A lot of coaches and solution-focused therapists are taught almost from the word “go” that it’s not good for the client to talk about their issues. That the session should focus on creating goals and solutions, rather than dwelling on problems.
I totally agree with that. To a certain extend. But let me first tell you why I think it’s important to stay in a solution-frame rather than a problem-frame. To begin with, when clients look for help, it’s safe to assume that by then they have recognised that they have an issue. Therefore they must have thought about it a lot, perhaps talked about it even more, with friends, family or a counsellor. And if they’re still coming to see you after that, it means that all that dwelling hasn’t necessarily helped…
So it’s time to do something new. Through some skilful questions, we allow the clients to explore new possibilities and start to discover some routes they may have not been aware of before.
At the neurological level, this approach is very important. Our Neuro pathways are wired in such a way that the more you use them, through repeating the same thoughts, the stronger they get. Which in turn makes it much easier to repeat those thoughts patterns, as they’re now deeply engrained. A little bit like when you learn a language, it gets easier when you practise it consistently.
So when clients dwell on their issues, you can easily figure out what neuro-pathways they’re reinforcing. And what we want, as solution focused therapists, is to facilitate the creation of more useful and positive neuro pathways. Through encouraging them to engage in finding answers, build constructive goals and a brighter future.
However, the person-centred approach adds a dimension to that. Because in order to build rapport and create a safe relationship with your client, it is very important to validate their feelings first and to offer them unconditional regard. And sometimes, all what the client needs during a session is to talk about their issues. To feel they are in a safe place, where their distress is contained and received with compassion and empathy.
I’ve seen too often professionals brushing off those needs, either because they were taught too well about the goal-orientated approach. Or sometimes because they were scared not to be able to handle those strong emotions. I have been once in this situation, and the practitioner panicked to see me get emotional. Quickly cut off my words to take me in what she called a safe place. But what I really needed then was compassion and understanding. Nothing else.
A lot of my clients have reported having had the same experience with therapists. And felt rejected, not understood nor accepted. As I believe the relationship between the client and the therapist is crucial, I always allow this space. Within reasonable negativity, of course, always looking for a balance between their need to talk, and the necessity to build new positive neuro connections.
And I have found actually, that whilst finding this balance, my clients were moving forward much quicker. They appreciate my compassion, recognise the support I offer them and learn to trust me through this experience. The rapport is built much quicker and at a much deeper level. Which in turns, allow them to move forward faster and make deeper changes.
Have you had a similar experience as a client or as a therapist/coach?