October 26, 2008

Solution-focused cold-curing?

In the solution-focused approach you're trying to solve problems and achieve goals by identifying solutions that have already been working and that have originated within the individual or group. Because these solutions can be found within the individual or group itself I like to call these solutions internal solutions. In the solution-focused approach you identify what has worked before and you amplify that. This is opposed to a change approach that relies on external solutions, solutions that come from outside the system (individual or group) like following tips from someone else. The solution-focused approach has shown its use in therapy and coaching but also in organizational development. But can it even be useful in a medical setting? Maybe it can.

In the article Cold 'cure' on the horizon as scientists pinpoint body's natural defences a new approach to curing colds is described. Here is a quote from that article.
The team, including David Proud from the University of Calgary in Alberta and researchers at cold remedy maker Procter & Gamble Co, infected 35 people with human rhinovirus 16, which causes the common cold. Hours after infection, the researchers scraped a little bit of the lining from inside the volunteers' noses and analysed gene activity in the cells. ‘I think that is the ideal approach to trying to treat these viral infections. If you can find out what are the body's natural defences, can you either boost them or supplement them?’ Proud said. ‘The findings are important because they provide us with a blueprint for developing the ideal cold treatment: one that maintains the body's natural antiviral response while normalizing the inflammatory response,’ added P&G's Lynn Jump.
Do you see the parallel? These researchers go for what I call internal solutions, solutions that originate within the system and they then try to amplify them. I don't know what next step they envision. Will they make generic medicine based on what they learn from these studies or will they go even a step further (and thus make the process even more solution-focused) and help individuals by identifying their unique antiviral responses and make individualized treatment based on amplifying these?


  1. Hi Coert,
    Interesting thoughts. I'd like to complicate things a bit.

    First: I can see two kinds of internal solutions (1) within the system as such (2) within the intentional system and controlable

    Second: how do you draw the line between internal and external: not so easy to do. A compliment is clearly something outside a client, so it is an external resource activating an internal resource.

    Both medication and excercise is effective with depression. But exercise has the benefit of "being done" by the client: thus increasing self-regulation and agency. (verified by research CBT and Excercise has more long-term effects compared to medication in most cases). If I convince a person to excercise: thus giving external advice which will increase internal resources, are this internal or external solutions?


  2. Hi Michael,

    Thank you for your thought provoking comment. That is an interesting paradox you point at.

    With respect to compliments the following thought came up. I believe it is the external aspect of direct compliments ("You did that well!") may be precisely the thing that often limits their effectiveness. With indirect compliments like "how do you manage to do that?" the person is invited to identify the internal solution himself. (By the way, I know of course you yourself have written about this in your blog post on affirmative questions).

    What you say about the durability of exercise versus medication is very interesting to me. What you say is precisely what I'd predict. (Do you have a reference to that research for me?)

    Here is an interesting paradox: convincing a person to excercise would introduce some degree of 'externalness' to the process.

    There may be a way to keep externalness as low as possible. I have experienced several times that by asking for exceptions / past successes, people identify times at which they were less depressed and thus find internal solutions. Often I found to be the case that these were related (with clients who depressed at least) to walking, running, exercising etc.

    I realize well that this does NOT mean at all that al kind of externalness and directness (or medication for that matter) would be useless.

    I am also intrigued by the first part of your comment (two kinds of internal solutions). I'd love for you to expand a bit on that.


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