Like I said in some previous posts, I am currently fascinated by the solution-focused approach to treating domestic violence offenders by practitioners John Sebold, Adriana Uken and researcher Mo Yee Lee. It is fascinating how an approach is very effective in which clients are not confronted or even expected to admit to their problems but instead only holds clients accountable for developing useful goals and building solutions to achieve those goals. And it is interesting how these clients, who are often not self-motivated to be re-educated are not pressured at all to join the program. Instead, it is emphasized to them that they are free to join or not.
Having said this, it is good to point out that in order to make this approach work there are some important requirements to be met. One is that, as the authors say, the effectiveness of a solution-focused treatment program is contingent on the support of the legal system, which provides a strong sanction against violent behaviors. This means, the client can choose not to join the program but this does not mean he is off the hook. It means he'll have to go back to the judge and risk being punished for non-compliance.
A second requirement is that the program makes use of some non negotiable rules. Here are the non negotiable rules for all participants:
- they must attend the first group session,
- they must attend for at least seven out of eight group meetings,
- they must be on time,
- they must work on an approved goal,
- they must do the homework assignments,
- they must pay the fee before the first session.
If any of these rules is broken by a participant that means he will have stop that program and he is welcome to restart in a next group. Whenever a participant says he cannot conform to a certain goal, the program leaders will not offer their help by giving suggestions but will instead assume that the participant will be able to solve the problem himself or organize help himself.
The solution-focused approach is not a soft anything-goes approach. Sure, the approach is very respectful, supportive and positive in its orientation but there are many cases in which the effectiveness of the approach relies on the existence of external demands and sanctions and on basic rules.