Regardless of how hard I try. I still get people emailing me asking, “But how do you do Solution Focused Brief Therapy with…?”, or “How do you do Solution Focused Brief Therapy when the client…?” Somebody even asked me today, “How do you do Solution Focused Brief Therapy when the client doesn’t have a relevant amount of hope?” These questions frustrate the hell out of me, they drive me crazy. Not because I don’t understand why the person is asking the question. I’m not annoyed or frustrated by the person, but I don’t understand why learning this or understanding this is so difficult. Because no matter how many times you ask that question, the answer is always, always, always going to be the same.
So whenever you’re thinking, how do I work with a client who has such and such a problem, or who has such and such an issue? I am going to tell you that we start with asking what the client hopes to achieve. And that means every single time you do this therapy, you have to assume that the client has the relevant amount of hope. Now watch this. Let me give you an example.
So we have come to this beautiful park to film this video. I have a great camera, man. His name is Dennis. And one of Dennis’s jobs is to find the locations where we will shoot. And we travel together a lot because my life involves travel, so Dennis comes with me, and we pick locations. And then when we are here, local in Texas, Dennis pick places.
Now we’re at a park near where I live and I’m looking over there, Dennis, I want you to put him on camera. You can even like use your phone to take the picture of the dude, but there’s a guy over there. Let’s see if Dennis can capture him. So right now, Dennis can like splice in the picture of the guy.
So, you know, I’m not lying. There’s a guy over there, exercising. He is working out in this ridiculous Texas heat and he’s doing tons of exercises. When I pulled up, he was curling weights that he brought here. He’s doing sit-ups and push-ups. Now, if I ask that man, do you want to be here? The answer to that question is totally irrelevant.
What is relevant is the fact that he showed up at the park, willing to exercise is evidence that he has enough hope to do the activity. And I want you to remember that the fact that your client showed up to therapy, it doesn’t matter whether they want to be here or not. The fact that they showed up to therapy is all of the evidence I need, that they have the relevant amount of hope to participate in the process.
For me to think anything else is to disrespect the client. For me to think anything else is to disrespect the process. So the answer to this question, no matter how many times you ask it is we have to believe that the client is capable of change and the client has enough hope.
So we’re going to ask our clients what it is they hope to achieve, regardless of the problem. That’s the answer. Every single time you ask it. So it begs the question. Why is this so difficult to understand? And the answer to that question is because you thought you were going to school to learn how to solve problems and you didn’t, that’s not what we learn as psychotherapists.
This job, believe it or not, has nothing to do with solving problems. We went to therapy to learn how to heal people from problems. And that’s a very different task. So once I understand my job is healing and not solving, then I understand that if a client comes to my office and they have trauma and they have addiction, I’m not trying to solve the trauma.
I have a history of trauma in my life. There’s not a damn thing you can say to solve that. There’s nothing you can do to undo that, but you can help me heal from it so that I’m not living my life based on the experiences that occurred through the trauma, I’m living my life based on my hopes and dreams. That’s what our job is. And once you understand that our job is not related to solving problems. Instead, our job is related to healing hearts. Then you do the job differently and you understand the tasks differently and you do the job better.
So I don’t want, I mean, this is actually the one question people ask me that I don’t want to be asked anymore, because once you ask this question, I know you’re not understanding your job. I know you’re not understanding the process. And you’re accidentally disrespecting the client. The client wants to change or they wouldn’t be here. The same way that that guy over there wants to be fit. And I know he wants to be fit because he came out here in the Texas heat. He agreed to do that. Whether or not he wants to be here or not is completely irrelevant. I know he wants to be fit because he has done activities that are concurrent with wanting to be fit.
I know my client wants healing because they have done activities that are congruent with wanting to heal. They have shown up to therapy. They schedule an appointment. They agreed to come and they have made it happen. I saw a couple this morning, actually like to further make this point. I saw a couple this morning, where about, I don’t know, 12 years ago, the husband in the relationship was having a problem in his life. And his partner said, you need to go see a therapist and found me.
And I remember that first session he not want to be there. He was actually upset about being in therapy, but as I keep telling you, that does not matter. He was telling me, I don’t think I need to be here. My partner thinks I need to be here. I don’t want to be here. But I am someone who understands that my job is healing.
So I don’t care. It doesn’t matter to me. So I just did the therapy and we saw each other for, I don’t know, two months, maybe let’s say, and his life got significantly better. Well, I saw him and his partner today for the first time and a certain issue, another completely unrelated issue to the original issue popped up in their lives. And they came and the wife thanked me for seeing him 12 years ago and said how much he changed his life. And we kind of joked about how he did not want to come to the therapy 12 years ago. But once when you start attending to the client doesn’t want to be here, they’re having a hard time answering my question.
They’re saying they don’t have any hope. You’re missing the point. Of course, they’re saying they don’t have any hope. They’ve had something really horrible happen to them. Of course, they’re saying they don’t want to be there. It’s hot in Texas, right? It’s a hard process. Of course, they don’t want to be there.
Would you want to talk to you? No! I wouldn’t want to talk to me if I were a 15 year old kid who just got in trouble in school, I wouldn’t want to talk to me. Of course, they don’t want to be there. They’d rather be doing 10,000 other things. Being here is evidence that something has gone wrong. So I don’t want to be here.
I went and saw my doctor this morning for my annual checkup. I did not want to be there because being there is evidence that something has gone wrong. The thing that’s gone wrong is I’m 45 years old and I haven’t taken as great of physical shape as I would’ve liked to. So I now have to sit in this doctor’s office just to see how bad my life, when my personal health is deteriorating. Luckily not so bad. I’m doing pretty okay. But while I was sitting in the office, I didn’t want to be there because I’m in a place where this doctor could walk in the room and tell me really bad news. So don’t get tripped up by the fact that your client doesn’t want to be there. Of course they don’t want to be there.
You might tell them really bad news. You might ask them to do something really, really hard, but that doesn’t matter because our job is to help people heal. And once you understand that, that is your job, you do it differently. So please, I beg of you do not ask this question anymore. Anytime you have a question that starts with, “But how do you do it with…?”, the answer is always the same. We ask them what they hope to achieve. Anytime you ask, “But what do you do when the client does such and such?”, the answer is always the same.
We believe in them. That is never not the answer. You’re asking me that because you want me to give you something. You want me to give you some sort of tip, trick or technique that I use when the client does these things, but the tip trick and technique I use is belief. Is the fact that I understand my job is about healing. And once you understand that you can do it better. My doctor understood that his job is about healing.
We came in the office and he talked about my health, which like I said, doing pretty okay. As a 45 year old would be, I’m doing pretty all right. But he talked to me about my health and what’s going well and what he wants to keep an eye on and all those things. But he did it as a carer. Like what doctors need to do in order to be effective, the most effective doctors, they don’t treat their patients like sick people.
They treat their patients with care. Right? We had a long conversation about the New York Yankees before we started talking about my health. And that helps, right. That helps. So like be a person and understand your job is healing. Once you understand that you understand the process and then you don’t have to ask that question anymore. So stop asking that question.
Believe in your clients.
Great thoughts; thank you. It sounds like you’re feeling frustrated with us for asking this question (or versions of it). Please be patient with us while we learn from you.