I had a very touching experience with a couple who came to my office today that caused me to think about the solution focused idea of small changes leading to bigger changes. This idea is one of the reasons that I believe the solution focused approach is so effective in working with couples. The small changes that occur after the session begin to feed the other partner. This couple demonstrated this idea. They came to the first session both with a lot of hurt and resentment. During that first session, both parties stated that they were not very hopeful about the outcome of therapy. However, when they came to the second session, they both reported that almost everything in their relationship had gotten better. This was a HUGE surprise to both the husband and the wife. What was most surprising to them was that the changes were sincere, as opposed to forced, and the way in which they made the changes.
When I first asked them how they made the changes that are causing them to now say that so many things are better, they immediately stated that they did not know. However, with further examination, they began to describe (in great detail) what transpired in their relationship since the first session. As it turns out, several changes were made, then observed, which led to further changes. One of the partners made a small change; then the other noticed and replied with a small change of their own. This transpired for a whole week and led the couple into a new direction. Just by paying attention to these small changes, the couple was able to experience more of them, which led to more them, which led to more to notice, so on and so on.
My job is to simply ask questions that bring those details into the conversation. I once heard someone say, “a change is only a change if it is noticed”. How did you do that? What did you notice your partner doing? How did you show your partner that they had just done something that pleased you? What else? What else? What else?
Notice how each question is about details and credit. It focuses on the small details of change and assumes that the couple played a role in the changes taking place, meaning it was not something that occurred randomly. This couple highlights what I love about having solution building conversations with couples. Just by asking questions based on my curiosity, the couple was able to take credit for their own changes and take surprising steps towards their own desired future. I am so thankful for the constant lessons and reminders I receive from my clients!
Well, I am off. In the next day or so I will be arriving in Minneapolis, MN for the Solution Focused Brief Therapy Association 2012 Conference. I am excited to present there and I hope I get to meet many of you there!