July 10, 2009

When did the potential of the solution-focused approach first hit you?

My question today is: When did the potential of the solution-focused approach first hit you?
Here is my story: It was about ten years ago. I was walking in a large bookstore. It had been a while since I had bought a book and today I was determined to find me something interesting to read. Only, I did not have a clue what it could be. Then I saw a modest pile of books which drew my attention. The book piled up there was Interviewing for Solutions by Peter de Jong and Insoo Kim Berg. "Wait a minute", I thought to myself, "Wasn't that about this solution-focused approach I heard about recently?" Indeed, my colleague Gwenda Schlundt Bodien had recently come across the approach and had mentioned it once to me. But somehow it did not make too much of an impression to me, then. In fact, I thought it sounded simple and superficial. Furthermore: nothing new, I was sure. So there I was in the bookstore. Since I could not find any other interesting book, I thought I'd give Interviewing for solutions a try. I bought it and sat down somewhere for a cup of coffee. I took the book and thought I'd read a page or two, out of curiosity. I started reading and on the first and second page I recognized bits of what I'd heard about the approach. I thought it did sound interesting and friendly. I read it bit more.
I read about a woman, Rosie which was interviewed by a group of students asking her al kinds of questions. These questions sounded very sensible to me. Reading further, I wondered what the authors would have to say about these very resonable questions. Nothing wrong with them, I thought. Then, the authors started to explain how all of the questions were about problems, mistakes, feelings, causes and implied solutions. Next came some explanation about the solution-focused approach and the authors showed how the interview might have been approached differently. Then and there the potential of the solution-focused approach hit me at once. I remember thinking how this was exactly what I had been searching for for some time and I realized I was going to do this and be busy with it for many, many years. And so it went.
What is your story? When did the potential of the solution-focused approach first hit you?

23 comments:

  1. It didn't hit me. I was hit with it. I was working for a phD in philosophy while studying clinical psychology at the same time - hesitating between a academic career or clinical psychology.

    Someone told me that they were doing the kind of stuff I was working with in my dissertation (philosophy of science of psychotherapy) at a hospital nearby. I hoped -secretely- that it wasn't true, since I was hoping I was inventing something new: A possible therapy based on the principles of change, the philosophy of language. Wittgenstein and Francesco Varela, in combination with stuff I've just found by chance Weakland, Erickson. You could make a therapy out of that, I thought. Yes, my friend say, they are talking about that Weakland guy there. S**t, I though, I have to go.

    I visited the team, which was Harry and Jocelyn Korman, Martin Söderqvist and other. Not much was written on my dissertation after that, since my friend was right. I was reinventing the wheel. Here was the whell running along, and at this time of my life. I was more interested in driving, than designing cars. A few weeks later, I started working as a SF therapist. The dissertation never got written. (Still time, i'm telling myself :-)

    Be well Michael

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  2. Hi Michael, around which was this?

    Bits of it I recognize. I thought I had done some clever inventions and discoveries myself which I thought were very original but which I later found out the BFTC folks had also -and earlier- discovered

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  3. And to honor the people before you, don't step in their foot-steps. Continue where they stopped.

    No reason to re-invent the wheel. Every reason to improve upon it. Time's getting closer to go back to design, not only drive:)

    Michael

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  4. agree!

    This thought is in line with the ending of the article Moving forward with the solution-focused approach (http://bit.ly/7MMcH) which I wrote with Gwenda:

    "Insoo Kim Berg once answered the following question: “Do you see the solution-focused approach as a finished approach or do you think it will keep on developing and changing?” She started laughing and answered right away in a don’t-be-silly kind of way:


    “Oh no, it’s not finished. For any model to stay alive it will need to constantly keep developing and renewing itself.” She smiled brightly and continued: “So, we need bright young people who will do that.”

    We would like to invite you to join us in further developing the solution-focused approach by starting to try out some of the things mentioned in this article and by sharing your experiences. Together we may find small steps forward.


    We dedicate this article to the memory of Insoo Kim Berg who taught us many things we use every day and who remains an example and inspiration to us"

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  5. I first heard of the Solution Focus in my Gestalt Course in '94. The whole staff happened to have followed the Korzybski course in Bruges. I thought it was powerful and did some small things of it in my work, but that was it.

    Almost 10 years later, I was invited by my friend, Dr. AM Frisque to host a course for general practitioners, given by Dr. Luc Isebaert. I was an independent HR consultant by then and I didn't mind spending 4 Saturdays with the doctors and in the meantime learn something about depression, alcoholism, OCD's, anxieties and a good therapeutical approach... .Man!! It was flabbergasting to hear Dr Isebaert and for 4 Saturdays, I was in trance and feeling so excited about SF! I saw all kinds of possible applications in my work as a coach. I started using it in all my interventions, including dealing with my children and it was mindblowing to see the effects. Only later, I discovered that there was a book, written by Louis Cauffman on SF coaching and management and my interest to find more courses, meet other SF practitioners hasn't stopped since then.

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  6. The potential hit me when I read about the Scalling Questions here. It resonated inside. It made me think about another favorite topic of mine: Awareness.

    I don't remember how I got on this blog but I'm ever so grateful for finding it.

    I don't practice any SF but it is very present in my thoughts. Even today, I was learning about Nonviolent Communication and I was thinking how could scaling be applied to meeting the various needs.

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  7. Hi Peter and Liselotte, thank you for sharing!

