I often find myself on training programmes referring to Eve Lipchik’s dictum, her idea that first of all we are human beings, and only then are we therapists and only after that are we Solution Focused Brief Therapists. This leads me to say, and to repeat over and over, that to a great extent the only truly important thing in therapy is whether the client gets a good outcome and that model choice is always secondary to good outcome; if we follow Eve Lipchik we are indeed therapists before we are Solution Focused Brief Therapists. Therapeutic models should serve us and serve the client and if they constrain us in such a way that we cannot find a pathway forward with our client then it is the model ‘purity’ that must be sacrificed rather than the client’s outcome. In my view people should take from a training course whatever they find useful and they should use the material in any way that seems right to them, indeed embedding it, if they see fit, into the midst of a problem-focused conversation. It truly is outcome that is most important, and most therapists already know this.
However, we trainers are a funny bunch. We tend to be model obsessives and enthusiasts. It would be hard to talk with groups of people about a particular model if we did not feel an enthusiasm for it, even perhaps a passion for it, and certainly if we were not convinced of the model’s utility – and if we did, then the presentation of the model would risk being less than engaging. And obsessives and enthusiasts tend to be ‘nit-pickers’ if I can use that phrase. We discuss with each other, perhaps more honestly we argue with each other, about the boundaries of the approach. What is Solution Focus, how do we define it, what do we do and more importantly what do we not do, and how tightly or loosely do we define the approach. What makes the approach NOT Solution Focused? And sometimes as we discuss, debate and even argue, feelings can be hurt, people can be offended, we can tread on each other’s toes as we talk about fine differences and distinctions that clients would, in all probability, not even notice.
Naturally as we debate and discuss and argue the model is constantly changing. Models that do not change tend to stagnate and die and professionals lose interest in them. We tend to get bored with the ‘same old same old’ even when the ‘same old’ works, although sometimes of course the ‘same old’ might have fitted an earlier time, a slightly earlier way of thinking but the world moves on, thinking changes and what might have been comfortable 10, 20 or 30 years ago now (rightly) grates on our sensibilities. 15 years ago some of our colleagues in the Solution Focused world were suggesting that the directions that BRIEF was pursuing represented such a fundamental change that what we were doing was no longer Solution Focused, that we had stepped beyond the pale, out of the model. And yet now BRIEF’s work is seen as main-stream, part of the new taken-for-granted orthodoxy. The model has changed. And of course, as we argue and debate, some of the suggestions that people make about new and different ways to do things, might seem puzzling and strange today, ‘why on earth would you do that?’ we might ask, but some short time hence those ‘rule-breakings’ might come to be accepted as the obvious way to do things. There will be no change without people doing things differently and having the courage to stand by their differences, to stand up while the rest of us are puzzled perhaps and accuse them of being wrong. Being an innovator takes courage and confidence and self-belief and tolerating our colleagues not (yet) appreciating us.
3rd October 2021