In Solution Focused Brief Therapy, we’re constantly talking about finding the best in people, and treating people as if they’re capable of accomplishing great things, or accomplishing change, and specifically the kind of change that is desirable in their lives. But I know it’s a struggle for clinicians to do that, because the questions I get are always like, “But what do you do when?” Or, “How do you treat a client who does this?” And the real issue isn’t that you don’t know what to do in those settings. The real issue is that you don’t trust people to be able to manage. You don’t actually foundationally in your core believe this idea that anybody can accomplish anything at any time.

Now, I’m here in New York City, I’m speaking an event hosted by the UJC, the United Justice Coalition. And I was on a panel hosted by Charlamagne tha God, and there was this guy on the panel named Derek. And Derek did 21 years in prison for a crime he did not commit, and was later exonerated from. Ten of those 21 years he was in solitary confinement, and it didn’t break him. He literally went into the law library at the prison, and studied every single law book until he learned enough information to literally set himself free.

Now I’m telling you this to tell you that that’s how strong the human spirit is. You can literally put this person in prison, and put them in a prison within a prison of solitary confinement, and he was still able to do the legal things and file his own motions and get himself out of prison.

I want you so badly to just get that anyone can accomplish anything, and the human spirit has constantly and consistently demonstrated that it can’t be broken.

Now, sometimes clients are gonna come to you and they’re gonna tell you that they’re broken and they can’t change. And I’m sure if you had met Derek in the lowest of lowest moments while he was in prison, he probably found sounded that way. But he had within him his ability to focus and set himself free. And your clients have that same thing, but only if you believe in it. The moment you stop believing it, then you stop talking to them as if they’re capable of this magnificent change. And then it doesn’t happen.

“Obviously, when you’re listening to somebody like Derek talk, several things come up for me. But the number one thing that comes up for me is, what an example of an unbreakable human spirit he is. And I think that the biggest responsibility that we have as advocates for black mental health is, this is a man who spends 21 years in prison. He described probably 0.001% of the atrocities that he witnessed. And just one story he told, I’m over here wincing, I don’t wanna hear that. And he saw that every single day, and maintained the ability to get himself out of prison.

“When I hear those stories, the responsibility for me is like, I want to talk to him, like, “What’s that magic that he has inside of him?” So that everybody out there can discover that magic inside of themselves. And we need to be able to identify talent in young people, so he doesn’t have to use that talent to get himself out of prison. He can use that talent to build a billion dollar business, or run his family, or whatever. The black journey is being undiscovered, and your voice not mattering. And he had to use that talent to get himself out of a tragedy that he did not deserve to be in. So when I hear him talk, I just think, ‘What an unbelievable example of the human spirit.'”

I was watching him when we were on this panel and I was just blown away, and I wanted all of you to hear what he’s got to say. Wanted all of you to hear this man’s magnificent story and look him in his eyes and see that this is what people are capable of. And if he’s capable of this, that means all of our clients are capable of magnificent change, but you’ve gotta really accept it, and believe it in your core. And remember that even in the most difficult situations, in the most difficult settings of you working with your clients, they’re capable of setting themselves free.