April 30, 2008
April 29, 2008
"Could you, between now and our next conversation, pay attention to situations in which things are a bit better? When you notice that things are better, could pay close attention to what is different in that situation and to what you do different yourself? If you try to remember what is different when things are better we can talk about it next time we meet".The observation task often has a surprisingly strong effect. The question makes them notice more consciously what goes right in their lives. Usually, this helps them become more optimistic and gain more confidence.
April 27, 2008
April 21, 2008
April 17, 2008
2. The past success question
4. Exception seeking questions
5. The indirect compliment
6. The Miracle question
7. Summarizing in the client's words
8. The Coping question
9. The 'what's better?' question
11. The usefulness question
12. The observation task
13. The perspective change question
14. The continuation question
15. The prediction task
16. The overcoming-the-urge task
April 14, 2008
April 12, 2008
"Crick once told a newspaper reporter (in Hawaii): 'Unlike the jet engine, which had to be invented, the DNA structure was always there.' Scientific discoverers are dispensible in a way that artists are not. Gravity, America, and natural selection would all have been discovered by somebody else if Newton, Columbus, and Darwin had not gotten there first, whereas nobody would have written Hamlet, painted the Mona Lisa or composed the Ninth Symphony if Shakespeare, Leonardo, and Beethoven had not done so. Yet it is precisely because scientists have to be first that their achievement is even more remarkable. Shakespeare did not have to beat Marlowe to the first draft of Hamlet."
April 11, 2008
At the beginning, of conversations questions like these can be used:
- How can we make this conversation as useful as possible?
- What do you want to come out of this conversation?
- How would you notice afterwards that this conversation has been worth your time?
- So far, has this conversation been useful to you?
- (if yes) What was useful? How was it useful?
- (if no) What are your ideas about how we can make the conversation more useful?
- How can we make the remaining time as useful as possible?
- Has this conversation been useful to you?
- How is what we talked about useful to you?
April 10, 2008
1. Dare to ask the question as simple as it is. Many people who first hear about the 'What's better?' question (this includes me) are first a bit reluctant about using this slightly strange question. They think it's a bit awkward (”Isn't it more normal to just ask HOW things are going?") and they fear their client may think the question is strange, too. Well... to be honest, the question is a bit strange indeed. But the thing about is .... it works amazingly well. Years ago, when I was trying to master the basics of the solution-focused approach, I tried to finds ways around the 'What's better?' question in order to try to find a more 'normal' alternative ("Did any interesting things happen since our last conversation?"). But after some time I dared to try out the simple 'What's better?' question. And I was really surprised about the power of the question. Along the way, I discovered that this question really refers to the essence of the coaching process: realizing progress, how do you do that?
3. Repeat the question (OFTEN). The interesting thing with the 'What's better?' question is that you repeat it often ("What else is better?").Usually you don't just ask it 1,2, or 3 times, but rather 6,7, or 8 times. The surprising thing often is that client indeed manage to mention as many examples as that (encouragement by the coach is important of course). Also, coaches are often surprised to find out that sometimes the most interesting examples of what's better are not the first or the second ones that are mentioned. Sometimes, already 6 examples have been mentioned and then, suddenly, the client mentions a very important improvement, also to his or her own surprise (”Gee, I forgot that has happened but it is actually really important."). On a video tape I once saw a client who mentioned something like 35 things that were better. While the conversation proceeded his smile got bigger and bigger.
You may ask: "but what do you do when the answer is 'Nothing is better!' or 'I have no idea'?" Coaches who want to ask the 'What's better?' question are sometimes worried that their client will answer like that or that they may even say: "What is better? Nothing's better. Everything has gotten worse!” Or that they may be irritated about the 'strangeness' of the question. In answer to this, I like to say two things. One is that although these things may indeed happen, in the majority of the cases they tend not to happen. Most clients do need a few seconds and some encouragement but then, they actually started mentioning improvements. A second thing is that EVEN when the client responds 'negatively' at first, the question may later turn out useful after all. I once had a client who indeed said, with some desperation in his voice: "What's better, things are going WORSE!" Of course, he and I talked about the problem that had happened. After 10, 15 minutes we closed this topic and then I dared to ask, with a curious look in my eyes: “And are there also some small things that are better?” I was a little surprised when, after a few seconds of thought, the client began, with a smile on his face, to give an example of something that had been better. After that, another example followed until he had finally mentioned 6 or 7 examples. Then he said “So, you see, I am really on the right track!". I thought to myself: "Gosh, what an amazing question is the 'What's better?' question."
Also read: Eight questions for solution focused coaches
April 9, 2008
April 7, 2008
Also read: The Problem with Problem Analysis
April 3, 2008
April 2, 2008
De Shazer and Berg started their practice in 1978 and called it the Brief Family Therapy Center (BFTC). Original members of the BFTC team were Jim Derks, Marvin Weiner, Elam Nunnally, Eve Lipchik, Alex Molnar and Marilyn LaCourt. After that therapists like Wally Gingerich, Michele Weiner Davis, John Walter, Kate Kowalski, Ron Kral, Gale Miller, Scott Miller and Larry Hopwood joined (Cade, 2007). All these people have contributed in one way or another to the development of the solution-focused approach. De Shazer and Berg and their colleagues hardly had any money so they started off in their own living room. Only later were they able to hire an office. Their mission was to find out what worked in therapy. They did not want to take a specific theory as a starting point. Instead, they wanted to build knowledge about what worked in therapy inductively. They started of by identifying traditional elements of therapy and removing one element at a time from sessions. Then they observed whether the client outcome had been affected by the removal of this element. They discovered that analyzing and diagnosing problems could be removed from the therapeutic conversation without negative consequences for client outcomes. In addition to the approach of systematically removing traditional element of therapy they did several other things. One thing was that they were actively studied therapeutic "accidents" or spontaneous events in therapeutic conversations. When the therapist or the client did something that seemed to work, they discussed that and they tried it again. While trying to figure out what worked, they observed clients during actual conversations and videotaped conversations. They looked for interventions that helped clients to formulate more clearly what they wanted to achieve, that helped the client to become more confident in their possibilities and that helped to identify ideas for steps forward. Each intervention that made clients become more aware of what they wanted to achieve, more optimistic, hopeful, energetic and full of ideas, was written down, discussed by the team and used more often. As the model developed, the client's voice became a more and more important criterion. Each time a client reported that some intervention had led to a positive change they considered that intervention useful. They equated ‘what worked’ with what the client found useful. In addition to this, they did occasional quantitative studies to find out about the effectiveness of interventions (Weiner-Davis, De Shazer & Gingerich, 1987), attempts to formalize the approach into an expert system (the BRIEFER project, Gingerich & De Shazer, 1991) and several qualitative studies. They identified many interventions that often worked well which helped them build a set of solution-focused tools. But they also did another important discovery. They learned that what worked well with one person did not necessarily with the next person. This made them realize how important it was to pay close attention to how clients responded to whatever happened during the conversation and to use this. Between 1978 and 1985 the basis was created for what is now known as the solution-focused approach.