When you’re practicing Solution Focused Brief Therapy, especially when you’re beginning to learn this approach in the early stages of your work, there’s a really, really important thing you need to know. And that is what do I do to stop the problem from overtaking the session. So that’s what this video is about. I’m going to show you how to notice when the problem is trying to overtake your session and then what to do about it, to make sure that you can continue to have a conversation that is building towards the future your client wants to achieve.
Now look, here’s the first step. Oftentimes when you’re first starting with this approach, and I know this because I get emails from people like all day, every day, like I literally get hundreds of emails a day from people asking me things about Solution Focused Therapy.
One of the most common questions people ask me is what do you do with clients that can’t answer your questions? Won’t answer your questions? It doesn’t seem like they want to answer these questions? What do you do with people if they can’t tell you what they want? What about those people who don’t think change is possible? Like these are the kinds of questions that people ask me.
And it makes me realize like, some of you need to know how do you keep the problem out of your session? So that’s what this video is about. Number one, you have to understand that it’s the problem, not the person. So you have to separate problem and person, oftentimes people struggle in these sessions because the problem is such a huge part of their life.
That it’s very, very difficult for them to see beyond that problem. So what do you do when a person is so ensconced to the problem, you have to work really, really hard to keep the problem out. Now, I’m going to give you a clue. Here’s how, you know, when the problem is beginning to overtake your session. And it’s when the client uses words like always and never.
So a client will often say something like I’ve always been this way. I’ve never had happiness, joy, peace, you know, whatever. I’ve always been depressed. I’ve always… I’ve never been able to do… Whenever someone uses words like always and never, you know, that that is a false hood. That is the problem talking.
And there are exceptions to that always and never. So in Solution Focused originally there was this idea called exceptions and exceptions are times when the problem is not present. And I would actually go a step further. My guys, my friends from London at an organization called BRIEF, they stopped really focusing on exceptions and started focusing something called instances and instances are times when your desired outcome has been present in your past.
So when someone says I’ve never been happy, then that must mean at some point in your life, happiness showed up. It might not have been there for a long time. And it might not have been like huge happiness when it showed up, but it must have been there at some point. So when a client says, I’ve never been happy, that’s your indicator. That the problem is beginning to try to take over the session. And what do you do is you try to find times to counter the word always or never. So if I says I’ve never been happy, I’m going to say things like, so if I had a movie about your life, that was totally recording from the moment your life started to today, at what point in your life would I have seen something that looked like happiness, and then you’ll often get answers like, well, you know, when I was 12, I got a great Christmas gift, right? And then you can say like, what was it about the Christmas gift that you enjoy it?
And they’ll say, oh, you know, it was a bicycle. I really wanted a bicycle. And I remember smiling and laughing as I rode my bicycle around the neighborhood, having fun with my friends. And then you get to say, well, suppose you woke up tomorrow. And that happiness somehow showed back up in your life now at the age of 45, even though life’s been really, really hard, what would you notice? So you see how you have to find information that contradicts the always and never, and helps you build questions that further contribute to change.
And it happens really subtly, but people, when we’re steeped in our problem and we have a tendency to think, wow, it’s always going to be this way, or it has always been that way, and I can’t see beyond it. But it’s my job to ask the client questions that would produce content that contradicts always and never. So try really, really hard not to get frustrated with your client. It’s actually not the person. It’s the problem. Trying to find a way into your conversation and the pathway the problem uses usually is associated with these words always and never.
So I want you to work really, really hard to when you hear a word, like always never, you got to know that behind those words are instances that contradict the always or never, and you can pry and you can persist and you can ask questions that help the client identify, well, wait a minute, there was this time where my partner and I got along, or hold on one second, there was this moment where I felt like a little bit more of my best self, where there was this point in my life where I felt like things were just a bit more looking up.
And then once you do that, it becomes very, very difficult for the problem to find his way back in, because then the clients are realizing, wait a minute, I’m better than I thought I was. And once you start that happening, then the road towards change, it’s much more clear. So I hope this helps because this is really important to know when the problem is taking over it’s not the person, it’s just the problem. And the way to keep it out is to find contradictory information to stop those horrible always and nevers.
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