Many students of the solution focused approach at some time or another experience that building solution-focused skills requires quite a bit of effort. At first, they may notice the simplicity of the approach and infer from that that it must be easy to learn to work solution-focused. But as Insoo Kim Berg has often said: the approach is simple but hard to learn. Two things make it hard. One is learning to use techniques like scaling questions, the miracle question, exception seeking questions, coping questions, desired situation questions and so forth. The other thing that makes it hard is that you leave out many things that you may learned before, like looking for causes of problems, finding out who's guilty, asking about feelings, confronting people, etcetera. So building solution-focused skills requires a lot of effort. When I asked Insoo in 2003 whether she was still learning and trying to improve her skills she answered without a moment of hesitation that indeed she was. I asked what it was she was now trying to improve and she answered: "I am trying to make my way of working simpler which is very hard."
In my mind I often compare building solution focused skills with learning to play a musical instrument. This comparison may provide a useful clue about how to become better at practicing the solution-focused approach. As I have written about many times before, researcher Anders Ericsson and his colleagues has found evidence of how people can become expert instrumentalists (and experts in many other fields for that matter). The way this is done is through a process called deliberate practice. Author Geoff Colvin explains that deliberate practice can be described by these five characteristics: 1) It's designed specifically to improve performance, 2) It can be repeated a lot, 3) Feedback on results is continuously available, 4) It's highly demanding mentally, 5) It isn't necessarily much fun. Deliberate practice is hard and not particularly enjoyable because it means you are focusing on improving areas in your performance that are not satisfactory. Thus, it stretches you. If you'll be able to do deliberate practice, you'll benefit by becoming better.
One way of practicing solution-focused skills, which I have found very useful myself, is to take a good book (like Becoming solution-focused in brief therapy, Interviewing for solutions, and Words were originally magic) and search for the dialogues (if you read Dutch you may read one of the many Dutch dialogues we have written in our books and on our sites). Then read those dialogues very slowly. What I would do is read what the client said and cover with a piece of paper what the SF practitioner said. Only after I had thought of how I would reply how the practitioner could respond I would move the paper down a bit to read what the practitioner had actually said. At first this was often a sobering experience. I found it very hard to come up with good responses and was surprised by how effective the responses that were written down in the book were. But practice improves and I became better?
What do you think? How can deliberate practice help to build solution-focused skills?