When I run training courses on Achieving Change, I introduce the importance of the Rehearsal for Change – I can see that delegates are comfortable about this, and comfortable too when I talk about the importance of identifying what needs to change; what difference it will make emotionally, physically and in relationships and the benefits of visualising life after change – all this fits ok it seems.
However, when I then introduce Rehearsal for Setbacks – a look of puzzlement arrives: Isn’t that a bit negative?” they ask – “Doesn’t it negate all the preparation for change if we then talk about setbacks and blips and things going wrong?”
That is often the very problem in achieving change – when a blip happens, or a setback occurs, people have not prepared for it and often lose motivation in that moment with “I tried but……”.
Many of the clients and patients we, and our delegates work with, have experienced these setbacks and no doubt will do again and I believe that its only by preparing for them and rehearsing exactly “How they are going to deal with them” that the work towards change be truly effective.
This is not a concept that I created – it belongs to Steve deShazer, who developed Solution Focused Brief Therapy and it is one of the reasons, I think, that it is such a healthy model. I have always believed that any intervention must be real and practical if it is to help clients in the reality of their lives: a model that conveys an “everyone can do!” is not a model that fits with me or with the clients I have worked with, some of whom see a setback as “proof that they cannot recover/change/overcome….”.
It is for this reason, that deShazer wisely introduced this “rehearsal for setbacks” within the model: “a rehearsal for setbacks rob setbacks of their destructive force” he said. A conversation, for instance, might run like this:
Practitioner: When you have achieved this different behaviour you have identified – could you tell me in small detail how this will benefit you?
Practitioner: Sometimes change is one step forward and two stepsback – what will tell you that there is a possible blip on the horizon? A possible setback?
Practitioner: and how will you deal with it, in that moment?
and so on, in small detail, until the client has a good rehearsal for potential setbacks and relapses.
At the end of training, delegates often have an “eureka!” moment and realise that this one ingredient to helping people achieve change is vital and far from being a negative element – it reflects the realities of any work towards change.