Guest post by Guy Shennan
BRIEF, the London-based solution focused team. On one of the first courses that I attended, Chris Iveson, one of their founders, told of how they had learned the approach by watching each other work, sitting behind the mirror with Keys and Clues open on their laps. I pictured them hurriedly scouring the pages, looking for a task to give the waiting client. When I then read Steve de Shazer’s seminal books, charting the early development of solution focused brief therapy, I felt a strong blast of cognitive dissonance. They did not seem to be describing the approach I was being taught.
As I found out more about BRIEF’s commitment to continue the shaving that Steve had begun with Ockham’s razor I came to realise that I had been lucky enough - in my view - to be trained by them when, though there was a little more trimming to come, their minimal version of solution focused brief therapy was already more or less in place. I fell for an approach that was summarised as consisting of only two activities, finding out where the client wants to go, and finding out what they are already doing to get there.
What was the attraction?
It was probably a mixture of simplicity and ease of use - my mind did not have to be cluttered with lots of theory - and also a fit with my scepticism about the whole edifice of therapy. The solution focused worker was not doing lots of the things that I didn’t like about therapy. I took to sometimes calling solution focused brief therapy the therapy for people who were anti-therapy.
I was not doing the things that the people I meet at parties worry that I am doing when they hear that I am a therapist - not trying to work people out, not judging, not having any view about what they are doing or should be doing, and not even doing the solution focused versions of these things - categorising by visitor, complainant or customer and working out what tasks to give.
And I came to realise that I am not even trying to find out where people want to go or what they are doing already to get there. I don’t need to know even this. I am simply asking questions to help them to describe these things for themselves.
From a website about Minimal Art that I found yesterday -
‘The aim of Minimalism is to allow the viewer to experience the work more intensely without the distractions of composition, theme and so on’.
For me, now, the aim of a minimal solution focused brief therapy is to allow the client to experience their thoughts, ideas and answers (some would say solutions) more intensely, without the distractions of the therapist’s thoughts, ideas, clumsy, clever or convoluted questions, compliments, tasks and so on.
I have realised that, as well as the minimalising of the process and of my questions - taking up less space in the session to leave more for the client - what I am aspiring also to minimalise is the stuff going on in my head about the client.
And all this is, really, is an integration of Steve’s use of Ockham’s razor with Insoo’s injunction to leave no footprints, and taking the two as seriously as possible.
~ Guy Shennan
For minimal discussions about this post, contact Guy at firstname.lastname@example.org
Reference: Shennan, G. & Iveson, C. (2011) From Solution to Description: Practice and research in tandem, in Cynthia Franklin et al (eds) Solution-Focused Brief Therapy: A handbook of evidence-based practice. New York: Oxford University Press.