In the past few years I have spent a large amount of time reviewing videotapes of my work with clients. In the early days of my therapy career it just made sense to me that if I wanted to improve my skills and hone my craft as a clinician, video analysis would be helpful and the habit was established. I was not doing anything special, just watching my work and seeing what stood out me, what I was doing well and what I needed to improve. I was watching at least one video per week and when I could not make a new tape, I simply watched an old one. Some times, I was watching the same tape over and over and over again. I was so thirsty for growth and knowledge (still am in fact) in applying the Solution Focused Approach in my work that I just never stopped. Every time I had free time between sessions I would watch these tapes. I credit this time in my career and this habit now with my development with this approach.
In time, I began to share my work with others. I would show these videotapes in workshops as teaching tools or in supervision for new clinicians. Also, I would share these tapes with colleagues that used the Solution Focused Approach in their work and in research. This step further helped my development and led to me discovering new things about my work that had previously gone unnoticed.
One of the things I learned by sharing my work profoundly changed the way I wrote about my work and taught workshops and courses. This is the way I spend time implementing common Solution Focused practices in my sessions. I began to become aware that I was doing certain things very differently than other solution-focused clinicians. I want to share one of those differences here.
One day, I was preparing to conduct a workshop with Dr. Adam Froerer, a well-known SFBT clinician and researcher, at the 2011 Solution Focused Brief Therapy Association Conference. As we prepared for this event, I sent a video to Adam to review as we were planning to show clips of this video to attendees to our workshop. After watching the video Adam called me (he is in Chicago and I am in Dallas) and he pointed out to me that in the first 19 minutes of the session, I asked the client 27 times, “would you be pleased”? I had never realized that I so frequently asked this question! I had been watching video recordings for several years and just never noticed the frequency of this question. When I thought about this, I realized that this question is my way of highlighting whether or not a client response would be a positive change or a negative change.
In SFBT, when the clinician asks the client future focused questions, the client response is not some big grandiose detail, it is often just an every day detail. A question such as, “suppose you woke up tomorrow and you were your very best, what would you first notice” is not answered with something like, “I would have one million dollars. Instead, the answer is usually about smaller everyday details, such as, “I would eat breakfast”. So, by asking a question like, “would you be pleased by that” the everyday seemingly, minute detail becomes highlighted and the client becomes more aware of the power of this subtle change. It became a powerful way to both allow the client to stay in charge of the session but to bring out the power of their words.
I hope readers of this blog will take away two things. First, a new way to use language to highlight the changes the client is describing. Second, there is nothing more important than studying your work in real time through the use of video or even audio tapes of your work.
I hope these ideas help you along your journey towards solutions.