During the course of this last week a client at the end of a session asked me a question about my experience of that session which was just ending and unhesitatingly, although somewhat thoughtfully, I replied. We will return to the question itself, which I found interesting, but first of all let’s take a few steps back and think about the context of the answering.
The idea that I have when meeting an individual client is that we are two experts working together in partnership, indeed talking together in such a way that one of us ends up more satisfied with life than when he/she/they arrived. The nature of the diverse expertises has been well rehearsed on these pages. The client is the content expert and the worker is the process expert. The client knows what they want, how they will know that what they want is present in their lives and the best way of moving forward. The worker’s expertise is merely technical, having access to a way of conversing that is associated with people noticing that change has occurred and of course having expertise in constructing an interactive context which makes possible the sort of talking and answering that is central to the approach. But what about the idea of partnership? Where does that take us and how is partnership manifested in the interaction?
I see the concept of partnership in Solution Focused Practice being manifested in many ways and here are just a few of them:
1. I respect the client’s domain of expertise resisting the urge to have ideas about what the client should want and how they should achieve it.
2. I choose to assume the client’s competence, that they mean what they say and thus never ‘second-guess’ my client’s responses.
3. I assume good-will on the client’s part choosing to assume that my client has good reasons for what they do.
4. Treating my client as a partner leads me to ask permission to ask questions, check out if my questions are making sense, thank my client for their co-operation.
5. Treating my client as a partner means that failure to change can never be left at the client’s door; we were working together and since the change conversation lies within my domain of expertise, I must recognise that I have failed.
6. And treating my client as a partner means that I answer my client’s questions.
So this takes us back to our starting point today. At the end of our session my client asked me, and I have no reason to know why the question was asked ‘are you feeling tired after this session?’. I reflected for a moment and answered that although I felt that I had worked hard during the session I was not tired. The client seemed interested in this and so I explained. In Solution Focused Practice we choose to assume that our clients are competent, responsible people who are in charge of their own lives. This means that I never feel responsible for my clients between sessions. I trust that my clients will go away and do whatever it is right for them to do between sessions and then if they come back I will work really hard in the session and then let them go, not feeling responsible and, I explained, it is the feeling responsible for people’s lives that tires workers out. My Solution Focused responsibility is limited to the process during the session; outside the session our clients do what they do – and so they should.
Thank-you to my client/coachee who sparked this thought.
18 October 2020.