Two Day Solution Focused Conversations course for University Student Support Service staff
Initiating solution focused conversations can reduce the escalation of issues, including low level anxiety, worries about relationships, ability to study, managing a study structure, drug and alcohol misuse – all of the issues that can affect students during their time at university.
The language of the Solution Focused Approach encourages a move from the pathology of the problem towards possibilities for recovery and improved coping strategies. The individual is recognized as the expert of their past and current experiences – what works, what doesn’t work, what might work a little – it is this expertise that it is utilized to identify what progress and recovery might look like.
However, the approach is not about minimizing real problems that the student has had in the past or may still be experiencing – or about changing safeguarding practices – that would not be helpful to anyone. Neither is it an “everyone can do!” motivational tool: motivation that is driven from someone other than the affected individual is hard to accept and hard to sustain. It is about providing an opportunity to focus on coping strategies, personal strengths and resources and the harnessing of these in the move towards recovery.
It is the curiosity of the worker about exceptions to the difficulty – a discussion about times the student overcomes feelings of exam anxiety, for instance, and a focus on the how they do that rather than the why
This framework provides a fast track support resource rather than the student having to wait for an appointment with a Counsellor or Therapist.
Of course, not everyone needs counseling – sometimes we just need a someone to help us work things through, put things into perspective, allowing us to take ownership of the plan to move forward. The worker’s curiosity about the student’s experience of any small success in dealing with issues can ignite the student’s awareness that they have indeed overcome similar difficulties and then can assess what will work for them again.
The two day course also equips front-line Student Advice staff to provide a resource to students rather than sign-posting as a first call: “the interview can often be the intervention” is the thinking behind this. Because the Solution Focused model is a strengths-based one, it doesn’t require intensive training to have a solution focused conversation about times when the student copes better; how come? what works for them? The worker is always curious about the strengths and coping strategies of the student in order that the student becomes more aware of them.
“This training has helped me to look at the service I am responsible for in a completely new way and will contribute to significant positive change. I feel much more empowered and able to take a different approach. Most effective training I have ever had”
Natalie Cosgrove, Student Support Manager for Student Services, University of Southampton
“It will help me to remember that the student is the “expert in the room” and question them to encourage them to think for themselves”. I thought this course was one of the best training courses I have been on”
Trish Wheeler, Student Life Advisor, University of Southampton
“I feel better equipped to ensure that students are being helped from the moment that they make contact. The strategies are a breath of fresh air. Getting the student to derive their own coping skills and arrive at their own plan will be much more effective than using a “one fits all” approach. If only I’d had this training five years ago!“.
Karla Williams, Student Life Advisor, University of Southampton
I have been using several parts of the training with my students. I have found in particular that “scaling” during my appointments and then focusing on how to make small positive changes has been very successful. I have also enjoyed giving students tasks and having them accept them. So far no one has failed to complete a task that we’ve agreed on – which is great. I had a lot of fun during the training and felt very engaged with what was being presented. I feel like I ended the session with actual tools that I can use to make me more effective in my role. Two great days of training!
Lawrence Pearman, Student Support Practitioner, University of Southampton.
For further details about this course – please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org or Tel: 07779 242 289