If you have been following my blog for any length of time, or read any of my books, you have probably already surmised that I am a purest in Solution Focused Brief Therapy. This is not because I think this approach is better than another. I just understand this approach and from the time I was introduced to this way of working, I just have felt like this way of working is what I have always envisioned myself trying to do and it just seemed to fit my way if thinking about people and change. Not to mention, that I am not sure how someone can have a Solution Building conversation, the core activity of a SFBT therapist, and problem solving simultaneously, the activities are just too different to do either effectively (hint: more on this at a later date).
In recent years I have been mentoring clinicians interested in practicing this approach purely in their work and it has been interesting to watch people make the journey from their original way of working to using SFBT more exclusively in their work. Most clinicians, me included, were originally trained in more traditional problem solving approaches and that is the way many people spend years working, as a result, they experience a few challenges in learning to use Solution Focused language in their work.
Probably the most prominent of these challenges is unlearning some of the things we learned in our original training and learning to trust the client. I mean really trust the client, the sort of trust that would allow the clinician to remain curious about the client’s description of the way they would like their lives to look instead of falling back on assessments or advice giving when the session became “stuck’” or centered around difficult content. This may seem simple, but trust me, it is not and frequently stands as the most significant challenge to those looking to use this approach in their work.
In order to overcome this challenge and subsequently gain mastery of the language of SFBT the clinician must simply ask another question that is developed to elicit further details about the presence of the client’s best hopes from the work. It really is that simple, however, simple does not always mean easy.
There is a ton of research that has already been published and some being done currently to demonstrate the effectiveness of this approach, lending evidence to the fact that it is helpful to ask a struggling person questions instead of offering advice or performing some sort of assessment. This is why training is so important when first learning this approach. Learning this approach is more similar to learning a language than it is to learning a collection of therapy techniques.
So, when the session gets tough and a clinician becomes stuck in session, try asking another question. It is a tactic supported by research and could lead to more hopeful language in session.