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Explaining solution-focused practice

I have a variety of ways of explaining the process of solution-focused brief therapy, to fit the different people I see and contexts I work in, though I always aspire to keep it simple. When meeting a child for the first time, I might say something like:

“This is called counselling, which you might have heard of, or maybe not, but it’s quite simple, really, it just means talking. That’s what we do here, we talk, and we do that because people often find talking helpful. I hope this will be helpful for you. My job is to ask questions, to help you talk about things in a way that I hope you will find helpful, even though some of them might be hard questions.”

If I go on to describe the sorts of questions I ask, I might say 

“One question I will ask, a really really important one, is about how you will know this HAS been helpful.”

The wording here (and everywhere else) will depend on the age and understanding of the child. I might also say:

“A really important question I’m going to ask you is about how you would like things to be, if there’s anything you’d like to be different at the moment.”

And then I might add:

Also, I will be interested in what you’re good at, and in what it’s like when things are a bit better.”

When I explain the approach to adults, I say similar things, just adapted to fit.

To teach is to learn twice

I encourage people I am training to explain the solution-focused approach to others as soon as they can. When I was first trained, no one else in my team knew about it, and as they became curious about what I was doing, I started explaining it to them. I then discovered the truth of the maxim, ‘To teach is to learn twice’ (coined about 200 years ago by French writer, Joseph Joubert). As I wrote in my book, “The more I explained it, the more streamlined my explanations became and the more my understanding of the approach grew”.

So, if you are learning how to use the solution-focused practice, I recommend that you have a go at explaining it to someone. And keep it simple, keep it short.

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