September 11, 2008

Hypothetical exception

In solution-focused therapy and coaching an important concept is the hypothetical solution. The hypothetical solution is term which refers to the situation in which the problem will have been solved. Through questions like the miracle question, the client is asked to imagine what the situation would look like when the problem will have been solved. The client is encouraged to describe what will be better in that situation. This is a standard solution-focused technique which is often extremely helpful.

I got a mail from solution-focused coach Daan Rookmakers. He told me he had improvised an interesting technique when a client of his could not find an exception or to his problem or an earlier success. After the client could not find an example of a situation in which things had been better, Daan asked: "'Imagine that you would be able to recall a situation in which things were better..... What could that situation have looked like?" The client could answer that question quite clearly and the conversation produced some very useful ideas for moving forward for the client.

You might call this strange question the hypothetical exception question. It is a nice example of the sometimes amazing flexibility of the human mind and the subtlety of the solution-focused approach.

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