Shifting the focus, improving self-esteem
One approach (among many) to both therapy and coaching I tend to employ, engages the client (or clients, in the case of a couple or family), in searching for exceptions to the presenting complaints and out of this investigation, constructing solutions, rather than honing in on the problem itself. This means expanding the clients framework to include descriptions of when things are already happening satisfactorily in the area of distress that the clients want to continue to have happen.
Within this framework, I search for something worthwhile that is happening, explore these worthwhile interactions, be they attitude shifts, behaviours etc. and encourage the client to continue doing more of these in lieu of their problematic reactions.
Promoting awareness of exceptions to these problematic behaviours or interactions and encouraging consideration of the differences between the situations when the problem occurs and the situations in which exceptions to the problem occurs, helps to shift the client’s attention towards their current abilities, towards potential solutions and towards amplifying more of what works. A greater sense of self-appreciation of one’s capabilities for change and growth naturally follows from such a line of thinking.
Solution-talk can be present-focused: “What are you doing now that is effective in dealing with or over-coming ‘x’? (Anxiety, fears, relationship conflicts, compulsions, etc.). “How do you do that? When?” “What do you think this tells me about you?” “This ability to do something different, is this new or have you always had it?”
Solution-talk can also be future-focused: How will you know when this problem is solved? What will you be doing differently? “Are you doing any of that now?” “How will other people you are close to know things are different without your having to tell them?”. Such questions shift the client’s attention toward generating and sustaining differences that make a difference in resolving their presenting complaints.
Solution-talk can elicit resources from the past that can be incorporated in the present to improve a client’s self-image or functioning: “At what time in your life would you have been most confident that you could have accomplished this?” “What experience was most important in supporting that belief in yourself?” “What does that time in your life tell you about yourself and your potential now?”
Solution-talk leads to a picture of life after successful (and often brief) therapy which can guide both therapist and client toward positive change patterns in the client’s life.
*Developed by Steve de Shazer, Brief Family Therapy Centre, Milwaukee, Wisconsin, USA