Ever since I’ve been doing solution focused work, I’ve noticed that people have a very challenging time understanding certain aspects of this approach. And now I’ve been teaching this approach for 15 years or so. And it’s interesting because I’ve been having conversations with people on social media, and I realize that they’re still struggling with the same aspect of this approach. And I want to address it because once you understand this, you become a better Solution Focused Brief Therapist and even a better therapist in general, regardless of what, what you do. So I want to get into it today because I think it’s a really, really important thing. And here’s what I noticed.

When I worked at an agency early, earlier in my career, the very first job I had in this field, I genuinely just wanted to help people. I didn’t matter to me what type of therapy I was doing. It didn’t matter to me, what context in which it was.

I just wanted to help people heal from the traumas and struggles that happened in our lives. And to my surprise, people were almost offended that I wanted to do Solution Focused Brief Therapy. People at my agency would get mad at me. They would tell me that you can’t do that. They would tell me that it doesn’t work with all clients. And I don’t understand that because I didn’t see any responses like that to anybody else. When somebody did something like cognitive behavioral therapy, for example, they never said, it doesn’t work with all clients. They just assumed that it could work.

I read a research study a few years ago where it said the most healing thing that you can do is a hug. A hug has a massive healing component. Doctors will very often when twins are born premature and there are multiple health issues, they will put them in the same bassinet and those twins will hold one another.

I went to go see my doctor recently, and there were some health things that the doctor was concerned about. Nothing overly, overly, you know, significant, but just some markers that the doctor wanted me to address. And I asked him how he wanted me to address it, and he said, I would like you to do exercise, and specifically cardiovascular exercise. I said, how do you know this will work? And he said, because there’s never been a study that says when you lose weight and get in shape, the best way to do that is with cardiovascular exercise, that your health markers don’t all improve.

And I think about that, and I think about Solution Focused Brief Therapy. If I have a conversation with someone about what they hope for, it has a tendency to improve their life, improve their mood, improve their mental health, improve their resilience. It has a tendency to make a difference.

Now, why is that so difficult for people to believe? I’ll tell you my theory. I think that therapists have misunderstood their role. I think that therapists think their job is to solve the client’s problem, when in actuality, our job is to have a conversation with the client to enable them to solve their problem. And there are two massive differences.

If a client comes to me and the client tells me they have a problem, let’s say depression, if I’m thinking in my head, oh, I got to tell this client something to solve their problem, that’s going to guide my conversation very differently than if I understand my job is to have a conversation with this client that will make them feel uplifted, feel motivated, feel better, feel the type of thing that will lead to them solving their depression.

When I went to go see my doctor and he told me he was concerned about certain things he saw in my blood test, specifically sugar levels, he didn’t think like, “How do I get this guy to solve this? How do I solve this problem?” He thought, “I’ve got to talk to him in a way that allows him to feel better.” And he didn’t just tell me, “Look, go do cardiovascular exercise.” We had a lengthy conversation about health, about my life, and I walked away from that feeling like, “Okay, it’s time to do something.”

That’s the point of psychotherapy, your client needs to be able to walk away from the session feeling like, “Okay, it’s time to do something.” Like, “All right, I’m ready to go. I need to start eating right.”, maybe. Or I’m thinking about a client that might have depression, right? Like, the things I need to start treating myself better. I need to start focusing on good things that make me happy, whatever it is.

But the goal of the therapy should always be to shift the client into a place where they can address their own problem. The client is the expert on their lives, you aren’t. And the thing that’s interesting, when I watch other therapists practice and they give advice to their client in the attempt to solve their client’s problem, they’re not often wrong.

If I tell a client who is struggling with depression, “I want you to wake up tomorrow and go for a run. I read a research study that says people who run 30 minutes a day tend to have increased mood because of the oxygen that they breathe through their lungs.” Or if I read research that said that, and I have read research studies that say that. You’re right, if the client were to do that tomorrow, they would probably feel better.

