July 24, 2010

What do you do, as a solution-focused practitioner, if the client explicitly asks for your opinion or advice?

Rodney Daut asked: "What do you do, as a solution-focused practitioner, if the client asks for your opinion or advice? Do you give the advice or do you do something else? If so, what do you do?".

Here are my thoughts on this. This may certainly happen from time to time. The dominant approach to coaching and therapy is still one in which clients tell about problems and coaches or therapists offer advice. Many clients are aware of this stereotypical image of the helping process and will therefore expect it. When clients do ask for advice there are a few easy things you can do as a solution-focused practitioner which will often be helpful. What we usually DON'T do is start to explain how we work ("I don't give any advice because I work solution-focused which means ... blabla).

Instead, we may respond something like this: "Sure, I'll give you some tips. Can I first ask you some questions so that I know a little bit more about your situation, So that I can focus my tips specifically on the specifics of your situation?" This is nearly always okay with the client. What often will happen next, is that you lead the client through the SF process through  which they will find their own solutions. Nine times out of ten they will not get back to asking for your tips when that happens. I think this is because of the power of internal solutions. When you have identified something within your own experience which really seems to work, you want to try that.

In this approach we first go along with the expecation of the client without trying to explain or convince him or her that the expectation is wrong. Through the questions we ask the client's expectation and understanding of the process will, in most cases, shift during the process so that no further explanation is needed.

If however, clients do come back to asking for your advice, what SF professionals usually simply do is to affirm the solutions the client has found himself during the interview: "I suggest that you do more of ... (the solution the client has identified during the SF process).

In some cases there is another specific reason for clients to ask your advice. For instance they may know you have a specific expertise in a certain domain (they may have read your website or book) and they ask you a question which is related directly to that field of expertise. In such cases it would be rather confusing for  clients if you did not directly answer the question: they know you know the answer and still you don't answer? That makes no sense. So, in these cases, it usually works best to just answer directly and simply.

In some exceptional cases clients may be persistent in their expectation of you to do something different that the solution-focused process because they deliberately chose for a different approach (for instance a more analytical, expertise driven approach). In such cases in tend to follow a recommendation by John Walter and Jane Peller to explicitly explain you are working differently. The choice is up to them of course.

1 comment:

  1. Coert,

    Thanks for this explanation. I like the idea of not telling the client their expectation is wrong. It's much easier to just tell them you need to ask a few more questions to learn about their situation first as you suggest. This way you won't have to get into any detailed explanations or have disagreements with the client.

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