- The practitioner asks the client to talk about previous efforts to find and implement solutions to the current problem, or to similar problems from the past.
- Attention is paid to identifying solutions that were effective, even partially so, finding out how and why, and exploring if these solutions could be revisited.
- Solutions that have worked in the past may be likely to work again.
- Exploring existing and previous solutions also provides an opportunity to discover competencies and strengths.
A key philosophical foundation of SFT is that solutions are already present in the clients’ personal history, life experience, knowledge base or skill repertoire. From this perspective, the job of the counselor is to help the client to recognise existing knowledge and skills that can be employed in the solution. Times in the past when the client effectively used relevant knowledge and skills provide valuable pointers to strategies that can be tried again or elaborated. The counselor can also help the client the client to notice external resources that could be harnessed.
A centrally important assumption of SFT is that the client is the one who needs to find the solution, and recognise the relevant knowledge, skills and resources that could be employed. It is not the role of the therapist to offer suggestions as to solutions or to point out resources that could be used. Solutions and resources are believed to have more power and influence for a person if they discover them in their own way. The role of the counselor is to create to milieu or space that facilitates the client’s own discovery process (Nelson & Thomas, 2007; p11-12) .
Exploration of exceptions often leads to the identification of solutions.
A specific technique designed to help orient perception towards, and elicit information about, existing solutions is the ‘notice task’ which is sometimes given as homework between sessions. The client is asked to notice “times when they handled the problem better; times when someone did something they liked or times when they achieved something they wanted” (O'Connell, 2003) (p9).
These occurrences are then explored to highlight and elaborate strategies or solutions that could be tried again.
When practising in the manner of SFT, avoid the temptation to point out solutions that occur to you. Similarly avoid the temptation to point out knowledge, skills or resources that you see in the client or in their environment but which they fail to notice.
Validating solutions that the client has identified or knowledge and skills they have identified is vitally important, but do not let validation slip over into offering suggestions or providing advice based on your own interpretation of the clients’ strengths.