Anything that prompts the client to say that ‘things are better’ needs to be identified as verification of change, and anything that is new or different or more effective that the client reports needs to be encouraged or amplified.
Keys to Solution in Brief Therapy
Of course the word that most interests me here is the word that Steve de Shazer uses twice in this short sentence (and which I have italicized), the word ‘anything’. We are not being invited to be interested in particular changes, even perhaps changes that are seen as fitting with the client’s ‘goal’, but in ‘anything that prompts the client to say that ’things are better’. What we are focusing on, it seems, is the co-construction of an experience of change, rather than the construction of any particular change. And it is this idea, the idea that people are more likely to change when they ‘expect’ change to occur, and that they are more likely to expect change to occur when they are already noticing change, that lies behind BRIEF’s non-contractual stance. At BRIEF we are not interested in firming up or specifying with people what particular actions they could, should or indeed will be taking following a session. This reduces the odds on change being noticed if merely because the client’s focus is now too narrow, focused predominantly on those actions which they have agreed to take. We are much more interested in inviting them to keep their attention and focus as wide as possible, suggesting that they might wish to ‘watch out for anything, anything at all, that you find yourself doing, that is different or that is taking your life in a good direction’. Keeping the focus so wide increases the odds that the client will notice ‘something’ and when they notice something or indeed anything that is different, de Shazer’s cycle of change comes into play.
In the following paragraph, again from Keys to Solution in Brief Therapy (p 77) just count the number of ‘anys’ that de Shazer uses.
‘Since solutions are not predictable in any detail and since there is more than one potential way of behaving in the future without the complaint, the new set of expectations can be constructed out of any satisfactory or beneficial changes. Any change stands a chance of starting a ripple effect which will lead to a more satisfactory future. Therefore, the brief therapist reacts to any change as an indication that things are starting to go right for the clients. It does not seem to matter if a particular change is new or different behaviour, or if it is an exception to the rules of the complaint, or even if it seemingly has nothing to do with the complaint. Any change is a difference that could well prove different enough to be part of the solution. In any case, any change can become part of the construction of a new set of expectations that will be part of creating the solution.’
De Shazer really could not be clearer, the brief therapist should not be picky in the way that we respond to changes ‘any change could well prove different enough to be part of the solution.’