Yesterday was a really cool day. I got to spend the day teaching at Columbia University up in New York, and it was amazing. These days I get to do so many things like standup comedy and working on television projects, and all kinds of stuff in the entertainment world. But, the heart of my work is still being a clinician, and talking about mental health and Solution Focused Brief Therapy.

While I was teaching, I went into an idea that I actually did not anticipate going into, I didn’t anticipate talking about, but it’s really important to me these days. I’ve evolved in my thinking in Solution Focused Brief Therapy, and started to share why Solution Focused Brief Therapy, in my opinion, is an act of social justice.

The way that it came up is, we were talking about how in our field, we work really hard to put people in boxes, and then treat them based upon how they fit in that box. So for example, we do a lot of assessment and diagnosis in our field. I mean, a lot of assessment and diagnosis, to figure out what box people fit into.

Like, are you someone with depression, borderline personality disorder, bipolar disorder, complex trauma, some other kind of trauma.

And, once we identify what box you go into, we kind of give you treatment based upon that box that you are identified to fit into.

But, in Solution Focused Brief Therapy, we do the exact opposite. We want to treat you like the individual. We wanna treat you like the person that you are. We want to treat you as an individualized human being, and talk to you about what your specific and unique desired outcomes may be, and how you can use your specific and unique strengths and assets to manifest those desired outcomes, so they can become a reality in your life.

This is completely different than the way other therapies do things. It’s completely different than what the standard is in our field, which is putting people in boxes and treating them based upon what box they fit in.
But, if you think about that, that’s actually a problem. That’s not the way we should treat people, either clinically or in society.

If all you knew about me was that I was an African American male, and you put me in that box, then you said, I’m gonna treat you, Elliott, based upon what I perceive, what I think about people in that box. That’s the definition of racism.

If you say, “Oh, you’re a woman, I’m gonna put you in this woman box.” That’s the definition of genderism, right?

If I say, “I know something about Italian people, I’m gonna put you in that box.” I’m gonna treat you based upon how you fit in that box.

That’s a problem. That’s why we have some of the problems we have in our society.

I genuinely think Solution Focused Brief Therapy is the answer.

We advocate for treating every single person as an individual. We advocate for treating every single person as a unique individual.

I remember when I was in college, my roommate’s name was Edwin. Shout out to Edwin. Love you, Edwin. We’re both African American males. He grew up in Fort Worth, Texas. I was born in Chicago, grew up in Massachusetts. And I remember hanging out with Edwin and we got really, really close, really, really fast. And he invited me to his family’s home and they would cook a meal.

I remember the meal they made. It was a baked chicken dish with rice and vegetables, and it was just a traditional kind of southern meal. I remember when they served the dish, everybody in Edwin’s family did something I had never seen before, they all reached for sugar and put sugar on their rice. I had never seen that. I’d never heard about that. To me, rice is a savory dish. If you’re gonna season it, you season it with salt and pepper. But Edwin’s family was seasoning it with sugar.

They were serving Coca-Cola. Someone at the table put peanuts in their Coca-Cola.

I had never seen these things before.

The reason I’m sharing that with you now, is, if all you know about me and Edwin is we’re both African American males, you’re gonna make the mistake that we have the same experience on this planet. We have the same experience on this earth. We have the same lived experience within our families. And you would be wrong. You’d be very wrong. Edwin and I have completely different lived experiences ’cause our backgrounds are completely different.

So if you treat us in that box, like, “Oh, you guys are African American males, I know how to treat people in that box.” Not only are you participating in racism (without even knowing it sometimes), but you are also missing who I am as a person and as a individual, and who Edwin is as a person and as an individual.

I tell people all the time, I use Solution Focused Brief Therapy with each and every one of my clients. And there are people that get so upset with me, “There’s no such thing as a cookie cutter approach.” One of my most popular lectures is called ‘Helping Any Client with Any Problem using Solution Focused Brief Therapy’. People comment sometimes, like, “You can’t help everybody with the same thing.” I agree. But, you gotta understand that Solution Focused Brief Therapy advocates that we treat each individual person as an individual person.

The reason why we don’t participate in assessment and diagnosis when you’re using Solution Focused Brief Therapy, is because all assessment and diagnosis does is work to put people in boxes, and then give us the thought that we can treat them based upon the box that they’re in, instead of treating their heart, their soul, their spirit, their individual personhood. Instead of treating them like the real person that they are.

I think this is something that I’m gonna be talking a lot about, ’cause it’s important to me that we understand that what we’re doing in Solution Focused Brief Therapy is the same thing that we should be doing in society. It is literally an act of social justice to treat people as individualized human beings with hopes and dreams and skills. And when you treat people that way, they’re much more likely to accomplish change, feel valued, feel good about themselves, and be the persons that they want to be.

This is true clinically, and it’s true in our society. I think Solution Focused Brief Therapy should be leading this endeavor. And, that’s why I’m talking about it now.

Hope you enjoyed this video.