I loved reading Timothy Wilson‘s Strangers to Ourselves. It introduced me to the concept of “Adaptive Unconscious”. And it is the book on which Malcolm Gladwell based his bestseller, Blink.

I loved even more reading Timothy Wilson’s latest book, “Re-Direct: the Surprising New Science of Psychological Change“. A must-read. Science-based. Full of interesting information and insights. And the “story-editing” approach Wilson advocates shares with Solution-Focus the same strategy: a brief intervention that has self-sustaining effects leading to long lasting changes in behaviors.

Wilson’s approach is based on the idea that it is all about the interpretations we give to events – not about the events themselves.
Not a novel idea, since it was one of the cornerstones of Stoic thinkers.
But now we have the science to test this approach and… it works!

The interventions Wilson puts under the “story editing” umbrella follow one of the following strategies to change the stories people tell themselves:

  • redirecting the narrative in a way that leads to lasting change: exercises, like Pennebaker’s writing protocol, which are useful for people who have failed to come up with a coherent interpretation of an event that does not make sense and / or it is unpleasant to think about (e.g., trauma)
  • story prompting – redirecting people down a particular narrative path with subtle prompts; for example, by giving people information that would allow them to reframe their experiences. E.g. students might interpret their academic difficulties when they start college as a sign they are not cut out for it; simply showing them data that tells them experiencing difficulties at first isnormal, in addition to a video of peers saying they too experienced difficulties when they started, is enough to have a significant impact
  • do good, be good; as Aristotle said, “we become just by the practice of just actions, self-controlling by exercising self-control, and courageous by performing acts of courage.”  So by acting in a certain way, people shape their narratives in ways that are helpful to them. E.g., they act kindly and so they get to think of themselves as kind persons.

One of the most interesting point made by the author is that while we thoroughly test drugs before putting them on the market, we do not do the same with psychological interventions. As a result, much money and effort has been spent on programs that seem to make sense – but do not work. One example: D.A.R.E. (Drug Abuse Resistance Education).

It gets worse. Not only some programs or interventions do not work – they might actually be harmful. Among these: CISD (Critical Incident Stress Debrief); “Scared-straight” programs like R.I.P. (Restoring Inner-city Peace). Bottom line: test first, roll out later. Not vice-versa!

But as I mentioned, the book is not about what does not work – it is about what works in facilitating self-sustaining, and therefore long-lasting, change.

You will learn about a technique that, again, was conceived by the Stoics – negative visualization. You will learn about the power of volunteering for keeping teenagers out of trouble. You will learn about the tricky but effective “minimal sufficiency principle“. And you will learn about how a simple 15-minute writing assignment allowed students to close the achievement gap. Among many other things… and it is all in —> here.

2012 Solution-Focused Coach Training Program

In case you missed it, HERE is the 2012 Solution-Focused Coach Training Program!

See you in Orange County, California! :)

SFBTA (Solution-Focused Brief Therapy Association) 2011 Conference

This year I had again the opportunity and the privilege to attend the SFBTA Conference, which was held in Bakersfield, California.

I had a great time re-connecting with old friends and making new ones.

Some of the highlights of the program for me:

– the workshop A Micro-Analysis of Opportunities, led by Joel Simon, Lance Taylor & Janet Bavelas. A neat application of Micro-Analysis

– the workshop “Solution-Focused Dragon Boat” – Building a Community of Leaders, led by Brenda Zalter-Minden & Robin Hornstein. It was highly interactive and fun, fun, fun. Re-creating the challenges and team-building opportunities of working as a rowing team

– the workshop Diagramming Solution-Focused Practice: Tools for Teaching led by Robert Blundo. A very engaging presentation on how to introduce students to Solution-Focus practice and its unique mindset

– the workshop Can We Really See Co-construction Happening?, led by Janet Bavelas, Peter De Jong & Sara Smock. So interesting to see grounding sequences in conversations and how they put understanding in place. Wisdom nugget by Peter De Jong: “All therapists [from different schools of therapy] co-construct. But they do it in different directions”

– the workshop Value of Evaluation: Creating Powerful Performance led by Haesun Moon. Brilliantly led in a pure solution-focused way, we all learned from each other and ourselves how to do more of what works to make evaluation processes solution-focused

And there were many, many other interesting workshops going on, but unfortunately one has to choose…

thanks to everyone, staff, presenters and attendees, who made this event such a wonderful learning experience!

… and here (photo below) is what happens when you have a bunch of Solution-Focused therapists doing line dancing at the Association Banquet :)

The Participant who learned to evaluate his skill level

I had a wonderful time leading the last module of Solutionsurfers PURE Brief Coach Training in Sacramento, CA last week.

I was blessed to have such amazing participants.
And it was a joy to see how much progress they made in their coaching skills and in their coaching presence since we started in June!
As always, I learnt a lot seeing them coaching.
Their questions brought me to new insights about Solution-Focus.
Our conversations, always enlightening.

So I felt great about our training.
I checked in daily, and I was comforted to see it was not just an impression of mine :)
On the final day, I was happy to see that on a scale from 1 to 10, where 10 was meeting all their learning goals, beyond their wildest expectations, and 1 the opposite of that, they rated themselves to be 8.5 or more (some at 8.5, others at 10) on that scale.

I was particularly impressed by a distinction made by one of the participants.
He distinguished the “learning scale” from the “confidence scale“.
On a learning scale, he said he reached an 8.5, maybe even a 9.
But on a confidence scale about being a Solution-Focused  coach, he said he was worst off!
He started the module being at a 7 on this confidence scale, but now he was down to a 3 - he gained a new appreciation of the challenges involved in coaching in complex scenarios (mandated coachees, conflict situations, difficult decisions… the topic of the last module of Brief Coach Training).
He stated: “Between the past module and this one, I had 6 hours of practice; I now realize I need at least 60 before considering having clients!”

I was proud of him.
I already posted here about the Dunning-Kruger effect, i.e. about the fact that novices over-rate their abilities – while experts, knowing the complexities involved, tend to under-estimate their abilities.  So it was good to see this effect being taken care of, right there in front of my eyes, by this gifted participant, all on his own.

Here was a participant who not only had developed his Solution-Focused Coaching skills to an impressive level, but had also developed his meta-cognitive abilities regarding his own skills.