“It’s all technique! And none of it is!”
(Steve de Shazer c. 1992)
One of the most common outcomes sought by participants on our Foundation Level 3 courses and beyond is to “develop my own style” to which I say, “Forget it!”
Imagine saying to a driving instructor “I want to develop my own style”. For their own safety they would probably hop out of the car and leave you to it! What gets you from A to B in a car – and in Solution Focused Practice – is technique: eye, hands and feet following a predetermined and repetitive pattern. When you can do this without mistakes you can drive alone simply by continuing to stick with the techniques. Then one day you will arrive at your B and realise you had been thinking about things other than your driving; that journey will be the beginning of your style and it will be unique to you as well as something you can develop and refine.
In the same way we become accomplished Solution Focused Practitioners: sticking to the techniques:
1. Working out with our clients desired outcome (Best Hopes)
2. Eliciting a multifaceted description of how that outcome might look were it to take place (Preferred Future)
3. Discovering how much of what is desired is already happening (Scales)
4. Identifying progress (What’s better?)
These techniques are clearly defined by the UKASFP in their Requirements for Accreditation
If we are to be true to the essential premise of SFP, the client is the expert in their own life, then we need to keep as low a profile as possible; we hardly want to be present in a session. Our purpose is to ask questions that lead the client to their own knowledge and as long as the questions are answered they do their work, whether they are delivered with a Steve de Shazer grunt, an Insoo Kim Berg flourish or with a ‘learner driver’s’ hesitancy. It’s important, therefore, that we don’t become so concerned with ‘style’ that we begin to creep towards the centre stage seeking applause for the brilliance of our delivery at the expense of focusing solely on the client’s answer.
I was reminded of this recently during a coaching session with a very erudite, creative and engaging man to whom I offered a metaphor which he liked and wrote down. Half way through a little self-congratulation I remembered writing a few weeks before, that metaphors that don’t come from the client have no place in Solution Focused Practice. I had also been stressing the importance of technique and here I now was, drifting away towards clever chit-chat. One of the great beauties of SFP is its simplicity, having only four questions when we lose our way it is not to difficult to find the right path back. So I asked my client what outcome he hoped from this conversation and he highlighted a project he had been working on for some time but which had slipped into the doldrums. With this answer I fought back the urge to continue our intereting conversation and picked a technique on which we (Evan, if I remember) created one of our earliest and most technical training exercises:
The Project Scale
With 10 being its completion, 0 when you began, where are you now?
What puts you up at that point? x 20
How will would know if you were one point higher? x 3
My client was bowled over by his answers which had led him to entirely new discoveries about himself and his project and given him new hope and energy.
Technique is all.
03 July 2022