Solution-focused therapy: The power of language

If there is any kind of magical element to counseling, solution-focused therapy might be it. The magic comes from using language to manipulate thought, and thought in turn to manipulate reality.

A solution-focused therapy doesn’t spend a lot of time on problems. Yes, people come to counseling with problems. Might be personal. Might be marital. Might be the kids or the extended family. Work or school. Everyone wants to talk about their problem, might feel it’s important to get to the root of it, understand the cause, the why, how it can be fixed. All of that is perfectly understandable. But a solution-focused therapist is not too terribly interested in that.

Solution-focused therapy is, rather, about exceptions to the problem, or times when the problem was not a problem, and what that looked like. Talking about when there was no problem serves to remind us that, hey, it wasn’t always like this, and it doesn’t have to continue like this. It also identifies opportunities to do things differently, to find out what works. And perhaps most importantly, it helps us begin to envision a future without the problem. To define that future. To spell out in detail what that will look like.

Therein lies the magic.

But if you think about it, it’s not really magic at all. How, for example, does something like a bridge come into existence? Well, we first notice a problem. The problem is I can’t walk from this side of the river to that side without getting wet. Now, I could dig down into why that it is, spend a lot of time pondering how that came to be, how it makes me feel, how powerless I am to cross that water. In fact, I could spend a whole lot of time doing that. Hours. Weeks. Months.

But no matter how much time I spend doing that, I will never get across that water without using my vision. Without imagining it. Without finding a solution. So if I begin by thinking of exceptions, of times when the problem was not a problem, I might think of times when I have been able to walk on smooth, dry surfaces. And how nice that is. And if I envision a future where I’m walking on smooth, dry surfaces, it might occur to me that I could build one that stretches from this side of the river to that one.

And here’s where the magic comes in. I now have a thought in my head that I didn’t have before. I can put words to that thought. I can let others put words to it. We can talk about how to make this happen, this bridge idea. We can talk about what help I need, what materials, or where to get instructions on building one. Suddenly, the possibilities are almost limitless. I’m no longer stuck on a problem, I’m working on a solution.

That is pretty much what solution-focused therapy is all about. A little over-simplified, perhaps, but an indicator of its power, all the same. A solution-focused therapist will help you overcome all sorts of mental, emotional, or behavioral health problems, including:

  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Low self-esteem
  • Relationship trouble
  • Substance abuse/addiction
  • Crisis/emergency intervention
  • Personal stress or work-related stress

If you’d like to work with me on a solution-focused approach to counseling for yourself, your romantic relationship, or your family, please visit my contact page. I look forward to it.

~ Mike

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