The Centre for Solution Focused Practice

We really do have a choice

'If a therapist chooses to see the clients' behavior as resistance, then their attempts to cooperate cannot be seen, since each view precludes the other; if a therapist is looking for cooperative behavior, then he will be unable to see resistance.'
Steve de Shazer (1985)
Keys to Solution in Brief Therapy (p 73)

I do like this way of describing and conceptualising the therapist’s activity. I particularly love the word “chooses”. How we see things is a choice. Nothing comes with any in-built meaning. We choose how to see things and of course the choices that we make have real-life consequences. So we can choose to view whatever the client does as the client’s best way of trying to cooperate with us and if we do so then we are likely to respond to the client in a cooperative, and particularly important, non-critical manner.

It is of course the same with the assumptions that we choose hold to in our work. For example many Solution Focused texts and presenters may choose to state something on the lines of ‘the client has all the resources that are necessary to solve the problem’. Of course when we meet the client at the start of a piece of work we cannot possibly know this to be the case. However the Solution Focused practitioner chooses to assume this and as a result of this assumption we are more likely to ‘find’, or maybe ‘bring into being’ those resources. So when we state ‘the client has all the resources that are necessary to solve the problem’ we are not asserting a truth claim, we cannot know this to be true, rather we are taking a position because so doing seems to be associated with better outcomes.

There is nothing that tells us how we have to think about the client or about the work. We are not obliged in any particular way. The core criterion that we choose to use to evaluate the possibilities facing us is simply pragmatic. What is the effect of thinking this way? What is the effect of behaving this way? What is the effect of holding these assumptions? Is it associated with better outcomes? And thus the Solution Focused practitioner is essentially a pragmatist and the key questions that we are continually asking ourselves is ‘what works’. However letting go of the idea that we are mediators of truths rather than co-constructors of possibilities is challenging for many coming across this approach. Whoever said that adopting the Solution Focused approach was easy?

de Shazer, Steve (1985) Keys to Solution in Brief Therapy. New York: Norton.

Evan George



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