April 7, 2011

10 misconceptions of solution-focused coaching: 4) The miracle question and scaling questions are indispensable in solution-focused conversations

Here is #4 of my 10 misconceptions of solution-focused coaching: "The miracle question and scaling questions are indispensable in solution-focused conversations".

It is always hard to define coaching and therapy approaches such as the solution-focused approach. What is the essence of the approach and what are its essential ingredients? And is the way we defined it once still valid now? After all, as time goes on knowledge proceeds and approaches evolve. The miracle question and scaling questions are probably the two best known solution-focused interventions. But do they form the essence of the approach? Are they indispensable  Some people may answer these questions affirmatively.  For research purposes it is often even required to include both in order to be able to speak of solution-focused conversations.

But my view is that both the miracle question and scaling questions are terrific forms though which the essence of the solution-focused process may be executed but not indispensable  Then, what is the essence of the approach? Here is an attempt to define it. The solution-focused approach 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 and to build step-by-step on what they have already been doing that works.

In solution-focused conversations it is perfectly possible to conduct conversations without using 'standard' techniques like scaling questions and miracle questions. It is not strictly necessary to use these techniques. In fact, whatever situation you are in with your client(s) there will often be an abundance of choices in how precisely to proceed. There are always several things you can do at any point in a conversation. There are always many equivalent ways of phrasing responses and questions. Asking miracle questions or scaling questions may be a good idea but there are alternatives which may work just as well, perhaps even better. These alternatives may be variations on the same basic ideas. For example there are many ways of inviting clients to start describing their desired future.

Having said this (that no standard technique is ever obligatory), I must add that, in particular, scaling questions are a favorite of mine (and of many other solutionists). I use them often and enjoy how flexible they are and useful they often are which tempts me to turn my statement around and claim that at any point in any conversation a scaling question may be a good choice.


  1. Hi Coert,
    Thank you for sharing. From my collected research data which I'm working on analyzing now, it seemed to me that my research subjects (school leaders) understood the main ideas behind SF (focusing on building solution, strengths, future and exceptions). However, they seemed not to use SF techniques such Miracle and Scaling Questions in a comprehensive way, but they used different questions phrased to facilitate conversations towards solutions ,strengths and next small steps. It looks to me that the way the therapist/coach uses SF techniques might be a slight different as the coach is consciously prepared to use SF tools during the SF session and set enough time to do that. But, leaders are often engaged with various activities and duties and sometimes they are approached with some problems while walking in a corridor, for instance. They are, therefore, not in a situation to ask scaling or miracle questions, but quick SF conversation might be more suitable as they said. Questions like: what should we do now? what needs to have happen? get the job done.

    Hani Ba Hwireth

  2. Hi Hani, that might be an explanation, indeed.


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