The more I practice Solution Focused Brief Therapy the more amazed I am by the clients I get to see. I’m not just amazed by their resilience and the way the deal with problems and all of that; what I am referring today is much simpler and more immediate.
What amazes me most is a client’s ability to answer the questions in session, and it starts with the very first question: “What do you want”. The reason I am so amazed by people’s ability to answer this question is quite simply because it is the hardest one to answer.
When people come to therapy it is usually while dealing with a problem, and its symptoms, for a long period of time. In so doing, a person’s perspective usually shifts from things they desire do just getting rid of the symptoms of the problem. This may seem like a small shift, but in fact it is earth-moving.
This shift begins to ensure that a person is no longer moving towards what they desire. Instead, they become motivated to simply move away from the problem. What makes this shift so monumental is that it is inefficient and many times completely ineffective.
For example, imagine a person is in a restaurant and the server approaches. It would not make any sense if the server said, “What would you not like to have for your meal?” This may seem odd but this is exactly what the field of psychotherapy has been doing for years. We ask people “what would you like to not experience”?
With all of this focus on the problem and the symptoms, I am still amazed that people can answer the opposite question, “what would you like”. When people are posed this question in therapy, they often struggle to develop an answer as a result of so much focus on the problem by themselves as well as our profession.
Something magical happens when a person’s focus is shifted from the removal of the symptomology to what is most desired. Even though this is usually a challenging question for the client to answer, it is the most important. This is why an SFBT session starts by the professional asking a question that starts this shift immediately.
This is the essence of the Solution Focused Approach and the reason I am known to say that you shouldn’t save your client from tough questions in session. That is often the very thing that is needed to make the shift from symptoms to what is most desired.