The Solution Focused Approach is very different from traditional forms of more problem focused psychotherapy and often does not fit with our original training in this field. As a result, this approach can be hard to learn and even harder to master. Here is my list of 7 steps that can help you along your way!
- Start with Steve and Insoo and grow from there. As is the case with most innovators, the work of the originators contains magic. In spite of this, it can be very tempting to move away from Steve and Insoo’s work too soon and begin to study those a bit more contemporary. Resist that urge! Both Steve and Insoo have written extensively as researchers and book authors. Those early materials may be from another time (no reference to social media, pre-internet boom, etc.), but those pages contain the original thoughts and ideas that led to the work we are now doing as a field. Anyone interested in solution focused work should start here.
- Surround yourself with Solution Focused people. We live in a problem focused world and, not surprisingly, our field is equally problem focused. Many clinicians will not understand why you are doing work that is based on the client’s best hopes as opposed to a clinical assessment or a diagnosis. You may experience professional criticism or even worse. Rest assured that you are practicing an approach that is supported by a significant amount of research. However, some in our field will continue to try to make you doubt what you are doing. Surrounding yourself with like minded people can be an invaluable way to stay grounded and sane! Plus, with the prevalence of solution media and internet tools such as chat and Skype, staying connected has never been easier.
- Read books (all of them!) and watch videos! There are more than a few books and articles related to SFBT; you should read them all! They all contain at least slivers of information that will add to your understanding and ability to apply this way of thinking to your work. One of the things I did when I was first introduced to this approach was read everything I could get my hands on and watch every video of the masters I could find. I can honestly say that even the books that I did not like as much contained enough information about this way of working that I was glad to have read it, and I took something valuable away from each and every one.
- Attend Solution Focused events. There are many different events and training related to this approach. Choose a few and attend them annually. This will help you in two different ways. First, it will help you meet many Solution Focused Practitioners from around the world and be able to build your network of like-minded thinkers. Secondly, it will allow you to stay aware of the evolutions taking place within this dynamic way of working. As stated earlier, start with and Steve and Insoo, but don’t stop there. This approach is very dynamic and many key contributors are working constantly to hone this practice; you want to be aware of those changes.
- Think of SFBT as a language, not simply a technique. As my close friend and frequent research and teaching partner Dr. Adam Froerer likes to say, “SFBT happens at the language level”. What we have found is that when you view learning this approach as learning a language rather than a technique, then you are more likely grasp the subtleties of how to develop questions in session that lead towards client resources and their best hopes. Just like when you learn other languages, total immersion is key. The same is true here. So, find your SFBT Rosetta Stone and jump in!
- Practice, practice, practice! I am eternally grateful for all of the mentors who took the time to guide me as I was first learning this approach. However, I am even more thankful to the many clients I have seen over the years. It was their responses to my questions and the implementation of this approach that built my confidence in what I was doing. So be brave and trust your clients; allow them to lead you for they are the true teachers.
- Follow the leaders. One of the quickest ways I can make myself nauseous is to do a search for SFBT on YouTube. It is clear that some of the videos are done by people that are not quite skilled yet in this approach. I don’t mean to criticize those videos too badly, I just want to say that you should watch them with caution. Be sure you are following the leaders of the field so that the information you are learning about SFBT is true to the approach.