Traveling around the world teaching professionals to use the Solution Focused Approach has taught me a few things, perhaps even more than I have taught. One such thing is there are some people that have an initial response to the stance taken in session by those who use this approach that makes learning to work in this way difficult. It is just so challenging to let go of the common therapeutic practice of investigating the problem instead engaging in a solution building conversation. In truth, I understand this struggle; I too was quite skeptical of this work when I was first introduced to it. I simply could not see how by just asking a client to describe their preferred future that any level of depth for successful therapy was being accomplished. Then, everything changed; I learned to trust.
After my first exposure to this approach I was skeptical, but curious. As I mentioned above, I could not see how this type of session could possibly lead towards long-term change. Even though I was skeptical at first, I had to admit, on the surface the ideas associated with this method of psychotherapy made sense. Think about it. Does a dentist need to know how your teeth got dirty in order to clean them, does a personal trainer need to know how you go out of shape to help you get back into shape, someone need to know how you got lost in order to give you direction to get you back on track or does a chef need to know how you got hungry in order to prepare the perfect meal for you? Of course not, it would be asinine to suggest that the answer to any of those questions would be yes, even offensive in some cases. What’s more, it would be equally asinine to suggest that any of those prior examples don’t accomplish long term out comes. Then maybe, just maybe, a psychotherapist does not necessarily need to know about the origins of a problem in order to help a client create their preferred future and experience long term and sustainable change.
As I began to study this approach I watched session videos, read books and journal articles and talked to clinicians from all around the world who used this approach about the outcomes of their work. As a result of this studying I became brave enough to begin to use this approach in my own work, just to see if my clients would experience the same levels of change being reported by these master clinicians.
What transpired changed my professional life forever. My clients, not my mentors, not these masters I was studying, taught me to trust this approach as miracle after miracle occurred in my office. I watched families become stronger, couples reignite passion and many other changes. I learned that my original thoughts about this approach not having depth were wrong, very wrong. As I engaged in Solution Focused conversations I could see how that these conversations are quite deep and quite full of emotion, it’s just this depth is accomplished differently than in other more traditional approaches. For example, I was recently working with a couple who was having tremendous trouble in their relationship and asked them, “Suppose you woke up tomorrow and realized that the greatest dreams you had for your relationship on your wedding day had somehow become a reality over night, what would you notice upon waking up that would show you this current trouble is over and those dreams had become a reality?” As the couple answered this question and the details of their preferred future poured out, with some help from my follow up questions, it was clear that they were in fact in a very deep conversation, chalk full of very real emotions.
It was lessons like this from my clients that taught me to trust this approach, believe in client’s ability to change. I learned that by simply asking people to describe their preferred future, in great detail, the client becomes empowered to use their resources to make their dreams a reality. So, yes, SFBT has depth, it just looks differently. Yes, this approach is emotional, it just looks differently. I write and teach so that people can be exposed to this approach and take their learning beyond the myths and superficial knowledge of this approach, I hope this helps.