Key Solution Focus Interviewing Skills

There are several key Solution Focus interviewing skills that are indispensable in moving individuals from problem focus to solution focus.

Exploration
Exploring the meaning helpee is giving to words, situation, experience. Solution Focus helper provides direction; helps the helpee uncover concrete and relevant feelings, experiences, and behaviors. Solution Focus helpers do not interpret meaning for the helpee but allow the helpee to interpret their meaning for us. We rely on the helpee's expertise and therefore ask questions such as: "what does that mean to you?" or "what is happening that is telling you nobody likes you?"

Open-ended Questioning
Well thought out and relevant questions that cannot be answered with a yes or no. For example, you might ask, "Suppose things did get better for you, what would need to be different?"

Summarizing
Helper brings together in a summary way relevant verbalizations; a restatement of helpee's thoughts, actions, or feelings. It strings together an overview of the message.

Paraphrasing
Helper gives back to the person the overall essence of what has just been said by shortening and clarifying helpee's comments. Paraphrasing indicates to the helpee that he/she has been heard.

Silence
Helper is tolerant of helpee's periods of silences without feeling a need to "jump in" with talk. By remaining silent, you provide them with the opportunity to process an answer. If your question was thought provoking, helpees will need time to think about their response. Try to refrain from answering the question yourself or leading the helpee with an answer. If the silence becomes unproductive, you may utilize another Solution Focus skill.

Complimenting
Helper gives a direct ? positive evaluation in response to helpee. Qualities such as resiliency, determination, sense of humor and so forth, are helpees' strengths. Noticing these can have significant affect on helpee's perception of the situation they are articulating. For example, "In light of all that is going on with you, I'm amazed by your ability to still get up every morning and get your children ready for school. I am not sure I could do it and I really admire your inner strength." Helper may give indirect compliments as well. Indirect compliments is a question that implies something positive about the helpee's such as, "How have you managed working a full time job and provide good parenting for your children at the same time?" Any form of helper using compliments is to capitalize on helpee's self compliments. For example, a helpee may say, "I quit smoking because I got smart." The helper, recognizing the compliment as a sign of progress will reinforce it with questions such as, "Are you more aware of your inner strength?" Understand that the helper is not just throwing out compliments for the sake of compliments, but compliments are reality-based. That is, it is derived from what helpee has communicated to you. It reinforces in the helpee's mind what is important to them.

Affirmations
In Solution Focus, affirming helpee perception is crucial to the helping process. It is the helper's ability to convey understanding of helpee's feelings, thoughts, actions and life experience. Affirmation of perceptions can be done through gestures (nods, smiles, uh-huh, etc.), or verbalizations: "From what you have shared with me, I can understand why you lost your temper." Affirming and exploring helpee's perception is a major part of Solution Focus interviewing.

Amplifying "solution talk"
Solution talk addresses what aspects of their life helpee want different and the possibility for making these changes. Though most helpees' cling to the proclivity to do problem talk, if redirected, they will engage in solution talk. The helper's role is to know when they have returned to solution talk and to encourage as much solution details (amplification) as possible. The key to engaging helpees' in solution talk is to be keenly attuned to what they would like to be different as they discuss their problem talk (troubles, problems, etc). Inherent is all discussions of problems is the desire for change or success. These are the hints of possibilities helpees' give during conversation even though they may not be aware of it.

Normalizing
Solution Focus understands that when confronting difficulties and problems, people often lose perspective. Overwhelmed and overcome by the pain and tension associated with the problematic issues, individuals often feel as though they have lost control and the situation unsolvable. Normalizing involves responding to problem talk by wondering with clients if perhaps their difficulties are not within the range of ordinary problems of everyday living. For example, a parishioner of mine talked about the troubles she was having with her 13 year old daughter. She feels her daughter is growing up too fast and is becoming defiant to house rules. The parishioner was asked, "Do you think what she is doing is normal behavior for 13 years olds?" Another way the question could have been posed: "sounds like you daughter may be displaying typical teenage behavior, what do you think?" What is of primary importance too is to listen to client or helpee's response to your normalizing question. You will be listening for clues about what helpee want different. Normalization is a useful Solution Focus tool as it offers individuals an opportunity to detoxify their difficulties.

