While teaching a course recently, one of the attendees asked me what I thought was the most important ingredient to becoming effective with the Solution Focused Approach. This person was wondering beyond just the techniques. She accurately understood that in order to be effective when using this approach in clinical settings, perhaps the professional needed to have a skill beyond just the techniques.
Anyone can learn the common practices associated with this way of working such as the Miracle Question, Exception Finding Questions, Scaling Questions etc., but the art of using this approach effectively lies in another level of grasping this approach. After giving this attendee’s great question some thought, the answer came to me quite clearly; it is simply “trust”.
That may seem like an odd response, as many people believe that proficiency of this approach resides in one’s ability to master the techniques, however, this is not the case. Without trust, the techniques are just questions and fail to achieve the desired results in helping people experience change. In order to be effective with this approach you must have trust in your client, you must trust that they have the capacity to answer a question in a useful way and that providing useful responses would lead towards beneficial outcomes for the client.
There must also be trust in the process. Many professionals have a hard time believing that simply answering these Solution Focused questions can produce positive outcomes for clients who may be struggling with significant psychological disturbances. Professionals seem married to the belief that the presence of significant trouble must increase the need of the professional to abandon Solution Focused questioning and begin problem solving activities. However, in order to master this approach a professional must follow the research, which clearly demonstrates 2 important things.
First, clients who answer these questions do in fact experience significant clinical positive outcomes. The second is there is absolutely no correlation between client problem and outcomes in SFBT. Meaning that, according to research, clients from a wide spectrum of problem areas all benefit from participating in Solution Focused conversations at the same rate, and this is consistent when compared to traditional problem solving sorts of therapies.
So as you embark on your journey of mastering SFBT, make sure you build your ability to trust the client as well as the process. Without this trust, you may never get the most out of the process.