November 26, 2009

The what and how of reframing

Insoo Kim Berg's book Family Based Services: A Solution-Based Approach (Norton Professional Books) (1994) explains the concept of reframing nicely: "Reframing is simply an alternate, usually a positive interpretation of troublesome behavior that gives a positive meaning to the client's interaction with those in her environment. It suggests a new and different way of behaving, freeing the client to alter behavior and making it possible to bring about changes while "saving face". As a result, the client sees her situation differently, and may even find solutions in ways that she did not expect." Then, she gives some examples (slightly altered by me):

Troublesome behavior
Reframed version
Laid back, relaxed, taking it easy
Assertive, action oriented
Action-oriented, has high standards
Allows room for others
Strong, unaware of his own strength
Concerned, trying to bring out the best in someone
Deep thinker, thoughtful

Next, she describes a few steps with which you may practice your reframing skills:

  1. Think about what your current interpretation of the client's troublesome behavior. 
  2. Train yourself to think of a number of alternative interpretations of the same behavior. 
  3. Pick the one interpretation that seems most plausible and most fits the client's way of acting and thinking. 
  4. Formulate a sentence in your mind that describes the new positive interpretation. 
  5. Give the client feedback on what your thoughts are. The client reaction will let you know whether your reframing fit her or not. 
  6. A good fit will bring a visible change in the client. Some clients look stunned, shocked, amused; they may even start to laugh.


  1. I'd like to add 1 example to the Troublesome behavior vs. Reframed version list and add something to laziness:

    Chaotic - flexible, capable of adapting to a changed plan or rule

    Lazy - good at seeing what's really necessary to do and how to accomplish a task as efficient and quick as possible

  2. this is a wonderful article by insoo we all miss her in the U.S.

  3. Hi Joy, thanks. I read on linkedin that you use several Sf techniques in your work for the LAPD? Care to share some experiences?

  4. it's something I use being a manager but on the other hand lose sight of when the going gets thougher. Of course my pifalls are pushy, impatient and nagging. That doesn't help.

  5. This is a great idea. Do you have any short snippets of conversation as an example of this idea?

  6. Hi Rodney, lots of them. I'll try to post one or a few brief examples here, soon


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