February 2, 2011

4 Essential ingredients of solution-focused change

On this website I have tried many times and in a variety of ways to describe what effective solution-focused coaching essentially is. Here is another attempt. I propose solution-focused coaching essential consists of four activities:
  1. Support client choice: solution-focused coaches not only respect and work with clients' autonomy and right to choose but they also deliberately ask questions and create opportunity that enhance clients' sense of autonomy and choice as much as external goals and circumstances allow. 
  2. Utilize client perspective: the perspective of clients is asked about and worked with. What clients bring forward is seen as and treated as useful.  
  3. Inquire about success: questions are asked aimed at getting vivid descriptions of desired success in the past, present and future. 
  4. Express positive expectations: throughout the process of helping clients solution-focused practitioners express subtly their expectations that clients will be able to cope and take steps forward and eventually to achieve what they desire to achieve.
Curious about what you think of these.


  1. This is a great expression of something that's not always easy to do. We all want to help the client - avoiding the urge to to be supportive can be difficult. These four ideas / perspectives clarify our responsibility to the client, i.e., to let go of our instinct to support with our ideas.

  2. Marlowe C. Embree, Ph.D.February 4, 2011 at 4:38:00 PM GMT+1

    Very helpful, yet I have a question. What about clients who really want to focus on what is NOT working... not out of obstreperousness or negativity as such, but because they honestly believe that analyzing weaknesses can lead to strategies for overcoming them. Is this in the spirit of SFC or not?

    Marlowe C. Embree, Ph.D.

  3. Dear Marlowe,

    Thank you for your question. It is not uncommon that clients at first suggest to focus on what is going wrong and try to figure out why it is going wrong.

    It is hard for me to explain precisely in such little sapce what can be done in such instances but I'll try to shed some light on it.

    By responding in a very acknowledging way, clients will feel taken seriously, and feel safe and will become responsive for your questions. Your question will be aimed in the direction of success, as the post suggests.

    Perhaps this sounds rather easy but it requires a great awareness on the part of the coach or therapist about what they are doing.

    Here is just one example which sort of illustrates what happens: Past, present, future X negative, positive

    I realize much more can be said about this. If you have more questions, do ask

  4. I like this aproach. Many of my clients are court of other regulatory agency mandated. Their attitude is "I am here because the court said I have to be here and it is really [the victim's] fault. If it were not for her, I would not have to be here." I would like to know your take on this.

  5. The link to the video is a nice illustration of how I thought solution focused coaching works. I try to apply it in this way as much as possible in coaching my clients to live healthier lives. Thank you Coert for exemplifying the way it works.
    I am very much in search of a course or some sort of education in The Netherlands which can help/coach ;-) me further to develop my skills in this area of coaching, as it is pertaining to a healthy lifestyle. I am convinced that the evidence that proves this way of coaching to be the most effective is trustworthy.
    Can you help me?

    Thank you.

  6. Hi Luuk, thank you. PLease have a look at this website which mentions training courses in The Netherlands: NOAM


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