Solution Focused Therapy

Pitoncraft: an analogy for staying alongside the client

I have spent some of this week on a training course this week with BRIEF, the world’s leading centre for solution focused practice in therapy, and I couldn’t but rejoice in and blog about an anology Evan George used to describe his use of questions that appear to check in with the client. I find analogies incredibly helpful in wrapping my head around abstract concepts. I often use them in my writing, in training workshops I run, and in my consultations with clients. Fortunately it so happens that Evan George often seems to opt for analogous language in his explanations too 

“Why do you ask confirmation questions like ‘So if that happened you would be pleased?’” I asked, as we debriefed one of Evan’s live consultation recordings. (I paraphrase Evan’s answer – hopefully I do it justice).

“It’s like rock climbing,” he replied. 

“We climb: we ask questions, perhaps to best hopes, perhaps to explore a preferred future. And then, every now and again, we check in, we make sure that the client is alongside us, that we are alongside the client. We hammer in a piton, so that we can move forward together, climbing alongside each other, working in unison.”

This analogy was eye opening to me. Generally speaking, I have always steered away from confirmation questions, lest the client suspect I was second guessing their previous answer, or calling them out so to speak. And yet, it makes perfect sense for an approach that is unapologetically co-constructed. 

Checking that are our clients are alongside us not only paces our work, giving our clients time and opportunity to clarify their thoughts and hear their words. Checking that our clients are alongside us ensures that we are indeed climbing the same mountain.