During one of my first international speaking trips, I had the great pleasure of meeting one of the developers of Solution Focused Brief Therapy, Eve Lipchik. During that first conversation she said something that impacted me significantly, the sort of thing you never forget.
This took place at a conference in Malmo, Sweden at an event dedicated to the Solution Focused Approach. Even though my own first book had just been released, I was completely star struck. As I walked the halls of the event, I saw all of the people that had written the books that I had studied while in graduate school. I was like a young person meeting star athletes or famous actors, asking author after author for their autograph.
The meeting with Eve was unlike the others. Everyone else entertained my childlike enthusiasm by signing my book and moving on. Not eve. Instead she asked me to chat and we sat and had a conversation about SFBT and the work I was doing. As I stated, I had just published my first book and I was just getting started in the speaking world.
Eve noticed my excitement about this approach and then made a request of me. She then proceeded to say the words that have stuck with me to this day. She basically said that in the earliest days of SFBT, they began writing about what they were doing but made a crucial mistake.
Eve explained that even back then, they knew that therapy took place within a relationship between the therapist and client. The mistake was that they thought this was common knowledge throughout our field, causing them to only write about the techniques they were using.
This has led to the myth that the relationship between client and therapist is not important when using SFBT. This could not be more inaccurate. When using SFBT, the relationship between the client and therapist is just as important as it is in any other approach, we just tend to it differently.
- An SFBT clinician acknowledges that the rapport comes along with the client and it is our job to protect and grow it by doing our job to the best of our ability.
- The questions of this approach must come from a place of genuine curiosity and not just the application of a technique.
- The clinician must know this approach well enough that he can adapt his questions to include content that has come directly from the client.
This is why it is important to learn this approach by going far beyond the techniques and focus on what the therapist is actually doing in the session. SFBT takes practice and focus to be able to use it with clients, similar to the way we learn new languages.
Very often I meet people who tell me they already learned about SFBT, or they already know it. This is a great concern to me because it highlights that many people in the field do not understand that this approach is about practice. Not only do we have to learn about SFBT, but we also have to continually build our ability to use it.
This is how we build relationships with our clients. When this approach becomes fluent within you and your natural way of viewing clients, everything you say in session will occur within the context of a strong therapeutic bond.
During that conversation with Eve, she asked me to make sure I focused on the relationship in my work so I could “fix their mistake”. I have taken that request seriously and have always tried to highlight that SFBT is much more than just a collection of techniques.
I hope this blog post helps.