The most powerful thing in the world is possibilities. Nothing unlocks our potential more than simply knowing that something is possible. For years I have been curious about what is it about the Solution Focused Approach that allows it to be effective, that allows people to accomplish seemingly impossible goals just from having a conversation. In fact, during a recent trip to England, I saw a client that was so curious as to why they felt better after a session that I conducted that they asked this question to every therapist in the office and even took a video recording of the session home with them to study in hopes to uncover what had led to them feeling so much better.
I read once that when Steve de Shazer was asked why SFT worked he would say, “I don’t know, it’s a miracle”. You know, I kind of agree with him. Perhaps we don’t have to think any further than that, maybe we just need to understand that it works. If you asked 100 Solution Focused practitioners why this approach works, you are likely to get 100 different answers. So, I want to offer mine, or at least mine for today.
When conducting an SFT session hope and possibility is a part of each utterance. People will often state that they hope for something may seem so unlikely that a rational person wouldn’t even talk about it. On the contrary, not only would the SFT clinician engage in this conversation, they would take these hopes very seriously and ask questions that seem to communicate the belief that they could happen. This stance alone has therapeutic quality and may help propel clients towards their goals.
Here is an example of what people can do when they become aware of their possibilities. The other day I heard an interesting fact that made me start thinking about the power of possibilities and how language of possibilities helps clients. For the first thousands of years of human existence, no one was ever able to run a mile in less than 4 minutes. Many had tried and failed causing people to think that this feat was above and beyond what the human body was capable of. This all changed on May 6th, 1954 when Roger Bannister accomplished the feat. He later stated that he set this goal and new he could achieve it. Somehow, even though no one had ever done it before he knew he could. This realization intensified his training and off he went to set this record. In the time since over 20,000 people have run a mile in under 4 minutes. What has changed? How come no one was ever able to do it for the whole of human existence then, once someone did it first, it was done more than 20, 000 times. We realized it was possible which increased our ability to prepare for it with that in mind, thus changing the outcome.
I think SFT sessions are the same. The fact that we have this type of conversation with people that do not initially see their goals as possible leads them to change the way they perceive their hopes for themselves. Causing the preparation and expectations to shift. That to me is a miracle. I guess Steve was right!