September 25, 2009

Self-determination theory and the solution-focused approach

Edward Deci and Richard Ryan of the University of Rochester are authorities on the subject of self-determination theory, a motivation theory which is concerned with supporting natural and intrinsic tendencies to behave in effective and healthy ways. The authors have written much about favourable effects of stimulating intrinsic motivation of and supporting autonomy in students and employees. The body of research associated with their work is particularly relevant to SF because this seems to be an excellent example of a broadly applicable autonomy supporting intervention style. The application of self-determination theory (SDT) to psychotherapy is particularly relevant because a central task of therapy is to support the client to autonomously explore, identify, initiate, and sustain a process of change. In their article A Self-Determination Theory Approach to Psychotherapy: The Motivational Basis for Effective Change, the authors discuss the experimental work, field studies, and clinical trials representing the application of SDT to the domain of psychotherapy. Evidence supports the importance of client autonomy for the attainment and maintenance of treatment outcomes. In addition, intervention studies suggest that therapist autonomy support enhances the likelihood that treatment gains will be achieved and maintained. The authors discuss some of the processes involved in enhancing autonomy, including the role of awareness, the importance of exploring and challenging introjects and external regulations, attention to need-related goal contents, and therapist attitudes required for a therapy approach that is process- rather than outcome-focused. This research seems to confirm basics tenets of the SF therapy approach but is also very relevant for coaching and team facilitation.
Also read: The autonomy supportive teaching style

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