July 13, 2009

When DO solution focused coaches and therapists offer direct tips and advice?

SF-coaches, counselors and therapists acknowledge what clients bring to the conversation and generally avoid interfering with the clients’ frame of reference as much as they can. They use questions to help clients define their desired situations and find their own solutions. In other words, it leads to what I have dubbed self-found internal solutions. The main advantages of a process leading to self-found internal solutions are: 1) the individual trusts these solutions, 2) knows how to apply them, 3) knows they're relevant for him, and 4) knows he has the skills required to apply them; furthermore, 5) he has identified them himself and 6) is most likely to be committed to trying them out; my prediction would be that 7) they are most durable, too. (Also view this video).

My question today is: What are the exceptions to this principle? When do you as a solution-focused coach offer direct advice? When does this work? In which circumstances is there in your view a good reason for doing this?


  1. 1) When the client has gone through all his/her solution finding mechanisms with me and still wants my opinion as an option.
    2) When I have information that is very relevant that the client does not have (like I know he/she is in danger of losing the job if his/her performance does not increase in a certain point)
    3) -- and I am not sure that this is at all solution focused, but I know I do it and my clients find it helpful: when the client's frame of good enough vs. excellent is not compatible with his/her organisation. E.g. The client is working on being more internationally savvy and compatible with other cultures (he is German). I shadow a phone call in which he is very abrasive. I ask: on a scale of 1 to 10, 10 you were very German, blunt, abrasive 1 was the opposite, where do you think it was? He says 3. I am very suprised and say: oops, to me this was an 8 or 9. We then analysed what he said exactly that caused these differences in perception. Very very useful for him. Solution Focused? I don't know.

    I think here we have the difference between coaching and therapy. In coaching, sometimes you do know better than the client. In therapy, you don't.


  2. Thanks Kirsten. I hope there will be more people sharing their ideas on this.

  3. Good question.
    Good answer by Kirsten, all 3 points are very relevant.

    I struggled a lot with this question myself.
    I try to elude it by differentiating as clearly as I can the nature of the relationship with the client.

    That also defines my different "work identities":

    - as a SF coach, I never give advice
    - as an consultant, I give plenty of advice
    - as a mentor coach, I have conversations where I share experiences
    - as a CB trainer / coach I teach specific protocols (but here there is no opinion of mine, all I teach is the protocols).


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