But where we get into trouble is the client’s not going to do it unless you do some sort of healing work. And then when you do that healing work, the client is almost unstoppable. I don’t even have to tell them the ideas. They will do the thing.

So I wanted to make this video because I want to remind people in my field, we are not problem solvers. We’re human condition improvers. We are healers.

And when a client feels healed, feels loved, feels supported, they become infinitely better at solving problems, and we become infinitely better at our job. This is exactly why Solution Focused Brief Therapy is effective with any client issue that may come up. It’s not because it’s a cookie cutter approach. In fact, it’s the exact opposite. A solution focused conversation is tailored to that specific client in that specific conversation.

It’s not the belief of, we think we can deal with anything. It’s just that we understand when you have a conversation with someone where hope is a part of the dynamic, then what they do and how they live their life is impacted, regardless of the problem.

I’ll never forget. I’ll never forget hope being poured into me as a young person and the difference that it made in me. It was probably the first time I ever felt this level of hope. I didn’t know how I was going to deal with some of the things that were going on in my home. It was an aggressive home, it was a difficult home. And my father was… he was just an angry guy. And I didn’t know… I was really struggling. I just didn’t know how I was going to get through.

And one day I was walking to school, I’ll never forget I was walking in school, and my baseball coach was also the athletic director. And, my high school had four or five different doors you could have entered into. But the door I walked to school back in those days, and the door I would go in would walk right past his office, and I was probably a sophomore. I was maybe 13 or 14 years old. And he used to stand by his door as all the kids came in for the school. And of course, being on his baseball team, he would stop us, me and some of my teammates. He’d joke with us and say “See you at practice later today.”, that kind of thing.

There’s one particular day he stopped me and he said he had a coach reach out to him that told him that they were interested in me going to college to play baseball there. And he said, in fact, a few coaches have reached out to me. He said, you can’t talk to them. At the time, a sophomore couldn’t talk to the college coach, had to be a junior. He said, but I just want you to know that here are some coaches that are from some schools that are interested in you playing baseball there.

I remember saying to him, “What’s playing baseball like in college?” And he just told me, “It’s a lot of fun. And you hang out with your teammates and your roommate will likely be somebody else on your team.” And I said, “Roommate?” And he said, “Yeah, if you go to one of these colleges, a couple of these colleges are too far for you to live at home and go to the college. So you have to live in a dorm room, and you’ll usually be in a room with one of your teammates.”

And I remember thinking, “Whoa, so I can go to college and play baseball and not live at home?” I had never known that college had dorm rooms. I didn’t know that college meant moving out of my house. I knew about college. I wasn’t oblivious to it, but I just assumed that people went to college from their home. And now he’s telling me I can live on a college campus, and he’s telling me that there are coaches who want me to go to their college.

And all of a sudden, I had so much hope for my future. I had hope that I could, if I could get through these high school years, regardless how difficult it was, and do well enough in school and do well enough athletically, I could go to one of these colleges, which meant I could move out of my house. My hope wasn’t I’d become a professional or anything like that. My hope was I could go to one of these colleges, move out of my house at an earlier age, and that was a massive motivator to me. I didn’t have that hope before that conversation. I did have that hope after that conversation, my grades immediately went up. The level of effort I put into my athletic abilities went up. I was working hard, I was practicing. I was doing all these things, and I sustained it throughout the rest of my high school years.

That’s what a conversation about hope will do. For some reason, it’s hard for professionals to think that, and I genuinely believe it’s because we misunderstand our role. My coach’s job wasn’t to solve my issues, and I had several that I was going through at that time. My coach’s job was to build me up and make me resilient. I’m sure he didn’t realize, maybe did, the impact it was having on me, but it completely changed my life forever, and it changed my life in one conversation.

So when people say to you that Solution Focused Brief Therapy can’t work with any problem, or there’s no way you can be impactful in a short amount of time, show them this video and remind them that our job is and has always been about healing. And that’s exactly why conversations about the future make a difference.