The Centre for Solution Focused Practice

Respect and humility

‘There is no respect for others without humility in one’s self.’
Henri-Frederic Amiel

What a great line from the Swiss 19th Century philosopher, bringing together two concepts that lie at the heart of the Solution Focused approach – respect and humility.

Of course it is surely the case that every therapeutic approach would lay claim to ‘respect’ for the client. What therapist, challenged by another of a different persuasion with the question ‘so is your approach respectful of the client’ would answer ‘no we work in a consistently disrespectful way’? And so, as good Solution Focused practitioners, we can only conclude that every approach has its own unique way of showing respect!

So what is the SF way of showing respect? Central to this is the injunction that SF practitioners should ‘trust the client’, something that is easier said than done. ‘Trusting the client’ requires us to embody in our work a number of key assumptions, namely that:

  • All clients are doing the best that they can at all times
  • People have their own good reasons for behaving in the way that they do
  • SF therapy must be founded on the client’s ‘best hopes’ from the work
  • The client’s own way of moving forward is the best way.

These four assumptions when given life through the worker’s questions and responses make it highly likely that clients will experience SF workers as fundamentally ‘respectful’ of them, ‘respectful’ of their choices and ‘respectful’ of their preferences.

So what about the ‘humility’? Clearly the four foundational assumptions outlined above require SF workers to exclude from the work, as far as is possible, their own beliefs, ideas and life-preferences. It is no part of the worker’s brief to evaluate the client or to make judgements. The worker chooses to know nothing about the right way for the client to live or to move forward. The SF worker is merely an effective conversational technician. It is the client’s knowledge, beliefs and preferences that are centralised in the conversation. The worker’s role is important, and indeed honourable, but limited – just the taxi-driver not the expedition leader, not the hero. This in itself requires a capacity for ‘humility’, a capacity to remain in the shadows, obscured, largely invisible, while the client attracts all the plaudits. Solution Focus really is a ‘brilliant client’ rather than ‘brilliant therapist’ approach.

So ‘respect’ without a doubt and ‘humility’ certainly, but this is not the creepy Uriah Heep of Charles Dickens’ great novel David Copperfield sort of humility, a character living with his mother in their “umble abode” and reiterating frequently  "I am well aware that I am the umblest person going . . .  My mother is likewise a very umble person." Far from it. The Solution Focused approach requires skill, clarity, discipline and indeed courage and those qualities must be acknowledged. Solution Focused workers are very special people and the skills are hard-learnt. The approach is not for everyone – it is too demanding – and within the field we must be proud of ourselves and our colleagues and of our model whilst retaining our humility in relation to our clients.

Have a good week everyone!

Evan George
July 2016

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