As a trainer and lecturer, author, and researcher in things related to Solution Focused Brief Therapy there’s one thing I want you to master above anything else. There’s one thing I want you to be able to do above anything else. And in this video, I’m just going to tell you what that one thing is.
I have spent years of my life dedicated to nothing else, but mastering the Solution Focused Approach and getting really good at asking the kind of questions that lead towards change. And I’ve come to realize that a lot of us struggle in using Solution Focused Brief Therapy, especially when we’re first introduced to it. We get stuck in our sessions. We get frustrated because the clients seem to want to talk about the problem.
We don’t know what to say next when a big issue surfaces and shows up in the session. And there really is a way around this. And the way to around this is to understand the purpose of a Solution Focused question. This is something that I think we don’t talk about enough. This is something that I haven’t read enough in books,
and I’m guilty of this too. I’ve written multiple books and I don’t think that I’ve explained this clearly enough. So I wanted to make this video to make it really, really clear why this is important and what the exact purpose is of a Solution Focused question. Because once you understand the purpose, then you are much more easily going to understand and to be able to apply the process.
So look, it’s no secret, Solution Focused Brief Therapy is a questions based process, which means in order to do this well, you have to get good at asking questions. Now, 99. 9 9 9 9 99% of the time when we ask a question, we’re doing so for our own benefit or gain. So for example, I might see someone and I might ask them a question that says, where did you get that shirt? And I’m asking that question because I might want that shirt. And if they will tell me where they got it, then I can go get that shirt. I’m asking because I want to know.
Another reason, especially in our field that we ask questions is for assessment purposes, diagnostically. So I might ask questions like how much money did you spend on that shirt? Because I’m trying to assess, do you have a spending problem? Because if that shirt costs $1,100, I might say, maybe you are not good with money. So we ask questions that guide our thinking about the person that we’re talking to, but in Solution Focused Brief Therapy our questions do not fall into either of those two categories.
I’m not asking questions for my own benefit, nor am I asking questions for the purposes of assessment. I’m asking questions for one really simple reason that I want to make really sure as clear here, I’m asking questions so that my client can hear themselves answer it. And if I can ask a question in a way that produces a positive response, then my client is going to hear themselves, answer it in a positive way.
So for example, using that same kind of shirt example, I might say to someone, when did you get so good at picking really nice shirts? Do you see how I asked that question? So that the answer to that is likely to have my client feel like, oh, I’m really good at picking shirts. Now shirts is a silly example. So let me make it even more clear.
If someone comes into your office and let’s say, thinking about this guy I worked with, who struggled with alcohol and he really drank a whole lot. And in our conversation, he happened to mention that he doesn’t drink on Tuesdays. And I asked him how he got good at not drinking on Tuesdays. And he told me, why don’t you drink on Tuesdays?
Because I have to coach my son’s baseball team on those days. And that’s my day to be in the car carpool and do all these things. And I said, when did you good at making good choices on Tuesday? And he looked at me like I was crazy. And he said, what do you mean? I said, well, a lot of people, even when they have responsibilities, they might drink and drive, but you don’t drink at all on Tuesdays, which tells me on Tuesdays, you make really good choices. When did you get good at making really good choices?
I’m not asking that so I could learn anything. And we’re not asking that to assess him. I’m asking that so as he answers that question, he starts re-experiencing himself. And he starts thinking of himself as someone who makes really good choices on Tuesdays. So once you can do that, then your client starts to think about themselves differently. And they start having a different experience.
If you’re not asking questions that change the way the client views themselves, then you’re not likely to make a difference in your client’s lives. So I want to make it really clear. We’re not asking questions so that we can learn anything. And we’re not asking questions that we can assess anything. We’re asking questions so that the client can hear themselves answer questions in a way that causes them to feel more positively about themselves.
That is the key to Solution Focused Brief Therapy. Very often people, they will come to my trainings or come to my events and they want to learn the questions. Like tell me what questions to ask when the client does this, this and this. And I can’t really answer those questions. I can’t teach you like that because that’s not how this approach works. But what I can tell you is you always want to make sure you’re asking questions that allow the client to re-experience themselves through their own answers.
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