Because the word “therapy” is attached to the model I use, I am often asked by people, outside of my field, how I get people to talk about their problems. I usually respond with a screwed up face: getting people to talk about their problems is not my aim.
Encouraging people to answer questions about their strengths and what they do well is where I am at. i.e. “so what was it about you that kept you going through this dreadful time?”.
In my experience, people are not always reluctant to talk about themselves as long as they remain in control of what the subject matter is and as long as the questions are not too intrusive. This recent research would support this view in some small way http://www.myfoxdfw.com/story/18171158/neuroscience-shows-why-people-love-to-brag
I found it interesting that the people in this study were willing to lose out on monetary reward when offered the opportunity to talk about themselves but if you note what they were talking about, it would seem to be quite superficial issues – opinions rather than feelings. Opinions are something we are more socialised to talk about and Social Media allows us an opportunity to express those opinions across the world in the tap of a finger. In some cases, we have ourselves adopted the “social media” style when working with clients, i.e. “so what is your opinion on coping skills and what would you say yours were?”
After reading this study, I thought it might be interesting to carry out my own “mini-research” (with no scientific measure whatsoever!) with a group of four UK born females and two UK born males. The questions I asked were about times when they had overcome difficulties and what their opinion was on how that was possible. Both groups spilled over each other in their rush to discuss, in detail, their experiences and opinions.
I then introduced the “feelings” subject: “What did it feel like during that time?” and the conversation dried up a little. The women were able to attempt the task but one of the men welcomed a distraction of his phone ringing and made his excuses. There was quite clearly a shift in enthusiasm.
Although it is only a small (if not miniscule) example group – it was interesting to see, yet again, that people find it easier to talk about times that they overcame difficulties than the difficulty itself and easier to talk about the successful strategies they used/use rather than the times when they failed. It does seem that when we ask people to talk about times when they achieved, or showed resilience, or overcame an obstacle – it is a better place to start.
All very Solution Focused I think – “start at what someone did well and be curious about how they achieved it and how, indeed, they might do so again”.