Hello and welcome to episode eight of Don’t Forget with Anna Francis. I’m Anna Francis, the CEO of the SFU, and a registered counselor in New Zealand. This video series is all about sharing my thoughts, ideas, and reminders about things we so often and easily forget when we’re learning and practicing Solution Focused Brief Therapy. In each segment, I focus on one key thing that I hope helps you while you’re on your learning journey or keeping your Solution Focused Brief Therapy skills sharp.
In this episode, I’m gonna talk to you about those sessions that just seem super heavy, super challenging, and super uncomfortable, more than the average session. And what I mean by that is sometimes our clients show up and they’re just in the moment, really super struggling. Their mood is super low, their circumstances just seem impossible, in that kind of way that when we put ourselves in their shoes, we are like, “I have no idea what I would do.”
Answering questions is super hard because they feel so hopeless and it feels like we’re not being helpful because even when we’re asking Solution Focused questions, it doesn’t seem to be shifting the weight of the client’s mood. And we start to feel like, “We don’t know how to make things better. We don’t know if we are being any help at all.” And it just feels really hard.
But please don’t forget, we are still doing a good job. There are two really main things that I think are important to remember here.
The first one is that sometimes our sessions, no matter how skilled we are, no matter how confident we are using this approach, they are just painfully uncomfortable. And we need to remember that our comfort level doesn’t correlate to the progress or the value the session has for our clients. So if you think of ourselves as parenting, or starting a new job, or something big and new, some days just feel really terrible, they’re exhausting.
You don’t feel like you’ve really achieved anything. You didn’t do a good job as a parent, and you feel really down and out. But later on, when we have time to sit back, get some rest, start a new day, and reflect, you can see the big picture. Sometimes we get thrown curve balls that throw us off, and we are learning and growing all of the time. So sometimes it’s just really challenging, but that doesn’t actually mean you’re not being a good parent, or not good at learning your new job, or whatever that big thing is. It just means you’re a human like the rest of us.
So don’t allow those super challenging sessions to be reflective of how good of a job you’re doing overall. Just let it be a super challenging session, and know you did your best, and that that’s a good job done.
And the second thing to remember is, sometimes we don’t see the success of the questions during the session. It’s lucky if we do, and we can go through a session, our clients can give us answers, which may not give us the visual shift where we’re hoping to see, but we need to remember that much of our work happens outside of the therapy session.
So rather than thinking, ‘seeing success during the session’ is how you gauge how well you’re doing. Just rely on that trifecta of trust. Trust the process, trust the client, and trust yourself. And remember, the fact remains that we can’t be useful for every client for a variety of reasons. I remember Chris Iverson saying that the research shows that talk therapy, any talk therapy, is useful for approximately 70 ish percent of clients. I can’t remember the exact figure, but it was close to that, which means statistically three of every 10 clients we won’t be useful for.
Now, I like to believe that using Solution Focused Brief Therapy makes that statistic much smaller. But either way, the expectation we put on ourselves to be useful to every single client is just not statistically possible.
So if we commit to trusting the process, trusting our clients, trusting ourselves, our energy is much better spent at continuing to grow, rather than our confidence getting damaged, because a position of growth is going to make us feel much better about our work than a dent in our confidence.
I can think of two specific sessions I had with two different clients, and the sessions were super uncomfortable. I didn’t see any clues that led me to believe I was being any use at all. They both had significant issues going on, and that really tested my ability to stay Solution Focused and not fall into offering advice or making suggestions. And afterwards, when I never heard from either of them again, I let myself negatively question and analyze my abilities. What I would’ve been better off doing was questioning and analyzing my abilities, but from a place of growth, because about 12 months later, they’d both got back in touch to engage in counseling again. And the reason I hadn’t heard back from them had nothing to do at all with me, my skill, or the process, they had both just got busy with life going on.
So my tip, after those really heavy, challenging, and uncomfortable sessions, is to really don’t forget, we have provided a space where our clients have time to talk and share. We provide a space of confidential safety. We provide a space where our clients experience a professional who believes they can get through whatever storm they’re currently weathering. We are providing a space where our clients experience questions that they may have popped into their back pocket to ponder on more later.
We provide space, we provide care, and we provide respect. And we should always feel good about that no matter how heavy, how challenging and how uncomfortable the session is. So I have a challenge for you to think back on those sessions or any other area of your life experiences where things were super challenging and you doubted yourself in a way that made you feel yuck.
And take a minute and rethink that time through from a lens of growth and make a note of what you can now see that you can attribute to the growth that you’ve made since then.
So as always, I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments section below. And thank you so much for joining me for this Solution Focused snippet. And I really hope that this reminder helps you as you continue to grow your skills and your confidence.
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And until next time, keep being you.