February 26, 2011

Is the solution-focused approach moving forward?

Our 2007 article Moving FORWARD with solution-focused change, was written briefly after co-developer Insoo Kim Berg had died. In the article, she is quoted, saying: "For any model to stay alive it will need to constantly keep developing and renewing itself. So, we need bright young people who will do that." Four years have passed since then. Is the solution-focused approach moving forward? Talking with various people I have heard different thoughts about this. Some seem to think it is alive and kicking; others say it the approach maturing. Still others say it is progressing by 'fusing' with other approaches. Yet others say it is not moving forward but think it may be disintegrating. I am curious what you think and welcome your thoughts.

My question is: is the solution-focused approach moving forward?


  1. Well. Let's pray that SFT does not fizzle out like so many others in the past - Transactional Analysis comes to mind. Let's get solution focused about this? What are some of the differences between TA and those approaches that have survived and flourished over time? What would a progressive and mature SFT look like, feel like and sound like so that we will know to not have to ask this question again? By the way, is there a certification for SFT? If not, why not - does it not have enough integrity to warrant certifying people? Why don't I ever see trainings on SFT in Florida? Seems to be alot in other countries, and I understand the desire for SFT to be worldwide but what about us Americans who starve for such training? I have also been to other trainings where it is obvious that SFT is "woven in" but never acknowledged as SFT. WHen I use SFT i am pretty much a purist in the sense that I want to know that it is the SFT in me that is working, not the SFT with CBT and TA.....How will we know that SFT is where it should be in its development?

  2. Alan Kay said:

    One example of evidence that it is moving forward:
    I heard yesterday from Michael Cardus, a team building consultant (Buffalo NY), that a national coffee chain in Canada had sent three of their HR people to learn how to use SF as an internal team performance model. The SF course was being held at the University of Toronto Social Work Faculty. So, one tiny data point on increased distribution to a wider audience.

    Does this represent long-term sustainability? In the world of fashion, some successful niche brands survive wide distribution and others fade because popularity diminishes their niche image appeal and are therefore no longer relevant.

    I think the question is; is it a stand-alone model, or will it be yet another one that merges and integrates with others and lives on, but not in name?

    So, if the approach does live on, should we push to keep it a stand-alone with the attendant risks the others face...sounding out of date simply because other models will come along?

    How do we keep it relevant and not let it mature? I’m a marketer so I have thoughts on that one.

  3. dear David, Why there is little SF training in the US I don't really understand. I should think a pure SF training would be something which would appeal to the spirit of pragmatism which many Americans seem to have? I know Paolo Terni is starting up an SF training business in CA.

    I too like the pure SF, especially in coachin. Personally I don't mix it with CBT (years ago I used to). My experience is, the more you lead from behind the slower it appears but the better and the faster it actually is.

    Regarding progress, I'm reluctant about certification because I am afriad this often leads (perhaps unintended) to conservativeness and commercializing.

    I think progress may be a matter of finetuning aspects of the approach and sharing knowledge and 'best practices' more effectively?

  4. Hi Alan, great that Michael and you met. I almost got an opportunity to meet Michael when I was with you in Canada last summer but unfortunately we could not meet then. (the two fo you might do wonderful things there, living and working so close together, am I right?)

    I think you are framing the question in an interesting way. I think this relates to what Insoo meant too. How to keep the approach alive and fresh? I think that should not only be a cosmetical matter, by the way. It should be meaningful freshness. I am curious about your further ideas

  5. I have three thoughts.
    1. Like Insoo and Steve, I trust that there will be little SF certification going on. Certification works for those who seek it in order to get work from people who think a certificate guarantees quality. Certification can put things in a freeze-frame of proof-of-process and slow it’s growth. In SF’s case, it would likely become like other processes, i.e., more about the reviewer and not the reviewee.
    2. It’s important that we continue to find more and more applications for SF. It’s breadth of applicability is one of its key strengths.
    3. SF helps change systemic issues by addressing the situational. Let’s help people understand that as one of its key benefits. The others promise too much and so put themselves at risk of going out of fashion.

  6. I like the comparison to TA. "Doing what works". I also like to use the "Greens" as a point of comparison. Remember that political movement? It seems to be incorporated in the the international culture as a piece of many's world view. Also I believe the SFC model can be diluted as it is 'absorbed' rendering it less rigorous as has happened with so many other 'original thought' valid, useful constructs. Certification is useful. What;s the draw backs? Marsha Linnehan has been successful expand her model yet it continues with rigorous application. Is this a useful method to emulate?

  7. Since meeting with Alan I have been giving this much thought. And I am going to take a different angle with this. Still learning about SF, and finding great success with it; I will phrase the thought in the context of team building activities. For example; a manager attends a 3 hour team building training, learns some great activities. Plus feels and sees the magic that can come from these activities. Although the activity was facilitated by me (an experienced facilitator with a body of experience maturity and wisdom. Plus the manager has not had the practice and time I have in leading activities.) He returns to his office tries the activity and it fails, miserably and his team responds that, that was a total waste of time. And now this manager, his company, employees, his manager etc...see team building activities in their context as a failure. This company will most likely NEVER invest in training, or development in this method again.
    This is a common concern, and what happens we we create "certificate" programs for practices.

  8. Thanks Mike. Having experienced this and having reflected on this, what have you learned from this? What would you now recommend to other who may be in similar situations?

  9. Further to Mike's point. I think SF's small steps is so important because for the self-learning to be sustainable (for the learner), they have to see themselves making the change in some form or another. The Anthony Robins miracle change and cure promise damages the credibility of our work.

  10. Paul Grantham said:

    Hi Coert.This is a very interesting question which has preoccupied me since Steve and Insoo's death.I think the answer depends on where and in what field you are working in. From an organisational change and coaching perspective I still feel there is expansion - in the Uk at least. In education and child work I think its holding its own although I see assaults on the horizon from "evidence based practice" and public spending cuts. From an adult therapy perspective however (whatever specialty) I see it in retreat in the UK although I notice it's clothes are sometimes taken by other approaches without acknowledgement. The answer ? Difficult to say. I believe more interest in RCT outcome work wouldn't go amiss ( despite sticking in the throat). Further development in published thinking as it relates to the therapy field and finding a "cause" around which we can group would help. Regarding the latter I sense a growing unease about the increasing pathologisation of behaviour which gets expressed througheverything from victim thinking through to the extension of psychiatric classification through the proposed DSM V.Brief Solution is really the only approach offering a radical alternative. We've recently been running a Certificate in Resource Based Therapies which has had a really good response from psychologists, counsellors and psychotherapists. The potential is clearly there but we have to grasp it.

  11. The development of a broader evidence base for SF therapy is one area where the SF approach should find more success. This September I want to compare outcomes for people being treated in an Improving Access to Psychological Therapies site a in Northamptonshire at Changing Minds. Should provide interesting debate and dialogue within both SF & CBT circles. If SF is to thrive and move forward I think evidence is important. Ethically RCT is a problem because I would always insist on people making informed choice at Changing Minds.

  12. Well,Coert, I welcome anyone's "sightings" of SFT trainings in the US. I mean just because I haven't seen any such workshop announcements, doesn't mean there aren't any....but I DO get a lot of workshop announcements in the mail. NOT ONE was a training in SFT or SFT application. Your statement about certification makes sense. It might give the wrong message that because a person is certified they are a purist which anything other than a purist is watered down

  13. Hi David, It is a pity that there is so little choice of SF training in the US. I hope this will change soon. Maybe you could play a role in this yourself?


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