Hello and welcome to episode seven of Don’t Forget with Anna Francis. I’m Anna Francis, the CEO of the SFU, and a registered counselor in New Zealand.
This video series is all about sharing my thoughts, ideas, and reminders about things we so often and easily forget when we are learning and practicing Solution Focused Brief Therapy.
In each segment, I focus on one key thing that I hope helps you while you’re on your learning journey, or keeping your SFBT skills sharp.
In this episode, I want to talk to you about something I frequently hear from people learning the Solution Focused Approach, which is “I’m trying to get my clients to _____.” So, for example, trying to get my clients to see their strengths, trying to get my clients to believe in themselves, trying to get my clients to stop doing things that are bad for them, trying to get my clients to see that there are other options that might help them, trying to get my clients to say complimentary things about themselves. The list goes on, and this is a really commonplace in our sessions to find ourselves stuck while using this approach when we are not getting the responses we are hoping for from our clients.
It’s really hard to hear our clients struggling, and not then automatically go to thinking “If they just do this, or if they just do that, or if they stop doing this, or if they start doing that.” We have to work really hard to remove that thinking entirely from our minds during the session. Those pesky thoughts are like ground mines (land mines) that go off, and they disrupt the flow of the session.
So let me explain what I mean a little more. It’s about the Solution Focused mindset that we hold. If we are intentionally trying to get our clients to do something, whether that’s an actual action or providing a specific answer, we are then letting our own best hopes for our clients be a priority. And we are now in a power dynamic of us knowing what is best for our clients, which is something we want to avoid.
Of course, there is always going to be a power imbalance. We’re professional helpers and we are being paid (usually) for our services, but we wanna keep this (power dynamic) to as much as a minimum as possible. We need to view our clients as humans who are capable of the change they desire.
By holding that belief when we ask questions, we then simply use their answer as the launchpad for our next question. So what is it exactly we are even doing in our Solution Focused work if we’re not trying to get our clients to do something? Fair enough question, right? Well, the difference here is in our language, and what that language means, and the mindset that we maintain in the space that is attached to that language.
We are hoping they’ll answer our questions. And sometimes we need to work really hard and ask our questions in a variety of ways for our clients to find their answers. But we are asking our clients questions with the purpose of eliciting a rich description that contains the presence of their desired outcome. So we do want them to answer our questions, but that’s as far as our role goes. We wanna think no further than that.
How they use the information from their own answers is for them to decide, not for us to try and get them to do something with it. And how they use their answer is different for every client. For some, it’s instantaneously life changing, like a mind shift that changes their trajectory immediately. But for others, sometimes down the track, the conversation that took place creates a shift and a transformation begins to happen.
But if we are trying to get them to do something, we can interrupt that outcome. And we also want to ensure that we don’t come across as manipulating and just like how we view our clients will influence how we talk to them. So remember, when we view our clients as someone capable of change, as opposed to someone who is difficult or resistant, how we ask our questions is different. And the same can happen whether we’re asking the clients a question simply for the answer to be verbalized, as opposed to trying to get our clients to do something as a result of them answering our question. It’s a really nuanced thing in theory, but it can be very impactful in practice. We wanna get into the habit of asking ourself, “Why did we ask that question?”
We want to ensure that the answer for that is in line with getting a description of our client’s best hopes, but in a way that honors and respects their autonomy. If we are trying to get them to do something, and we don’t get the response we were hoping to hear, we really often get tripped up and stuck. Or we can begin to view our clients as resistant, or difficult, or something that I hear often, “Not ready to change.” And we really wanna avoid that.
So we need to remember that the power of Solution Focused Brief Therapy is in our questions, and in the description that contains the presence of their desired outcome. We know this because we can ask questions that we never even hear the answers to, and they still can be incredibly impactful.
I wanna offer you a small challenge. If you’re able to practice with someone, or record a session, whether it’s real or a mock session, to go through and ask yourself with each question you asked, “Why?”, “What made you ask that question?” That exercise really helps to identify areas where we find ourselves getting stuck, and this helps us build our fluency in our sessions.
As always, I would love to hear your thoughts on the comments section below, and thank you so much for joining me on this Solution Focused snippet. And I really hope that this reminder helps you as you continue to grow your skills and confidence.
So if you enjoyed this video, please like and leave a comment, and share with your colleagues. Don’t forget to subscribe to our Youtube channel so that you get notifications for our other amazing videos all about using Solution Focused Brief Therapy.
So until next time, keep being you.