Many years ago I recall Steve de Shazer saying that if he were to be obliged to choose just one Solution Focused technique to use, that he would choose the scale question. This remark surprised his audience who were expecting him to say that he would choose the Miracle Question. But actually I have always agreed with his selection. Scales are so flexible and user-friendly and indeed using the core scale structure allows us to focus the conversation on preferred futures, on what is working, on the smallest signs of change and on what people have done to reach their current point. So Steve’s choice should have been no surprise. This week during the London 4-day foundation programme we have been talking about some slightly different scales which may be worth a few minutes reflection.
1. Confidence scale. This is a scale that I often use towards the end of a first meeting. Having invited the client to consider a ‘best hopes’ scale, the most generic of scales, I very often introduce a second scale, the confidence scale.
The way that this scale is normally structured is as follows: ‘On a scale of 0 to 10 with 10 standing for you having complete confidence in your capacity to make progress, to move things forward, and 0 standing for the opposite, progress is impossible whatever you do, where would you see things right now?’
Given that the client typically answers between 6 and 8, clients can then be asked ‘so what do you know about yourself that puts things there and not at 0?’ The question invites the client to begin to share stories of his or her life that are fit with the idea ‘I can change’, and in the telling the client is telling him or her self ‘I can do this’.
2. Confidence of maintaining change scale. I often describe this scale as the ‘consensual ending’ scale. The way that it goes is as follows: ‘On a scale of 0 to 10 with 10 standing for you being completely confident that you can maintain the changes that you have made and 0 standing for the opposite where would you see things right now?’
In order for people to feel comfortable ending with us it may not be enough for some of them to have moved up on their ‘best hopes’ scale. They may need to feel confident that they can maintain those changes. Introducing this scale into the conversation seems to be useful at the point that ending is seeming likely (even if it can be difficult to predict at what point any client may choose to say ‘that’s enough’.)
3. Confidence of maintaining change and of reaching ‘good enough’. This scale is a little like putting the two scales that we have described together. When using the most standard ‘best hopes’ scale, (it has often been referred to as the Miracle Scale (de Shazer et al. 2007)), I sometimes invite people to think about a ‘good enough’ point. The way that this question goes is ‘and where would you need to be on your scale to say ‘this is good enough, I can live with this’?’. Most people are pretty realistic and although their best hopes for the therapy are indeed their best hopes they already know that they will settle for a lower point. So the ‘Confidence of maintaining change and of reaching ‘good enough’ Scale’ can be used when clients are making progress but before they have reached that ‘good enough’ point. This scale invites clients to reflect on their minimum conditions for ending, supporting them in noticing the point at which they might think ‘I don’t need any more session’. Using this scale can be expected to have the potential to shorten therapy whilst leaving the exact point of ending firmly in the client’s own hands.
So I think about these three scales as the ‘Three Scales of Confidence’ each of which seems to support the change process, focusing on that process of change itself.
de Shazer, Steve, Dolan, Yvonne, Korman, Harry, Trepper, Terry, MacCollum, Eric and Berg, Insoo Kim (2007) More Then Miracles: the state of the art of solution focused therapy. New York: Haworth