Below is an explanation of the two dimensions:
- Internal goals: goals that originate from within the indiviual or group.
- External goals: goals that originate from outside of the individual of the group (for instance organizational goals).
- Internal solutions: solutions that originate from within the individual or group.
- External solutions: solutions that originate from outside of the individual or group.
Here is a brief description of the four solution-focused roles:
- Helping: this role is required when the purpose of the session is to facilitate an individual or group to find their own solutions in order to make progress in the direction of their own choice. This is role is required most frequently by therapists and coaches (who have no direct interest in the outcome of the process).
- Directing: this role is required when the purpose of the session is to take care that the individual or group will meet the requirements of some superimposed goal. This role is most frequently appropriate for managers, teachers and customers, in other words people who have an interest in the outcome and the authority to interfere with the work of the individual or group and have the right to put certain demands on them.
- Training: this role is required when the purpose of the session is to make available external solutions (knowledge, skills, problem solving approaches) for individuals or groups in order for them to use it to achieve their own goals. The solution-focused trainer has no interest in the outcome and will not interfere with to what extent or in what manner the trainee will eventually use the solutions.
- Instructing: this role is required when the purpose of the session is to clarify the required outcome of the session and the way the outcome has to be achieved. This role is most frequently used by managers and mentors or teachers in situations in which the individual or group can not be expected to already have internal solutions. An example is a manager explaining a procedure to a new employee.
Most solution-focused literature is situated in the therapy or coaching context and therefore describes the role of helping. So it is no surprise that solution-focused helping is the most familiar application. But the other three roles can also be done in a solution-focused manner. Here are a few (non-exhaustive) lists of techniques that may be useful:
- Directing: well formed goals (goals which are formulated in concrete positive results terms), using questions to provide direction (how can you ....(requirement).... so that .... (positive reason to ask this), identifying, appreciating and using what is already there, working with what comes back to you, acknowledging what the individual or group is saying, inviting small steps, leading patiently and persistently, creating an expectation of positive change, normalizing, reframing.
- Training: the usefulness question, the platform technique (identifying and using what is already there), the earlier successes question, working with what comes back to you, approaching resistance as cooperation, creating an expectation of positive change, the leapfrogging technique, for instance by means of the solution-focused time quake.
- Instructing: using well formed goals, creating an expectation of positive change, the platform technique, working with what comes back to you, acknowledging and validating what the other person says, using the words of the other person