The Potent Power of Positivity
By: Christian Baginski, Masters Level Intern
Many people with some cursory knowledge of counseling may be aware of the “big theories”. These might include classic Freudian Psychoanalysis, which might bring to mind a picture of a recliner and a man with the notepad writing all of their client’s thoughts. A more regular counseling client today might be more familiar with Cognitive Behavioral therapy, face to face therapy which tries to explore why the client has developed certain beliefs over their life. These are both valid techniques in their own way but neither fully represent the vast number of options counselors have access to today to help our clients.
Solution Focused Brief Therapy was created by Steve De Shazar and Insoo Kim Berg in the early 1980s. It was made for many reasons but namely to provide shorter term therapy for clients by helping them find the means to actualize on making changes in their lives. There are several base assumptions in the Solution Focused approach such as the idea that the client already knows what they need to do to make their lives better. It might come across as ridiculous to assume that you or any other client knows how to get better. However, we find that our clients are experts in their own lives and are very good at explaining best life looks like Clients know what is wrong, what they already have, and what they need to achieve their best life. Knowing this can help us ask follow-up questions and goals that help our clients develop a mindset that not only is change possible, but realistically attainable.
Have you ever felt like there is too much focus on the negatives of your life? The Solution Focused approach primes clients for positivity by always focusing on what they can try to do in the future instead of lingering on the past or failures. This is helped by the theory’s focus on exceptions to the client’s current issue. Exception talk is a primary technique that helps to counter the negative exceptionless stories that clients often tell themselves. They might say that things will never get better or never improve. Using these exceptions, goals, and our client’s skills therapy is often able to be completed within a fairly short timeframe.
There are unfortunately some shortcomings of the Solution Focused strategy. These include how solution focused strategies rely on focusing on the future. The therapy uses this as a strength, but it can be problematic when working with deep seeded trauma or clients who want to do more in depth emotional exploration of their past.
Life may not feel like it is all sunshine and rainbows but developing skills to view life positively, building up one’s self-confidence, and making a plan with the help of a professional can be part of the steps that get us where we want to be in our lives. The solution focused approach makes a few things clear; you are able to make changes, you are strong, and you have what it takes to make it happen.