The Centre for Solution Focused Practice

Taking the taxi further.

Many of you will be more than familiar with the taxi-driver analogy (1), with the way that many of us have found it useful to compare the Solution Focused practitioner with the taxi-driver. When we hail a black cab in London and the driver pulls over to the kerb and we open the door and climb in the back, the driver is likely to ask, well at least if it is me getting in, something along the lines of ‘where to guv?’ - and it is my job to know where I want to go. The driver would be pretty puzzled if I answered by saying ‘I don’t know’. Anyone who hails a cab wants to go somewhere; that really is a reasonable assumption. Why would I hail a cab either if I didn’t want to go somewhere or indeed if I didn’t know where I wanted to go. So of course the driver can reliably expect me to be able to say ‘Paddington Station please driver’. Now of course I would be pretty puzzled if the driver were to respond to my ‘Paddington Station’ with ‘and how do you want me to get there?’. That is the driver’s job, knowing the quickest, and cheapest, route to wherever we want to go. So there is the deal – I know where I want to go and the driver knows the best way to get there. The interaction is essentially collaborative with each of us bringing a different sort of expertise. I define the outcome for the transaction, the success criteria as it were 1) I will get out of this cab reasonably adjacent to Paddington Station, 2) the journey will not take too long and 3) the journey will not cost more than I define as acceptable. It is the driver’s job to be a technical, process expert not a content expert. All that the driver is required to know is the quickest route to wherever we specify.

The connection between the taxi-driver and the Solution Focused practitioner is clear and obvious. Our version of the ‘where to guv?’ is ‘so what are your best hopes from our talking together?’ and we can reasonably expect the client to be able to answer this. Indeed Solution Focused therapy cannot start until the client answers since we have no independent-of-the-client idea of what the client’s destination should be – the Solution Focused approach is non-normative. So there we are, sitting by the kerb, going nowhere, until we can negotiate a destination, an outcome. As Harry Korman has said ‘we can have no questions to ask until we know what the client wants’. This bit I think is clear and obvious but there is also the other part of the contract. It is not the client’s job to know how to talk in sessions, how to construct a useful conversation. The client is not the therapist and there really is no reason for the client to know the ‘most direct route’.

So the connection between the SF practitioner and the driver is clear at the beginning of the journey, the outset of therapy but what struck me this week, talking with a lovely group from across Wales, is that there is also a clear connection at the end, when we reach that sufficiently adjacent point, that good-enough-to-stop-meeting’ point. We were talking about endings and how it seems to me that one of the USPs (2) of the Solution Focused approach is that it seems easier to end our work with people. If we work with people over a period of time and we become significant figures in the client’s life, indeed if the client becomes to some extent dependent on us, then ending must be negotiated with care, should be ‘worked through’ as therapists sometimes like to say. However if we typically see people a handful of times, if those sessions have longer than typical gaps, if ritual/routine has been avoided  ‘We will meet every Tuesday at 3.00 pm’, if we have worked from a position of invisibility, in other words keeping the client central in the conversation rather than the worker’s perceptions, if we invite the client to own the change ‘I did it’, then dependency does not typically develop and endings do not need to be worked through. In describing this difference this week it was the taxi-driver who came back to my mind. When we reach our destination, we pay of course, and then we hop out of the cab with a cheery ‘thank-you driver’ and we head off to our train from Paddington Station and we get on with our life. There is no need to work through the ending, no ‘driver would you mind driving round the block a few more times so that I can get used to the idea of you no longer being a part of my life’ (and in the process probably missing the train!). Generally when we get out of the cab we tend not to think very much about the journey, about the driver, about what sort of cab it was, about how we felt in the cab, we just get on with our living. And that is what I would ideally want from my clients, after we finish people mainly just getting on with their lives, not thinking back about the conversations that they had with Evan.


  1. Chris Iveson always credits Steve Henfry and LaJaune Lincoln, presenting at a BRIEF conference in the 1990s, for first using this analogy.
  2. USPs – unique selling points


Evan George
10th March 2024


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