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Essentials of the Solution Focused Approach to Helping

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Essentials of the Solution Focused Approach to Helping

  1. 1. Solution Focused Approaches to Helping Peter Creagh( 2014), MCIPD:- Trainer, Supervisor , BACP Accredited & Registered Counsellor and UKRC Independent Therapist email : - petercreagh43@virginmedia.com Essentials of SFA SEVEN KEY PRINCIPLES OF THE SOLUTION FOCUSED APPROACH (SFA) TO HELPING/MENTORING All forms of helping that involve person-to-person conversations are merely efforts to provide an empathic and safe atmosphere where helpful and, hopefully healing, conversations can take place. The Solution Focused Approach (SFA) is based on the firm principles that every person is unique, that they possess strengths, gifts and talents and that the main focus of any ‘helpful conversation’ is to assist people to develop and achieve, to some degree, their own vision of a preferred future and thus lead to a better solution. In short it focuses on SOLUTIONS rather than problems. These notes are primarily designed as an additional handout for those who have undertaken a brief introductory course in Solution Focused Approaches. They are intended to outline some of the key concepts and strategies that inform the use of SFA in any helping and supportive relationship. They may be used as pre-training notes but are not a substitute for more in-depth training. Solution-Focused Brief Therapy (SFBT) or the Solution Focused Approach ( SFA) is a future-focused, goal-directed form of helping/therapy and focuses on solutions, rather than on the problems that brought clients to seek therapy. The following are seven key points about the SFA are outlined. They form part of a coherent approach to helping but not in a definite or mandatory sequence. 1. SOLUTIONS are rarely connected to PROBLEMS There is rarely a connection between PROBLEMS and SOLUTIONS. This may seem surprising but, in fact, solutions are present when problems are either absent or considerably reduced. Problems can often be an inappropriate coping strategy in stressful and emotional situations. 2. Look for Evidence of Previous Success & Compliments SFA is based on the firm principle that every human being has previous experience(s) of success. Therefore, Helpers need to look for and expect to find STRENGTHS, QUALITIES, GIFTS and COPING STRATEGIES (more on this later). This leads to SFA Strategies such as ‘Problem Free Talk’, Questions that focus on Coping Strategies (What helps or has helped?) etc. At every opportunity, evidence of ANY of the above is fed-back to the person as COMPLIMENTS. These are seen as an essential part of this approach as they validate people’s efforts and also acknowledge that Helpers have heard, understood and cared for them and their issues. e.g. If a person had done something that helped to reduce the problem or make things better a typical response could be; ‘Well done ! How did you Do that? ‘ 3. Exceptions Life is dynamic and therefore change naturally occurs. Therefore, there will invariably be ‘exceptions’ to the seemingly ‘normal’ rule. That is, there will be times when the problem either is not so intense or is not occurring as often or at all. Helpers are always seeking to find exceptions. A typical Exception Seeking Question is ; “What is different about the times when this is less of a problem?”
  2. 2. Solution Focused Approaches to Helping Peter Creagh( 2014), MCIPD:- Trainer, Supervisor , BACP Accredited & Registered Counsellor and UKRC Independent Therapist email : - petercreagh43@virginmedia.com Essentials of SFA 4. Solution Language and the Focus of Questions This approach lays great emphasis on the importance of Helpers developing the gift of Solution Language. This requires that Helpers avoid focusing on the problem and direct their power, energy and imagination to assist people in the search for a preferred future. Consequently, developing a ‘store’ of helpful solution focused questions is extremely important. The focus of questions, as far as possible, avoids direct reference to the past and its problems and focuses on two main areas. These are the present and future and any connection to a preferred future. This links in with Points 1, 2 and 3 and leads on to the next points. A typical question that assists people to focus of solutions and a preferred future is ; , “What will you be doing in the next week that would indicate to you that you are continuing to make progress?” 5. Preferred Future & the Value of Small Step Change Many approaches to helping emphasise the importance of Hope and our natural human expectations of a better or preferred future. In addition, they stress the importance of ‘small step’ change to effectively reach our goals. This point is supported by a variety of imaginative strategies designed to assist people to envision or see their preferred: future. One of the most powerful and well known of these is ‘The Miracle Question’. Recent advances in Neuro-science confirm our inherent ability to imagine and envision things differently. Modern sports psychology adopts this approach for coaching. The ‘ Miracle Question’ harnesses this inherent ability. However, to effectively use this, one requires further training, practice and reflection. Like all powerful strategies it comes with an ‘emotional health warning’ and Helpers need to thoroughly understand its purpose and place in the SFA approach to helping. 6. Experimenting with Life ( Tasks) Once Helpers have carried out some of the above and particularly Points 2 and 3, they can begin to encourage and work with people to do more of what works already. This brings us to the important strategy of Tasks. There are a variety tasks and many of these involve people ‘experimenting’ and ‘noticing’ what goes on in their life. This has connections with the very powerful practice of Mindfulness which is a separate topic. Many tasks centre on the following simple ‘mantra’ ‘Keep doing what works; stop doing what does not work and, if in doubt, do something different’ 7. Scaling The Scaling Strategy is one of the most powerful ‘tools’ used in SFA. It is easily understood by others and can be creatively adapted for children. It involves a simple 0 to 10 scale and assists people to relate any and all aspects of the life ( problems, goals, small steps, confidence to change , determination etc) and their preferred future to a simple scale. However, it requires considerable skill and ability of the Helper to effectively use this strategy focused and to employ relevant and helpful questions.
  3. 3. Solution Focused Approaches to Helping Peter Creagh( 2014), MCIPD:- Trainer, Supervisor , BACP Accredited & Registered Counsellor and UKRC Independent Therapist email : - petercreagh43@virginmedia.com Essentials of SFA Final Point – Our Human Ability to Cope. Human beings, no matter their age and ability, possess a remarkable ability to employ and deploy a wide variety of coping strategies. Whenever people display or disclose helpful coping strategies it is important that Helpers respond with Compliments and use Questions and Scaling to explore these. This can often lead to evidence of Exceptions which are ‘seeds’ or ‘signs’ of the Preferred Future and eventual ‘solution’. Creative strategies that ‘unleash the imaginative power of the brain’ can assist people in finding pathways towards their preferred future. These notes have briefly outlined some of the main elements of the Solution Focused Approach to Helping . To further their understanding, readers could benefit from further reading, training and reflection. Suggested Readings and References Berg, I.K. & Dolan, Y. (2001). Tales of solution: A collection of hope inspiring stories. New York: W.W. Norton. Berg, I. K., & de Shazer, S. (1993). Making numbers talk: Language in therapy. In S. Friedman (Ed.), The new language of change: Constructive collaboration in psychotherapy. New York: Guilford. De Jong, P., & Berg, I.K.(2007). Interviewing for solutions (3rd Edition). Brooks/Cole: Pacific Grove. De Shazer, S. & Dolan, Y. with Korman, H , Trepper, T. S., McCollom, E., Berg, I. K. (2007). More Than Miracles: The State of the Art of Solution-focused Brief Therapy. Binghamtom, N.Y: Haworth Press. Gingerich, W., & Eisengrat, S. (2000). Solution-focused brief therapy: A review of the outcome research. Family Process, 39, 477-498. Jackson,Paul.Z and McKergow,Mark (2002) the Solutions Focus Nicholas Brealey Publishing O’Connell,Bill ( 2005) Solution Focused Therapy Sage Pichot ,T and Dolan, Y (2003) Solution Focused Brief Therapy The Haworth Press

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