In a recent course I was teaching, Evan George mentioned how SFBT is a way of listening. This is because you are listening for opportunity rather than understanding. We have to have our ears honed to listen for opportunities to ask the next question. And remember, we have to recognize our biases because we need to have the discipline to listen to the client and not react with our biases.
So I was recently on a, we are teaching an online course, me and my colleagues Chris Iveson, Evan George and Adam Froerer and we were teaching online course and we were talking to the group of people, a huge group, about 250 or so, people from all around the world, about Solution Focused Brief Therapy and I heard my colleague Evan George say something that resonated with me.
And from that time I find myself in my thinking, agreeing with what Evan said more and more. And I want to explain that to you. And, and so we describe Solution Focused Brief Therapy as a way of asking questions in a way of talking, in a way of thinking. But Evan on this day said that Solution Focused Brief Therapy is a way of listening.
And I’ve been thinking about that a lot. And one of the things that makes me really agree that Solution Focused Brief Therapy is a way of listening, is because most of the time when we listened to people talk, we listen for understanding as opposed to listen for opportunity. So when you are practicing Solution Focused Brief Therapy, we have to have our ears honed to listen for opportunities to ask the next question that will lead to the client doing further description of the presence of their desired outcome.
So I’m not really listening to gain understanding. I’m not listening for the purpose of assessment. I’m listening for opportunities to ask another question. Now this is really, really important because the way that we listen is influenced by many, many things. So for example, if I’m working with a client and it’s a teenage client, and if I have the position that teenage clients are difficult to work with,
and I know like, I’m going to talk to you guys about biases and I know that we all have biases, but the Solution Focused Approach is about having a discipline to believe in your clients. And this is going to influence the way that you listen to them. I want to give you an example, and the reason I know this is because I get a lot of questions where I hear your biases in them right.
People ask me all the time, “So what do you do with those difficult teenagers?” “What do you do with those couples who hate each other?” Like, those are biases, right? If I’m talking to a client and I say, “What are your best hopes from our talking?” And it’s a teenage client who’s really, you know, difficult, unhappy, parents described as teenagers,
you know, the difficult teen and I say, “What are your best hopes from our talking?” And the teenager says, “I don’t know. I don’t want to be here.” I’m listening for opportunities to ask the next question. I’m not really listening to take on what he said, because honestly if I say, if I listen to him like, “I don’t know, I don’t really want to be here.”
Then I’m going to assume that he actually doesn’t know that his statement. “I don’t know.” Is a statement of fact, and that him not wanting to be here means he shouldn’t have to be here for the rest of the session. So if I say to a client, “What are your best from our talking?” And he says, “I don’t know. I don’t want to be here.”
I’m listening for opportunities to ask another question and rooted in that listening, is my ability to believe that this client, in fact,does know, and that even though he’s saying he doesn’t want to be here, if we can do something useful, it will benefit him. He’s not saying he doesn’t want to be here because he actually doesn’t want to be here.
The fact that he walked into my office is a statement that on some level, somewhere, for some reason, he does want to be here. Maybe he wants to be here because he doesn’t want his parents to be on his case. Maybe he wants to be here because the probation officer told him he had to be here, but to say he doesn’t want to be here.
If I accept that as true, then I might as well just let him out of my office, so I’m making the decision to hear him as someone who in fact does want to be here, even though this is hard for him. I mean, I’m going to hear him as someone who does know how to describe what it is that they want. I just might have to ask a few more questions to get there.
But what I will not do is allow myself to hear him differently. Remember, I’m not listening for assessment and I’m not listening for understanding. I’m listening for opportunity to ask him another question. So I may say something like, “Yeah, I’m sure you know, as a teenager there might be 10,000 other things you’d rather be doing with yourself. But since you are here and we’ll be talking for the next few minutes, next however long, what would be a useful outcome from this talk?” I’ve been doing Solution Focused Brief Therapy for 15 years, by the way. And in that time, I have not met a single teenager that when you ask follow up questions, they don’t eventually answer them.
For some people it takes a little longer. Some people it takes a little less, but if you ask people questions from the position of belief, then eventually they give you an answer and eventually they tell you something that even surprises themselves. But that’s the point of this approach. It’s not about, it’s just as important that I understand what comes out of my mouth is influenced by what I allow to go in my ears as anything else in this approach.
I have to be aware that the way that I’ve listened to people informs the way that I talk to them and the way I listened to them is full on my responsibility. Full stop. It is my job to listen to people for opportunity and listen to people from the perspective of capability and this is a discipline. I make the decision to do that. Whether or not you are a teenage client,
whether or not you are a happy couple, whether or not you are an angry couple, I have to do that whether or not you are a couple who’s been together for a thousand years, but recently you’ve hit a low patch and you just want some Therapy to see if you can boost things up. Or if you are a couple who’s been together for a while and you are at each other’s throats the entire time and your coming to therapy as a one ditch effort before you go to get a divorce.
It is my job in any scenario to listen for opportunity and not listen to assess, not listen for understanding, not listen for problem, but listen for opportunity because that’s what we get our ability to be useful and it is rooted in our ability to believe in the people we’re seeing. The way we think about people informs the way we listen to them, and the way we listen to them informs the way we talk to them.
So be in control of how you think about people. Hey, thank you so much for watching that video. I really appreciate you guys listening to me share my thoughts and ideas about Solution Focused Brief Therapy. And as I try to make you the very best Solution Focused Brief Therapy that you could possibly be. If you could please help me share the word,
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