December 10, 2008

Pacing: helping clients find an optimal speed of change

I was sent a copy of the article "The Family Has The Solution" by Don Norum (he is mentioned in this post). This article which is said to have been influential to the development of the solution-focused approach was written in 1978 by only published in the year 2000 (I don't know whether the 1978 version and the 2000 version are identical). The central them of the article is that because necessary changes for solving emotional problems exist within the family therapist's don't need to provide insight nor induce change but instead helps the family in identifying and applying their own solutions. An interesting topic in the article is the technique of pacing.
Pacing is aimed at helping the client regulate the speed of the change. Changing too fast, Norum says, could result in a failure to apply solutions: "If too many changes enter the system or changes enter too quickly, the system will not be able to adjust quickly enough to stay within its homeostatic range." Norum suggests that trying to change too fast may result in a relapse. So the professional helper (therapist, coach, consultant) may suggest that client not try to change too fast, or even to not try changing at all but instead to just focus on identifying what works (an onservation suggestion). At the end of the article Norum says: "The model evolved when I began to realize the reality of the various paradoxes that I was using from the strategic model. The more that the directive of not changing too fast was used (with the explanation that it could result in things getting worse), the more I realized the genuine reality of that statement."

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