The solution-focused approach helps to build a bridge between success in the past and success in the future. The following two questions play a leading role in this process: 1) How do you want things to become? (success in the future), and 2) When were things already going well? (success in the past). Often, people wonder whether clients will be able to identify successes in the past. After all, some people are in very troublesome circumstances. I usually answer this question using two lines of argument. The first is that every property of any complex system always fluctuates. This suggests that any mental or behavioral state of human beings or social also fluctuates. So, even when something is very bad now, most likely there will have been times when things will have been better (also read: How good does it get? (4) - Fluctuation and progress). My second line of argument is that whenever a client turns out to be able to define a desirable future he does so by tapping from positive memories. After all, how can we desire for something we have no knowledge of? So my argument is: positive memories are building blocks of desirable future scenario's. What I only recently found out is that there is some scientific support for this claim. Here is a description of that research (source):
People with amnesia have difficulty imagining future events with any richness of detail and emotion, a new study reveals. The finding adds to a growing body of evidence suggesting that memories help people visualize the future. Eleanor Maguire [photo] at the Welcome Trust Centre for Neuroimaging in London, UK, and colleagues studied five patients who suffered from classic amnesia. The patients had all suffered infections that had damaged a brain region called the hippocampus. The damage left the subjects unable to recall past events, although they could remember facts such as the names of their relatives. Researchers asked the participants - and a control group without amnesia - to imagine several future scenarios, such as visiting a beach, museum and castle, and to describe what the experience would be like. They then analysed the subjects' narrations sentence by sentence, scoring each statement based on whether it involved references to spatial relationships, emotions or specific objects. All but one of the amnesiacs were worse at imagining future events than the participants in the trial who did not suffer from amnesia. Their visualizations of future events were more likely to be disorganized and emotionless. "It's not very real. It's just not happening. My imagination isn't ... well, I'm not imagining it, let's put it that way," one patient told researchers during a trial.
This research raises three thoughts with me: 1) we can generally be confident that clients will be able (with our encouragement) to identify past successes when they are able to say how they would like things to become, 2) might it be so that memory impaired patients are less susceptible for solution-focused therapy or coaching?, 3) can memory training support mental health and performance improvement?