November 30, 2010

Formulate one very optimistic statement about the world or humanity

Of course, I know, throughout the world in each and every life there are many problems and there can be lots of suffering. I acknowledge that. Also, I know that there are serious problems and threats going on in the world, right now. Having said this, I think it is very important to also acknowledge that many things in the world are going right and that with respect to many important issues things are actually improving and have been improving for a long time. Also, I think it is important to acknowledge that many pessimistic predictions of the past have not come true. Believing positive change can happen and that we can make it happen is important because the belief that beneficial change is under our control is a prerequisite to achieving it. With that in mind, in this recent post, I formulated a list of optimistic statements. Here are a few examples:

November 29, 2010

Preserving the client's words in solution-focused practice (micro-analysis findings)

Anton Stellamans and Paolo Terni mention on their websites unpublished micro-analysis research by Janet Bavelas, Harry Korman and Peter de Jong comparing solution-focused therapists (SFT) on the one hand with cognitive behavioral and motivational interviewing therapists (CBT/MT) on the other. This micro-analysis focused on the degree to which therapists: 1) preserved the clients words (literally or deictically), 2) deleted (overlooked) words or phrases of the client, 3) rephrased what the client said in altered form, and 4. added to what the client said. The following findings were presented:

November 27, 2010

Interview with Claude Steele

By Coert Visser (2010)

Professor Claude Steele is a social psychologist and the Provost of Columbia University. He has written the book Whistling Vivaldi: And Other Clues to How Stereotypes Affect Us about the work he and his colleagues have done on a phenomenon called 'stereotype threat'. Stereotype threat is the tendency to expect, perceive, and be influenced by negative stereotypes about one’s social category, such as one’s age, sex, sexual orientation, ethnicity, profession, nationality, political affiliation, mental health status, and so on. Stereotype threat can be harmful by creating racial, gender, and social class achievements gaps in schools and in the workplace and tensions across group lines. In this interview Claude Steele explains, among other things, what stereotype threat is and what can be done about it.

How would you explain in simple terms to people like teachers, managers, and policymakers what stereotype threat is and why it is important for them to be informed about it?

November 25, 2010

Vivid descriptions of positive future events can start to feel like descriptions of events which have already occurred

As I have written about several times before, the solution-focused approach helps to build a bridge between success in the past and success in the future. I have proposed that when a client defines a desirable future he or she does so by tapping from positive memories. After all, how can we desire for something we have no knowledge of and experience with? In my post Positive memories are building blocks of desirable future scenarios, I cite research which supports this presupposition.

November 24, 2010

Coaching positively enables people to open up cognitively, perceptually and emotionally and helps them to visualize their desired future

Advantages of giving students choice in homework

Solution-focused trainers and teachers give their students much choice in homework. They assume that students are motivated and will do what they can and feel they need. A solution focused trainer or coach will generally not check whether the student has done the homework well. Instead, he or she will assume that the student wll have had a good reason for doing or not doing the homeworks. I once observed (or I read about it- I forgot) Insoo Kim Berg in a training. A student walked up to her with a guilty expression on her face, saying: "I am afraid I have not done all of my homework ... I am so sorry about that. Is that a problem?" Insoo smiled and answered as follows: "It is not a problem. I suggest you act as if you have done all of your homework." Then she wishpered in a conspiratorial tone: "I bet we won't even notice you haven't done all of it." The student walked away smiling.

The belief that beneficial change is under our control is a prerequisite to achieving it

Research into self-theories has shown that the belief that beneficial change is under your control is often a prerequisite to achieving it. This even applies to personal attributes which have long been viewed as immutable both by psychologists and laymen, like intelligence and personality. Research by Carol Dweck has shown that people who see intelligence as unchangeable, a view which she calls a fixed mindset, develop a tendency to focus on proving that they have that characteristic instead of focusing on the process of learning. They tend to avoid challenges and respond defensively to failure. When people view intelligence as a potential that can be developed, a view which Dweck calls a growth mindset, this leads to the tendency to put effort into learning and performing and into developing strategies that enhance learning and long term accomplishments (Dweck, 2006).

November 21, 2010

Assumptions In Solution-Focused Change

What is solution-focused change?
What I call ‘solution-focused change’ is an approach to helping people achieve change which is based on solution-focused brief therapy (de Shazer, 1988; Walter & Peller, 1992; De Jong & Berg, 2001; ) and which is now used also in fields like coaching, management and teaching. Solution-focused change can be defined as an approach in which a practitioner, for example a coach or therapist, supports clients by viewing and treating them as unique and competent, being responsive to whatever they say, helping them to visualize the changes they want to achieve and to help them make progress by help them build step-by-step on what they have already been doing that works while meeting non-negotiable demands (Visser, 2010).  Well-known solution-focused techniques are scaling questions (de Shazer, 1986), the miracle question (de Shazer, 1988), coping questions (Lipchick, 1988), exception-seeking questions (de Shazer, 1985) and past success questions (de Shazer, 1985).

November 17, 2010

The Motivation Continuum (Self-Determination Theory)

Also read: Self-Determination Theory Meets Solution-Focused Change: Autonomy, Competence and Relatedness Support in Action

Discovery learning only works well when there is guidance

Activating students to try out and discover things for themselves is a modern and great approach to education. It also fits very well with a solution-focused perspective. The idea is that discovery learning could be better than instructive explicit instruction because students are actively engaged and will feel competent and motivated when they find solutions themselves. Also, these solutions may be remembered better.

