Today was the second day of teaching a course on using the Solution Focused Approach to work with young individuals in New Orleans, Louisiana. A topic of discussion came up about the process of “developing solutions” in the session and I have been thinking about it all day.
I showed a videotape of myself working with a woman who had been diagnosed with a series of mental health illnesses by the psychiatrist she had been seeing. During the session I began asking this client future focused questions, to develop a clear and detail rich picture of her preferred future, and she provided an extraordinary amount of details of what her life would look like when her best hopes were realized. What was interesting about the future she described is that it was laced with things that most people would have viewed as negative. For example, in the picture she was describing she would be dating a man that was already married. She went on to describe activities that ultimately did not become part what she did to improve her life. Furthermore, she left out details that were part of what she did after the session. After the session, the client made huge changes in her life, most of which were discussed in the session.
This sparked a discussion in our seminar about whether or not we are creating a reality (that the client will then try to create post session) or we are simply creating a conversation (together) that leads towards a desirable change and not necessarily the changes that were discussed in session.
I am not sure I know the “right” answer to this question, but I do have very clear thoughts on this matter. What do you think?
I lean towards the second porposition you offer – and that may be my training and continued connection with BRIEF in London peaking through. Because of this frequent disconnect between the content of the response to the future focused conversation in a session and the response to “so what’s better?” at a subsequent session, I encourage myself to focus on stuckness to movement rather than on the content specifics.
A distinction of SFBA lies here I think – we don’t follow the acountability idea common in GROW and RESULTS coaching. A follow-on session is not about eliciting a description of how they stuck to what they’d intended to do, or what obstacles got n their way etc, but rather a conversation about anything and everything that the client offers as being better / imrpoved.
I like your comment about “the future she described is that it was laced with things that most people would have viewed as negative” – reminds me of a discussion with Harvey Ratner at BRIEF about common project. Therapists are not required to support moving towards illegal or harmful outcomes. In fact, ethically bound to promote duty of care. However, what I enjoy about the SFBA approach is that duty of care can be paradoxically managed – “you must have good reasons for thinking this will be a good improvement for you, please tell me about your good reasons” etc.
Thanks for food for thoughts
Thank you for your comments. Perhaps it is my own affiliation with Chris, Harvey and Evan shining through but I also believe that our task as clinicians is to simply elicit a detailed description of the clients preferred future, giving little to no though to what the client will do subsequent to that conversation. Since I have no way of knowing if the client is intending to manifest the exact details they are discussing or if the description is being used to bring about positive feelings that may lead to other even more desirable changes, no time is spent assessing.