April 17, 2007

Three dogs (a case with scales)

Using scales is a wonderful aspect of the solution-focused approach. You can almost attach every separate solution-focused intervention (like exceptions, small steps, defining goals etc) to scales. I have once seen a video by Steve de Shazer talking to a handicapped young man and throughout the whole conversation Steve was continuously using scales. The flexibility of scales is enormous. Several years ago I was exploring the possibilities of scales and I asked Insoo Kim Berg how she dealt with situations in which her clients rated themselves extremely low, for instance at 0 (or even lower, which they sometimes do, although the scale runs from 0-10). Knowing Insoo, I was not surpirsed that she came up with a lovely example:

"I was coaching a woman who was so angry at the whole world and no matter how I tried to find something to compliment; she would not hear any of it. So, I gave up and I knew that miracle question would be way out of line. She was very depressed. I used a scaling question with her asking her where she was on a scale from 0 to 10. She responded immediately that she was at 0. I replied: "Aha, that’s not bad. Considering your situation, how come it is not a minus 5?" She yelled angrily: "You did not say I could say a minus five, otherwise I would certainly have said that!" I responded: "You’re quite right, I should have mentioned that. But you know, many people in your kind of circumstances do say, they’re at minus five, even if I don’t say they can use that score. I wonder why you did not do that." She was quiet for a moment and then said: "It’s because of my dogs. They are the only ones who love me unconditionally." I smiled and said: "You are smart women. Most people would buy just one dog. You buy three dogs!" And she WAS smart. She knew what she needed and she got it. For the first time, the woman's anger had disappeared and she smiled."

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