Do you know want my favorite thing about Solution Focused Brief Therapy is? And I realise I say that a lot, but honestly, like, my absolute favorite thing about practicing Solution Focused Brief Therapy is the creativity involved by the clinician, by the professional. I’m not someone who could just do the same thing over and over and over again. So what I experience is so invigorating, so amazing, so much fun about Solution Focused Brief Therapy is the creativity that goes into asking questions in each and every session.
No question seems the same. No session seems the same. Like it’s a really amazing process to be able to ask people questions. Now I think that one of the things that gets in our way that gets us stuck in session is we forget to be creative.
And we start trying to ask the right question instead of just taking the session content, the client’s responses and turning it into another question that moves the conversation forward towards the client’s desired outcome. I think you have to be free to ask any question at any time, just make sure that you are taking their content. You’re taking what the client has said and turning it into a question.
But you know, there is one question that I would never ask clients. It never comes out of my mouth. I would never ask it. And that question is “How can you start moving forward in your life?” So here’s what I mean. Often times Solution Focused Therapy, it involves some sort of a future question, right? So, “What are your best hopes from our talking?” “I want to be happy.”
And then we ask clients questions, like, “Suppose you woke up tomorrow and you were happy. What would you notice?” And they start to describe this beautiful, wonderful, eloquent world where happiness is more present in their life. And there’s an incredible temptation to start asking people, “So how can you start making your life look the way you just described?”
But that is the one question I would never ask. I want to tell you why there are two reasons. The first one is the moment you start asking ‘how’ questions the client has to start, like telling you how they could do it, or they’ve actually done it. And you remove the client’s creativity because actually part of the beauty about living life is the client going about a discovery process.
And they start discovering how they will manifest the reality in their life that they are described in session about the presence of their desired outcome. The moment you start talking about how they could do it, you now introduce the idea of failure instead of creativity, because now they’re going to start measuring themselves versus their ability to do the thing they told you, instead of just going out, living life and discovering how they would do it.
The second reason why I would never ask that question is because ‘how’ is actually not relevant? How is actually the less important part, what is really important, is the client feels motivated and inspired by the picture that they would paint in the session. It’s beautiful for them to leave your session believing in them themselves and motivated and inspired because then they go out and they live a life in a different way.
And then the real powerful part of Solution Focused Brief Therapy is they start noticing what they’re doing differently. And then they come back to the next session and the conversation becomes about what did you notice? The moment I start asking my client to tell me how they plan to go out and do the differences that we’re talking about in the session. They are no longer doing the discovery.
They are no longer doing noticing. They are now following a preordain set of circumstances that may not be relevant to how they went out into the world. Now, I can’t tell you how many times a client has left my office and done something that surprised them to help them get to the creation of their preferred future. And that’s the magic, like, that’s the powerful part of this approach, is the client leaves your office and they surprise even themselves.
But we have to put them in a position to be able to do that. And we have to allow for them to stay in a position to be able to do that. And the way that we do that is by not asking ‘how’ questions, we simply ask the client to do the description and trust that the description will be enough. You know, you often hear myself and Adam Froerer talking about the Solution Focused Diamond, where Solution Focused Brief Therapy is really about three things. There are three steps to a Solution Focused conversation.
The first part is where you talk about the outcome that the client is in pursuit of. The second part is where we do a description of the presence of that outcome. And the last part is how you close the session in the session in a way that maintains client autonomy. And the way that we maintain client autonomy is by not asking ‘how’ questions.
Because once you do that, you’re taking away the client’s creativity and you are taking away the clients ability to surprise themselves as they sort out how they’re going to create a new future once they leave your office. So trie to do Therapy without asking ‘how’ questions. I promise you, it makes all the difference in your work.
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