That is a really good question!
How do we know what kind of test our patients are using. The answers to that will determine how you will respond to the questions and often we are pulled into taking an action. The key is too look to the history as Norm did in trying to get answers. I do not think this was a failed test but Norm is right -the data will tell us as we learn what Harold thought and did in response to the extra sessions. There was clearly a test going on during the missed sessions. Knowing Don (and getting a hint from his last answer) something exciting and surprising is about to happen! but lets look at how I came to see this as a positive sign. The first way to judge a test is how you respond to it. In most passive to active test you are being asked to solve a difficult task that your patient couldn't solve in childhood. It feels hard and you are torn about it. Patients usually do not test about reasonable requests-that look productive and helpful. Don isn't being intrusive when he responds to the patients request. He is being accepting and welcoming the deeper close relationship- even as you point out when the patient was missing sessions all over the place.
Harold could have been expecting Don to point that out and shame him for asking when he wasn't even coming to the sessions he had. It is reasonable for Harold to come more frequently so I think it was a rejection test that Don passed- we will see! I invite you and anyone else with questions about Control Mastery theory to please join me on the new Control Mastery Forum!
I also want to respond to Ed and his reaction to my lack of response to Harold's affair. I AGREE WITH DON AND FEEL THAT EACH CASE WILL REQUIRE A DIFFERENT APPROACH. If the patient is presenting a protection test and acting self- destructively I would and do forcefully take action to protect and correct the situation. I do not see that happening with Harold- He is trying to find out who he really is and what he can become. I have seen many cases when after an affair a relationship is strengthened and improved. Yes it is better to talk and learn with out action but in my experience this rarely happens. People act and learn later! Your example of murder is an extreme that could not be helpful for anyone to be freed to commit. Clearly the patient (and the law requires) would need help to control his impulse even to the extent of hospitalization. Remember the first case presented by Don!