I think one of the best parts of the Solution Focused Approach and what makes the Solution Focused Approach so dynamic and so impactful on a client’s life, is that we get to decide how we’re going to treat our clients even before we’ve met them. Now, if you think about this, this is a very powerful concept that I think actually is true and important and powerful, even outside of the therapy room that we get to decide, how we’re going to treat people even before we meet them?
You know, recently I’ve been talking a lot about discrimination and in my field I’ve experienced a lot of it, and what makes discrimination so impactful and so negative and so hurtful is people decide how they’re going to treat you even before they’ve met you. People decide how they’re going to treat you even without knowing you.
An example of that is there people in my field right now that are really, really angry with me, and they’ve been really, really angry at me for a really long time. And when I try to say like, but you’ve prejudged, you don’t know me. Some of these people I have literally never met. There’s one man wrote an email this past week. I’ve never met him. And he had all these accusations about me to this board that I sit on, never met him. And I want to say, but I’ve never met you, but they’ve decided to treat me a particular way with limited to no information.
But on the other side of that coin, when we decide to treat people positively, we ignite something beautiful and wonderful inside of them. Like imagine being a client. And I can’t tell you how many times this has happened. Like, there are lots of times when I work with adolescents, like teenagers who totally super-duper don’t want to be in your office. And don’t mind you knowing that, like they sigh and they huff and puff.
And they even tell you, like, I’m only here because my dad made me come. My mom told me I had to be here. And then they, you ask them like, what do you hope will come from this session? And they say, ‘Nothing. I don’t want to be here.’ And I’m like, look, I know you don’t want to be here.You know, if I were in your shoes, I wouldn’t want to be here either, but we’re going to be talking for like 50 minutes. So if something positive were to come from this, what would you hope that would be?
I remember one time I was working with this kid. I asked him that question and he looked at me.He said, you couldn’t help me with the thing I want. And I said, maybe I can’t. I don’t know. But would you mind sharing? Now, this kid was doing really poorly in school. He wasn’t attending very often. And I mean to the point where like the truancy officer was getting involved and he was, like his parents getting tickets, which in my area, if your child doesn’t go to school, you get a ticket, which is kind of oppressive because oftentimes those people are in poverty. So the ticket is further problematic. I mean, on and on. And this kid is in that situation and he says, you wouldn’t able to help me with the thing I want.
And I said, I don’t know if I can or not, but would you mind sharing what it is? And he said, I want to go to college and play basketball. Now I could tell, I’m 100% certain that he expected a lecture from me. Well, if you want to go to college, you better start going to class. You better start going to school. You better start taking your study seriously. You better get some A’s in there. Dah, dah, dah. But what happened completely floored him, because he said I want to go to college and play basketball. And I said, ‘what school?’ That question communicates I have decided to treat you a particular way. I just decided to treat you from the perspective of possibilities and not limitations.
This young man had loads of limitations.This young man had lots of limitations, his school performance, and where he’s coming from, like all of it. But he also had capabilities. Like, how do I know whether or not this kid can play basketball or not? How do I, how do I know? So a logical question for me was what school? Young man said, Oklahoma state. And I said, why Oklahoma state? And he smiled. And he said, I liked the uniforms. And we had a conversation about what his life would be like as he starts making some changes that make it more likely that he will go to college and play basketball. Now, I don’t know. You know, I wish I could tell you that he went to Oklahoma state and blah,blah, blah.
But I can tell you, he turned things around so significantly that he did go to college and play basketball. Was a pretty successful college basketball player. Played professionally in another country for a little while, and then came back to the local area and got a job and had a degree and all those things. All because I had decided to treat him from the capacity, I had decided to treat him from the perspective of his potential of his capacities, of what he could do. And it changed what he did. It changed how he lived his life and it changed what he did and how he lived his life like instantly. And I can’t help, but think sometimes imagine how wonderful the world would be if we all did that all of the time.
I think it’s important that we do it clinically. I think it’s important that every client we see we treat from the perspective of what their potential realities are, what they’re capable of. And I want to encourage all of you to do that all of the time, because I think we struggle a lot with what’s going on in this world. And it would be a huge step in the right direction I think, if we decided even before we met people to treat them well.