Evaluation is begun early in the solution-focused approach; it is not left until the end of therapy. “The solution-focused approach is a pragmatic one in which the counselor experiments with different interventions depending on whether or not they are helping the client move towards his goals” (O'Connell, 2005; p67).
Regular evaluation is necessary to assess whether there is movement towards the client’s goals, and to ensure that the work stays close to the client’s agenda. Solution focused therapists also view evaluation as therapeutic in its own right.
Evaluation questions suggested by O’Connell (2005; p67) include: Are you finding these sessions helpful? Is what we are doing making a difference? Are you seeing the types of changes you want? Is your goal the same or has it shifted? What should we be doing more or less of? What else do I need to know in order to help you more?
A specific technique used frequently in the solution focused approach is the scaling question. It can take a variety of forms, and can be readily adapted to specific contexts. [Link to resource]
One basic generic format of the scaling question is to ask the client to rate on a 10-point scale how things are today. Ten on the scale represents ‘no problem’ and zero represents ‘the worst the problem has been’, or perhaps how the client felt before getting in touch with the counsellor. The scaling question helps clients’ to measure progress, and assess motivation and confidence. It puts boundaries around the problem and gives clients a sense of ownership and control (O'Connell, 2003; p9).
“It is rare for clients to be unable or unwilling to engage with scaling questions as most experience them as empowering. They convey ownership as it is the client who judges where he is on the scale” (O'Connell, 2005; p71).
Nelson and Thomas (2007) note that “Change is easier when it is removed from the all-or-nothing dichotomy. Learning to move away from ‘10s’ (perfection) and ‘0s’ (complete failure or catastrophe) allows the therapist and client to succeed at something before the problem is completely solved. Progress on any facet of therapy can be anchored and observed/experienced” (p21).
The scaling question technique is a useful trigger for awareness and reflection upon times when the problem was not present or was better than now. These moments offer opportunities for ‘exception seeking’ and eliciting solutions that have been tried in the past.
If the client is not making progress it may be necessary to:
Revisit the problem - It may need to be reframed in a way that makes it more amenable to solutions.
Reappraise the client’s goals - Goals may have changed or they may need to be restated in terms that are more specific and achievable.
Re-evaluate the relationship - Does the client feel understood? Are your questions relevant? Does he feel you are collaborating well together?
Scaling questions can also be used to help clarify endings for particular pieces of work. The worker can ask the client what will be ‘good enough’ for her on the scale from zero to ten, with zero being the status quo and ten being the morning after a miracle. Rarely do clients aspire to being a ten. They usually nominate a seven or eight. The client should be invited to describe what will be happening and not happening when this ‘good enough’ point is reached (O'Connell, 2005; p79).
Note: Nelson and Thomas (2007) provide examples of a variety of scaling questions (p21).
References for Solutions Focused Therapy