual’s time perspectives. Therefore, the belief that environmental events are beyond one’s control and determine the outcome of the situation is often associated with a lack of future orientation and a failure to cope.[2] In such a situation, the process of goal correction is disturbed, and vicious cycles or spirals are likely to occur.

Melges (1982, p. 43) summarizes his general thesis: “The general thesis is that time distortions disrupt anticipatory control and lead to psychopathological spirals. That is, problems with time, such as distortions of sequence, rate, and temporal perspective, disrupt the normal interplay between future images, plans of action, and emotions, thereby leading to lack of anticipatory control and vicious cycles (spirals).”[2]

Melges provided “the most comprehensive understanding of psychopathology to date based on time and the perceived future” (p. 165).[3] His most important and path-breaking work to document his findings is Time and the Inner Future.


Fot was developed by Frederick T. Melges, M.D. who was a Psychiatrist and Professor at Stanford University School of Medicine, California. Melges had observed that time is a frequent topic of conversation in therapy sessions, and had identified the time perspectives inherent in popular psychotherapy, distinguishing various psychological disorders’ relation to time. Melges believed that people with mental disorders have consistent misconceptions about time.[2]

One consistent misconception, for example, relates to the speed with which time passes. Some people feel that time passes more quickly than it does; to others, it passes more slowly. Melges believed that depressed people suffer from destructive “vicious cycles” or “vicious spirals.” Their thoughts snowball out of control and derail them from pursuing their goals. People who suffer from depression have downward spirals, in contrast with the upward spirals of people who are acting to fulfill their goals. Princeton psychologist Susan Nolen-Hoeksema extended Melges’s work on time and depression in studying the ways in which preoccupation with the past reinforces depression.[4]

Theoretical Model of Human Behavior

Fot was developed within a cybernetic control systems framework. Fot is based on the following four general principles[2]:

  • Humans are by nature goal-oriented organisms.
  • A person attempts to gain control over his own personal future through the interplay of future images, plans of action, and emotions.
  • Distortions of psychological time disrupt a person’s sense of control over the future and can lead to psychological vicious cycles (spirals).
  • Correction of time distortions and the harmonization of future images, plans of action, and emotions restore the sense of control over the personal future.

By emphasizing goal-oriented behavior and control over the future, it can be seen that the basic theoretical framework of these integrating postulates is that of cybernetic theory.


  • Human behavior is adaptive because people organize their behavior around personally valued goals. A compelling and highly valued goal, survival, has preceded other, superordinate goals.


Lesse[5] (1971) has also used the term "future-oriented therapy" to describe a treatment approach. He used the term in a more global sense, by guiding patients over a relatively brief number of sessions to consider their role in the future in order to prepare for the impending stresses and challenges.

More recently, a wide range of approaches, such as Future-Oriented Group Training,[6] Future-Oriented Writing Therapy,[7] and others, have been developed to assist people in dealing with mental health problems to confront the future and the uncertainties, complexities, and discontinuities implied by the future.

Beitman (2005) has suggested that an implicit emphasis on the future is a core feature of virtually all psychotherapies, although each of the various schools of psychotherapy emphasize differing premises, constructs, methodology, and change mechanisms.[8]

See also


  1. Melges, F. T. (1972). "Future-oriented psychotherapy". American Journal of Psychotherapy 26 (1): 22–33. PMID 5060589.
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 2.4 2.5 Template:Citebook Cite error: Invalid <ref> tag; name "int" defined multiple times with different content Cite error: Invalid <ref> tag; name "int" defined multiple times with different content Cite error: Invalid <ref> tag; name "int" defined multiple times with different content Cite error: Invalid <ref> tag; name "int" defined multiple times with different content Cite error: Invalid <ref> tag; name "int" defined multiple times with different content
  3. Nunn, K. P. (1999). Personal hopefulness: A conceptual review of the relevance of the perceived future to psychiatry. In R. P. Marinelli & A. E. Dell Orto (Eds.), Psychological and social impact of disability (pp. 152–172). Springer Publishing Company. ISBN 10-0826122132
  4. Nolen-Hoeksema, S. (1991). "Responses to depression and their effects on the duration of depressive episodes". Journal of Abnormal Psychology 100 (4): 569–582. doi:10.1037/0021-843X.100.4.569. PMID 1757671.
  5. Lesse, S. (1971). "Future oriented psychotherapy—A prophylactic technique". American Journal of Psychotherapy 25 (2): 180–193. PMID 5553254.
  6. Van Beek, W., Kerkhof, A., & Beekman, A. (2009). "Future-oriented group training for suicidal patients: a randomized clinical trial". BMC Psychiatry 26: 65. doi:10.1186/1471-244X-9-65.
  7. Nixon, R. D., & Kling, L. W. (2009). "Treatment of adult post-traumatic stress disorder using a future-oriented writing therapy approach". The Cognitive Behaviour Therapist 2: 243–255. doi:10.1017/S1754470X09990171.
  8. Beitman, B. D., & Soth, A. M. (2005). The future as an integrating force through the schools of psychotherapy. In J. C. Norcross & M. R. Goldfried (Eds.), Handbook of psychotherapy integration (pp. 65–83). Oxford University Press. ISBN 0195165799
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