However, I sometimes feel that this approach of discovery learning is taken too far in practice. This is the case when students don't really understand how they should try out and discover things, and when they start off but get stuck early on yet receive no further help. Louis Alfieri and his colleagues have done a meta-analysis which shines a light on the relative merits of instructional and discovery learning. Here is the abstract:

November 16, 2010

Self-Determination Theory in the Huffington Post

As you may know I am a 'fan' of Self-Determination Theory and I wrote an article in which I looked at the Solution-Focused approach through a Self-Determination Theory lens (read the article here).

Now, there is an article on Self-Determination Theory in The Huffington post: "Edward Deci and Richard Ryan of the University of Rochester have led the way, with an aspirational framework known as self-determination theory. I find it amazing that this remarkable tool hasn't made its way into the public consciousness. Self-determination theory is a veritable GPS to fulfillment, decoding our innermost longings and linking the world of science and spirit. It's been vetted by hundreds of scientists in more than a dozen cultures." Read full article >>

November 14, 2010

3 Tips for students of the solution-focused approach

Jennifer Gordon, a student of social work in Ontario, Canada, is interested in the solution-focused approach and doing a project on it. She asked me what my advice to student social workers on the solution focused approach would be. Although giving advice is something solution-focused professionals are generally a bit reluctant about, being asked for advice is often nice and it makes one feel appreciated. So, I have given it some thought and here is my advice. If you are, or want to become, a student of the solution-focused approach I have three tips for you.

November 13, 2010

Language style matching in writing: synchrony in essays, correspondence, and poetry

Ireland ME, Pennebaker JW.

Each relationship has its own personality. Almost immediately after a social interaction begins, verbal and nonverbal behaviors become synchronized. Even in asocial contexts, individuals tend to produce utterances that match the grammatical structure of sentences they have recently heard or read. Three projects explore language style matching (LSM) in everyday writing tasks and professional writing. LSM is the relative use of 9 function word categories (e.g., articles, personal pronouns) between any 2 texts. In the first project, 2 samples totaling 1,744 college students answered 4 essay questions written in very different styles. Students automatically matched the language style of the target questions. Overall, the LSM metric was internally consistent and reliable across writing tasks. Women, participants of higher socioeconomic status, and students who earned higher test grades matched with targets more than others did. In the second project, 74 participants completed cliffhanger excerpts from popular fiction. Judges' ratings of excerpt-response similarity were related to content matching but not function word matching, as indexed by LSM. Further, participants were not able to intentionally increase style or content matching. In the final project, an archival study tracked the professional writing and personal correspondence of 3 pairs of famous writers across their relationships. Language matching in poetry and letters reflected fluctuations in the relationships of 3 couples: Sigmund Freud and Carl Jung, Elizabeth Barrett and Robert Browning, and Sylvia Plath and Ted Hughes. Implications for using LSM as an implicit marker of social engagement and influence are discussed. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2010 APA, all rights reserved). Full article >>

November 8, 2010

Research: Solution Focused Techniques Help Improve Mental Health and Employment Outcomes

Can Solution Focused Techniques Help Improve Mental Health and Employment Outcomes?

Authors: Wells, Alyson; Devonald, Melanie; Graham, Victoria; Molyneux, Rebecca

Solution Focused Techniques have their routes in therapy and have evolved into a broader framework for facilitating lasting change and improving psychological health. The Solution Focused Approach explores future possibilities with a person rather than finding out about their past and focusing on their problems. Instead the focus is on finding a person's resources and exceptions to the problem they are having. This piece of research aimed to test the hypothesis that applying Solution Focused in the context of an employment agency, such as Jobcentre Plus, would improve not only the mental health, but also employment/activity outcomes for unemployed people.

November 7, 2010

Sharing positive events with others provides personal and interpersonal benefits

Are you happy for me? How sharing positive events with others provides personal and interpersonal benefits.

By Reis, Smith, Carmichael, Caprariello, Tsai, Rodrigues, & Maniaci,. - Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, Vol 99(2), Aug 2010, 311-329.

Abstract: Sharing good news with others is one way that people can savor those experiences while building personal and interpersonal resources. Although prior research has established the benefits of this process, called capitalization, there has been little research and no experiments to examine the underlying mechanisms. In this article, we report results from 4 experiments and 1 daily diary study conducted to examine 2 mechanisms relevant to capitalization: that sharing good news with others increases the perceived value of those events, especially when others respond enthusiastically, and that enthusiastic responses to shared good news promote the development of trust and a prosocial orientation toward the other. These studies found consistent support for these effects across both interactions with strangers and in everyday close relationships. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2010 APA, all rights reserved)

November 4, 2010

Subtly provoking positive language and amplifying rapprochment in solution-focused mediation

One domain in which the solution-focused approach is used is conflict management. Solution-focused professionals are asked to mediate between conflict parties. Sometimes there may be a conflict in a team in which case the solution-focused professional may have many conversation partners at once. Sometimes there may be two conflict partners such as colleagues, neighbors or a married couple.

Many, if not all, of the solution-focused principles and techniques are useful in these types of situations. Some specific examples of particularly useful interventions are:

November 2, 2010

Problem induction

In this post, I told you about problem induction. Problem induction is a term solution-focused theorists use to describe how professionals may evoke client problems through their interventions. By 1) asking certain kinds of suggestive questions ("But are you really happy in your relationship?"), 2) sharing certain kinds of impressions ("I get the impression that you have quite a bit of suppressed anger"), 3) offering certain kinds of diagnoses ("it seems like you have an anger management problem"), and 4)  directly stating the client cannot proceed without professional help ("I advise you to seek professional help to learn to deal with your anger in a healthy way"), client may start to think their problems are worse than they thought and that they are dependent on the professional to solve them.

9 indications that intelligence can be developed


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