SF therapy and coaching as I understand it is much closer to the business culture than to the lovebombing, positive thinking culture. When SF coaches give “compliments” at the end of a session, they are not complimenting anything that comes to mind. They don’t generally appreciate clients in an overdone way – they comment on what they think will increase their clients confidence that they will reach their goals. It is not even about what the coach believes: it is about stating what the client said about him- or herself in his or her own words. – Kirsten Dierolf
A while ago, a client, in response to my question: “what is better, now?“, looked at me knowingly and said: “oh, the glass half full as opposed to the glass half empy, uh?”
I knew right there and then that somewhere along the line I made a mistake.
Solution-Focused coaching is not about “being positive”.
Solution-Focused is not about denying the reality of tough situations.
Solution-Focused coaching is about noticing what works – in a fact-finding manner.
It is about helping clients observe what they are doing: what does not work (and the client is very aware of that), and what does work (here the client might need a little help: due to the Negativity Bias we are built to pay more attention to the negative – but the point is that we, as SF practitioners, do not add anything!)
It is about exploring the resources clients bring to the coaching session – without any judgement, positive or negative. We are just “resource detectives” – and because we are professional “resource detectives”, we are not planting any evidence!
Solution-Focused coaching is not about wishful thinking – hoping a problem will just go away by not focusing on it (being “solution-focused” does not mean being “problem-phobic“!).
Solution-Focused coaching is not about putting a positive spin on problems: actually, it is about putting no spin at all.
Solution-Focused coaching is about widening clients’ perspectives, so they can escape the narrow view that dealing with a problem usually entails (see Carey Glass). It is a method of helping people get unstuck, as Kirsten Dirolf writes. We can see it as a way to correct the sample bias by inviting clients to include in their reasoning more “data points” (the desired future, useful exceptions, third-party points of view…). But again, we are not interpreting data points and finding trends; and we are definitely not making up data points!
Clients often get in a positive emotional state during a SF coaching conversation – as a consequence of their own discoveries, hopefully prompted by our questions. Not because we tell them so. But because they become more realistic, because they remember what works (and as Wittgenstein said: The aspects of things that are most important for us are hidden because of their simplicity and familiarity. (One is unable to notice somethiing – because it is always before one’s eyes). Philosophical Investigations, #129.)
It is an indirect effect of our work (see Coert Visser on the effectiveness of creating positive expectations indirectly, i.e. priming clients to notice what is working even after the session is done). It is a consequence of a sounder appraisal of the situation on the part of the client, not a distortion due to wearing rosy glasses handed out by the practitioner.