Returning Focus to Client
Many people, when discussing their issues, focus on what they wish others would do differently. It is as though they are powerless and subject to the whim of others. In order for helpees' to move from a state of powerlessness to empowerment, Solution Focus counseling help them return the spotlight on themselves. They will be encouraged to shift their focus from what they do not appreciate about others and focus on what they would like to have happen differently. This is what Shazer calls the change from problem talk to solution talk.

Reframing
This is a powerful change stratagem used to assist individuals in shifting the meaning they make of their experience of events, people, relationships and circumstances. The interpretive "frame" people put around their experience determines the meaning it has for them. Helping them to alter the meaning or value of something, "reframes" context. If people experiencing difficulty can shift their frame from a negative, closed perspective, they have the possibility of moving away from their positions and opening up new possibilities for resolution. For example, a woman demeans her partner by relating his negative qualities (frame of reference). Of course, he has some positives that she is overlooking. Solution Focus systematically encourages discussion around these positives thereby engaging the woman in a discussion of the partner from a different context (reframing the reference).

Rev. Saundra L. Washington, D.D., is an ordained clergywoman, social worker, and Founder of AMEN Ministries. http://www.clergyservices4u.org She is also the author of two coffee table books: Room Beneath the Snow: Poems that Preach and Negative Disturbances: Homilies that Teach. Her new book, Out of Deep Waters: A Grief Healing Workbook, will be available soon.

In The News:

Effectiveness of Positive Psychology  The Chronicle of Higher Education
FOMO and Social Media  Psychology Today
Positive Psychology Goes to War (www.chronicle.com)  The Chronicle of Higher Education
The Psychology of Panic  The Scientist
Psychological safety: Hot concept  Safety+Health magazine
Dark Parenting Styles  Psychology Today
Secrets and Love  Psychology Today

A Jungian Approach to Mental Illness

All of us suffer from some form of emotional distress... Read More

Do You Love Your Body?

Through out the course of one's life one is faced... Read More

I?m Sorry! Blame-Game or Accountability?

A powerful tool for health as we approach the new... Read More

Traumas as Social Interactions

("He" in this text - to mean "He" or "She").We... Read More

Nature VS Nurture - Theories of Personality in 21st Century

Nature vs Nurture theories have wasted a lot of energy... Read More

On Empathy

The Encyclopaedia Britannica (1999 edition) defines empathy as:"The ability to... Read More

Lesson Plans that Reach the Multiple Intelligences

American schools have traditionally favored those students who excel in... Read More

Human Psychological Issues in the Recruitment of Suicide Bombers

Swedish Scientists did a study and found that young men... Read More

Its Never Too Late

First of all, a bit of background: A high school... Read More

Waking Up in the Middle of a Good Dream

When the brain is asleep and in REM dream mode... Read More

The Essence of Being Human

What does it mean to be Human? Well if you... Read More

Fallacies About the Inner Child

Over the past 10 years I have helped individuals who... Read More

Why Other Children are Rejecting Your Child

IntroductionDeveloping healthy peer relationships is critical for the normal development... Read More

The Cyber Narcissist

To the narcissist, the Internet is an alluring and irresistible... Read More

Narcissism, Substance Abuse, and Reckless Behaviours

Pathological narcissism is an addiction to Narcissistic Supply, the narcissist's... Read More

Ericksons Theory of Human Development

I'm sure you've heard the term "Identity Crisis" before. It's... Read More

Psychological Tips for Effective Studying

STUDY STRATEGIES* Revise regularly- Revision should be continuous if you... Read More

Solution Focus Process: Solution Talk vs. Problem Talk Pt 2

It is crucial that interviewing with helpee progress toward solutions.... Read More

Jack the Ripper

At around 3.40am on August 31st 1888, a carter named... Read More

The Mind, Information, and Attitude

Information is flowing to us at a great rate. The... Read More

Hypnosis: A Brief History

Evidence of hypnotic-like phenomena appears in many ancient cultures. The... Read More

Creating A Winning Mindset

Do you know anyone who always wins? Sure you know... Read More

Dredging the Truth

To seek and find truth requires that we communicate within... Read More

Morality As A Mental State

INTRODUCTIONMoral values, rules, principles, and judgements are often thought of... Read More

HypoManiacs Often Misunderstood

Are you a Hypomaniac? If you are you have some... Read More