Today, I’m going to talk about something that’s really, really important, but often not discussed. In fact, I don’t think I’ve ever made a video about this very specific topic. And it’s only on my mind because somebody interviewed me about it recently. And I realized like, holy cow, I don’t think I’ve ever like specifically honed in on the skill. And that is how do you end or close a Solution Focused session.
Now I’m going to go back to my original training in Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, where I was taught, literally, somebody once told me that the only part of the therapy session that matters are the first 10 minutes, because that’s where you established the goals and the last 10 minutes, because that’s where you give the homework task.
And that was from a very CBT like problem focused lens. You need the goal and then at the end of the session, you ask the client to do something, to solve the problem. Now, Solution Focused Brief Therapy works much differently than that, where we value agency and client autonomy. Like I remember one of the things that really hooked me into doing Solution Focused work was I used to work with clients and they would often tell me like when they came back to therapy, I would say, so how are things going? And they would often say, I don’t remember what we talked about in the previous session. Or I tried what we talked about in the previous session and it didn’t work. So it was like this constant battle for client compliance.
And once I shifted to doing Solution Focused work, those two things went away. The clients had a buy-in to what they were doing and thus the follow through went up. So how do we do that? We do that by valuing autonomy and client agency. And the way we end the session is to simply honor the work that has happened throughout this session, and actually not give a task or give homework or give compliments and those sorts of things at the end of this session. I want to tell you exactly why.
In Solution Focused Brief Therapy, where it’s so focused on the outcome that the client is pursuing, that we spend the entire session asking them, what would you notice? What would you do? And how would you go about that and what things would happen? And we spend the entire session asking the client about their perspective and asking the client about their unique skills and gifts and asking the client about their strengths and abilities that at the end of the session, we have to honor that.
The moment I start giving a task or giving homework or an assignment to the client, I’m now relying on my skills and abilities. And it’s really, really important that we let the client make the choices about what happens after the session. And that I’m telling you, I know from experience, that’s like a scary thing to do.
It’s a nerve wracking thing to do. It’s a thing that a lot of therapists are kind of hesitant to do. But it is probably the single most important choice I’ve ever made in my work. And it certainly is the thing that led to me, completely buying in to what I do in Solution Focused Brief Therapy is understanding that the session itself is the intervention. So thus, I don’t need to give them an intervention at the end because the session itself is the intervention. And if I can ask clients, when they come back to therapy, in essence, how did that intervention impact your life? The answers are profound.
There have been times where a client has come back to therapy and they did something between session one and two that has so blown me away, it just hearkens my belief that me giving the client a task is also me giving my client a limitation, which I would not want to do. I want my client to be limitless. I want my client to be filled with hope. I want my client to be more armed for change than not. And I’ve come to realize that the best way to do that is to allow the session itself, to be the intervention and to get out of my client’s way. So if you ever watch me do therapy, if you were ever, ever able to see me do a demonstration, or if you had like a window into my therapy practice, you’d see me get to the end of the session and say things like, well, I guess we’re out of time.
I just want to thank you so much for allowing me to work with you and for spending this time with me and allowing me to ask you all these difficult questions. Do you think another session would be useful and the client says yes or no? And then we sorted out when and then that’s that. That is how you end the session, maintaining client autonomy and preparing the client for change.
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