One recent observation from conducting Solution Focused conversations with teenagers; is how they seem far more likely to honestly reflect upon their own actions and behaviours, after they have been given the opportunity to comment upon the actions and behaviours of others. This is particularly apparent when working with them to build a description of their ‘preferred future’; life that contains changes they would like to see.
A typical example of this is when a teenager is hoping for some improvements in their relationship with their parents. A solution-focused response to such a desired outcome would be to invite the teenager to consider a ‘preferred future’ where their relationship with their parents has indeed improved. Such a conversation might go as follows:
Practitioner: So if your relationship with your parents started to improve, what would they be noticing about you?
Teenager: Don’t know.
Practitioner: What do you think they might be noticing about you, that showed your relationship had improved?
Teenager: Nothing probably, I would be the same.
As you can see, in this particular example, the teenager does not seem eager to reflect on changes their parents would notice about them were improvements to take place. At least, that is, not at this point. What appears to be more useful, is first asking the teenager about changes they would notice in their parents, before then moving on to ask about changes their parents would notice in them.
I experienced this first hand during a recent session where the teenager, let’s call him ‘Adam’, wished for a more positive relationship with his mum, whom he felt was overly controlling and dismissive of him. By asking him first about changes he might notice in his mum’s actions and behaviour, it opened the door to ask more easily about any changes his mum might notice in turn about him:
Practitioner: So let’s suppose that happens, that your relationship with your mum becomes more positive, and this starts to happen even on your drive home after school today. When you’re in the car with your mum, what will you notice about her that shows your relationship has improved?
Adam: Maybe she’ll start talking a bit… asking how my school day’s been.
Practitioner: And what is it about the way she’ll ask you that shows your relationship is more positive?
Adam: She’ll actually want to talk to me.
Practitioner: So what would be the tell-tale signs that actually this was a conversation your mum wanted to have with you?
Adam: Well it depends if the conversation finishes within two or three sentences of asking, then you can just tell like that she doesn’t wanna speak.
Practitioner: Ok, so it’s the length of the conversation?
At this point in the conversation, having given opportunity for Adam to describe differences he would notice in his mum, the foundations were in place to turn the tables and ask what Adam thought his mum would notice about him:
Practitioner: Ok… and what will your mum notice about the way you respond to her questions and interest, that shows your relationship is more positive?
Adam: Like if I was asking how her day has been.
Practitioner: Ok… how would she respond to that? How would she respond to you asking how her day’s been?
Adam: Like she’d be alright asking more stuff.
Practitioner: And what difference would that make?
Adam: She’ll get to know me more.
Practitioner: And how would that be helpful?
Adam: I’d be able to share more stuff with her.
So in the latter half of this conversation, Adam has identified that it might be helpful if he were to ask how his mum’s day has been. My suspicion however, is that Adam was more willing to explore this idea, because I had first allowed him to express how his mum would be making more of an effort with him also.
The next session I had with Adam would also be the last. His relationship with both parents had significantly improved; they had returned his confiscated phone, allowed him to go out more with friends, and he had even been out for dinner with his mum.
Early Help Professional and Solution Focused Practitioner