January 24, 2010

Focusing on the Relationship in Conjoint Solution-Focused Interviewing

Solution-Focused practitioners often have to interview two clients at once who are in some kind of close relationship with each other (a dyad). This is called conjoint interviewing. In these situations it is often the case that one of them is more motivated that the other for the conversation. A complicating factor may be that they are angry at each other. In these situations it often helps to ask a well formulated question which focuses on the relationship between the two. Here is an example of how a solution-focused practitioner may respond:

Client 1
John is so lazy and manipulative! He lets me do all the work. And afterwards he even tries to take credit for my work.
Client 2
Pete is always complaining and playing the victim … Such a baby! Grow up, man!
Okay, I understand, things between the two of you are not going the way either of you want them to. Is that right?
Client 1
You got that right!
Client 2
Yeah, right.
Okay, then I understand that the both of you are here trying to improve things…. What would need to come out of this conversation so that you would say: things between us are moving in the right direction now?

This type of response helps to avoid the clients to start elaborating on causes of problems but instead focuses on the mutual goal of improving things between them. It frames their role as a constructive one, too: they are here to help improve things. Often clients will slowly begin to formulate their preferred future. In the process they often say some small positive things about the other person, which the solution-focused practitioner will be keen to ask more details about. Often, it will be easier to work toward a common goal, when this happens.
Further reading: Interviewing for Solutions, p188-189

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