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  8. For me, the shift occurred in 1990 when I read the book, In Search of Solutions: A New Direction in Psychotherapy by O’Hanlon and Weiner-Davis. I was a second year Ph.D. student in the Family Therapy Program at Nova Southeastern University. It is a simple and clear explication. At the time I was struggling to transition from rational emotive behavior therapy (REBT) to a systemic perspective. This book helped me move away from viewing people as dysfunctional and looking for strengths, resources, and exceptions.

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  9. well, I guess I am the newbie here.

    I only found out about SF in 2002, 2003; and that, thanks to a book, the very same "interviewing for solutions" that Coert mentioned.

    Unfortunately, I do not have a compelling story on how I chanced upon that book. To tell the truth, I forgot. Back then, I was reading a lot about "strategic problem solving" (Nardone, Watzlawick), desperately looking for an approach I could call "home" intellectually. P.T.... phone... home! :)

    But there was no snoopynian "it was a dark and stormy night"... I believe ultimately it was Amazon's search algorithm that introduced me to the book ("books you might like!"). The Matrix pointed me to it :)

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  10. Hi Jeffrey, thanks. I had read about your transitioin from from rational emotive behavior therapy. Like you I was (in my clinical psychology education) training in REBT. In Ellis's last book (no doubt you know this) he had a chapter in which he descibred some shifts in his own thinking which showed he gained more eye for the uniqueness of each conversation and he (as I understood it) became less directive. You cuold say he shifted a bit in an SF direction too.

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  11. Hi Paolo, I love your answer. For instance the phrase an approach I could call "home"

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  12. Coert, regarding Ellis, I would say, yes and no. I was impressed with Ellis at the end, by how he identified the limitations of REBT, advocated for the use of so-called "irrational" techniques when his bread-and-butter REBT methods did not work or seemed unfitting with some clients or some cases. Yet, he held to what he called his elegant REBT approach for most clients and most cases. We debated in the late 1990s and early 2000s in the Journal of Mental Health Counseling if you have access, and at the 1996 and 1999 American Counseling Association's (ACA) conventions.

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  13. I know you knew him well. I based my impression on one chapter in this book (http://bit.ly/3lo6bj)- I believe it was chapter 3. most of the rest of the book was pretty straigh REBT.

    Unfortunately, I have no access to those debates you had.

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  14. Paolo, I'm the newbie around here. At the end of 2007 I had a severe emotional and physical burnout. Had 12 weaks sick leave and worked half pace for the next six months. But I'm not one for doing nothing. Heard about a workshop presented by the Profact Netword and presented by guest speaker Prof. Frank Thomas from Texas. The theme was: The Leader as Coach. I thought it interesting and attended in March 2008. For three days I sat spellbound. I don't have to be the expert on everything. I do not have to solve other people's problems. I do not have to work harder than my client's. I do not have to be frustrated by endlessly analizing problems that mostly lead nowhere. Here is a positive approach that will make a usefull difference in the life of the people I work with. An approach that will bring joy to my career and allow me time to enjoy life without it passing me by. This is an approach of taking small steps at a time that leads to surprising big changes and real sustainable solutions. I started reading, studying, communicating with wonderful sharing SF people and practising and practising SF. An exciting new world and life opened up for me. Daily I am invigorated by the joy of my client's finding solutions that fit their circumstances. I only look back in the past now to find what works and do more of it!

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  15. Liselotte,
    I would have loved to been introduced by Luc I. To me, he is just as cool as Steve. People in the SF community don't appreciate just how sharp - and kind- that man is.

    Michael

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  16. Michael, I couldn't agree more. Luc is a true genius, so brilliantly subtle, and ... too humble. I owe him a lot, including my cooperation with Anton who was originally introduced to SF and inspired by Luc as well.

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  17. Hi Michael and Liselotte, this is also the impression I had of Luc (although i never spoke with him personally)

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  18. My story has begun in 1994, when I heard about the course Art of Helping, provided by Vratislav Strnad and Ivan Ulehla (Institute of the Systemic Experience, Prague). In this course I learned about Insoo & Steve, and the SFBT principles influenced me a lot. That was a right moment to meet the SF - we just tried to make important changes in the social services, where I worked that time as a manager. The not knowing posture, partnering and the co-operation with our client were an excellent base to start these changes. Using the same principles in managing my team I realized that people work with more pleasure and are more self-motivated. This experience helped me to start with SF coaching and discover its usefullness for my work and future business (and my personal life too). Although I never met Insoo and Steve in person, I think of them and express my greatfullness to them on my every coaching course.

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  19. Through Facebook, Lorenn Walker from Hawaiʻi sent me this article in which she explains when the potential of the solution-focused approach first hit her:

    Passing on the Legacy of Insoo Kim Berg: http://bit.ly/Vwrem

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  20. I enjoyed your postings and I am very impressed with your web blog. My first encounter with the solution focused approach was with Dr Mark McKergow in Singapore around 2004. I had completed other coaching programs but was still unsure if I could make an impact using my newly acquired coaching skills. Then I was introduced to Dr Mark McKergow's Masterful Coaching with the Solutions Focus workshop. I found the approach very attractive and it changed my life and work so much and since then I got myself sucked into learning more about SF - I went to the SOL conference, the Summer University, attended Insoo's workshop, Dr Ben Furmen's workshop and then there's no end to it. I found myself being SF'd with more influences coming from Dr Peter Szabo, Paul Z Jackson, and many more people I met. Today, my work centers around SF and Appreciative Inquiry and I continue to propagate SF wherever i go. I work with Dr Peter Szabo to offer SF Brief Coaching in Malaysia and I am hoping to be able to organize the first SF conference soon. There is so much to learn and so much to share. And every time I share about SF, I have no doubt the magic will rub on to others.....

    Simon Lee (from Singapore/Malaysia).

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