About the Solution Focused Approach
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The Solution Focused Approach is a competency-based approach that owes its origins to Milton Erickson. Holding no theory of pathology, Erickson was interested in what helped people to change – he worked with the innate abilities of each person to bring about the desired changes they envisioned. Milton Erickson’s work was harnessed by the psychotherapists Steve deShazer and Insoo Kim Berg in the 1970s to create a collaborative Solution Focused approach, encouraging people to talk about preferred futures rather than only tracing the pathology of the problem – the Solution Focused Brief Therapy Model.
Steve de Shazer’s research indicated that people attending Therapy either achieved their goals within six sessions or didn’t bother returning. This led deShazer to design a Solution Focused “brief” therapy approach; focusing on exceptions to the presenting problem rather than tracing the pathology of the problem – focusing on times when the client “overcame the urge to x, y and z“; times when they “pulled themselves back” or did something differently – whether it was random “the sun was shining, so I felt better” or purposeful: “I left the room and breathed deeply before I reacted.….” .
The fundamental element of Solution Focused Brief Therapy is deShazer’s focus on “exceptions” to either the problem or to the client’s reaction to the problem leads the client to connect with the “how” they dealt differently at any given point rather than the “why“.
“I have started to use the Solution Focused approach to empower patients with anxiety and depression by positive reframing and getting them to articulate coping strategies that have helped so far. When using this approach, I have consciously delayed the decision to start psychotropic medication. I feel it was a skill that was not difficult to learn and I can see multiple potential uses for it“.
Dr Imogen Brunner, GP, London
“A fantastic course that was a pleasure to be a part of. It has provided me with invaluable tools to use in a school environment. The strategies have already been put to good use. I can not thank you enough. Best course I have ever attended, so useful and so much fun“.
Lauren Seal, Head of Year 8, English Martyrs, Leicester
“Right from the start, I felt that the ethos of solution focused intervention would be a brilliant way of working. I particularly felt that the Silent Session and the Visual Session were useful. This is one of the best training sessions I have ever been on. It was so interesting and I came away feeling totally enthused and full of ideas”.
Vicki Manger, Prevention Manager, Leicestershire Youth Offending Service
The Solution Focused Approach allows for future-focused, strengths based conversations to help individuals and groups to create change.
When writing about the Solution Focused Approach, its important that I emphasize that the model is not as stark as the title suggests, “just focusing on a solution to a problem”: it is much more than this. It’s a way of working that helps people move forward rather than remain stuck in a problem or in a behaviour. The approach encourages the worker to be “curious” in their work: curious about times, for instance, when the problem behaviour has not been displayed or the individual has dealt with the difficulty differently. The worker is not distracted by the motivation for this exception but focuses on “how” the person achieved this.
Our training equips delegates with the tools and resources of this approach and the confidence to utilize them.
“It is in the Solution Focused conversation that the individual is encouraged to think anew about themselves and their capacity for achievement or change..When human beings are experiencing difficulties, we often get lost in a fog of failure but when someone investigates the exceptions to this, elicits our strengths, asks small, detailed questions about how we achieved – we can regain some experience of any small success and build on this. Phrases like “catching people doing something right” can often be considered as a bit glib or lightweight – but it is a truism that little encourages changed behaviour, increased skill level or new thinking, quicker than someone noticing even the smallest of successes and building our confidence in that moment“.
Eileen Murphy 2006
Our own experience, as practitioners, is that people are more attracted to talking about the start of new behaviour rather than talking about the stopping of old behaviour. Simple conversations can often be instrumental in helping people see their way forward.
The focus of our work is always that of collaboration with the client. The client is the expert on what works for them; what worked a little in the past; what might work a little in the future – we strive to harness that expertise in the work towards repair and change.
Our ethos is about acknowledging what has gone wrong and offering people a new place to start from. People need to be heard and need to have their problems aired – but it would be a sad intervention that kept them there.
Our training includes a framework that provides workers with a reminder that successful outcomes rely on establishing what works for the client; what doesn’t work for the client; what attracts; what repels and what the client’s preferred future looks like. We can then ensure that we use our expertise in collaboration with the expertise of the client – the real expert on how they live their life. Below are some examples of the language tools included in our training:
In addition to Solution Focused Approach, we use the resources and visuals of the Examine, Repair & Move On Approach (Murphy ’93) which Eileen Murphy first devised when working with challenging young people in 1993. These simple effective tools offer the client the opportunity to identify the change that needs to happen and who can do what to help change take place. We also utilize our Optima Communication Skills (Murphy ’06) – devised over 25 years of working with challenging and disaffected clients. We include all three models in our training.
One of our specialist programmes, The Prevention & Intervention Programme– a whole-team training and project development programme, providing a positive and collaborative framework to reduce the numbers of young people and children coming into the care system under Section 20 of The Children Act 1989. Twenty four Local Authorities have implemented this programme as a front line, gatekeeping resource, making dramatic savings on budget while attracting social care awards.
Steve deShazer’s 1-10 Scaling Question is a useful therapeutic tool to gauge where the client currently placed themselves in relation to their desired outcomes.
The role of the Solution Focused practitioner in conversations with clients is that of “facilitator” in a journey of discovery of strengths and resources rather than that of “prescriptive expert”. .
Steve deShazer’s use of “Reframing” offers an opportunity to allow the client a new viewing of themselves and their behaviour. If we only work on the label a client has for themselves, or has been given by others, as “stubborn” for instance – we would miss the opportunity to reframe to “determined”. This reframe can lead to discussions about “how determined the person is to make progress in their lives”.
Harnessing deShazer’s focus on preferred futures and visualisation of the small detail about tomorrow rather than tracing the pathology of yesterday – this method allows for all to examine what change would look like; what the benefits will be.
THE SILENT SESSION (E.Murphy ’06)
Eileen Murphy developed the Silent Session method when working with extremely resistant clients, including young people who had been referred through statutory services. Since then, many clients have made use of this non-intrusive way to be guided on a journey of change. All of our training courses now include a slot on this tool and its benefits. The Silent Session harnesses the Solution Focused language; NLP , the communication resources of the Examine Repair & Move On Approach (E.Murphy ’93) and the Placebo principles of “expectation”.
VISUALS AND MONITOR CHARTS:
The Consultancy has devised very effective visuals for use with clients across all fields but these are especially useful with young people. The Change Balloon allows for all to be heard and for client-led tasks to be offered, The Monitor Chart allows for a simple, recording for the on how they reached their goal, i.e. who did what to help? what difference did it make? These visuals and Charts are always uniquely tailored to the individual.
The language and collaborative ethos of the three methods used, allows for its application across diverse fields.
Please contact us for details of our training and direct work at Tel: 0208 947 8093 or on the office mobile 07779 242 289 or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org