My wife frequently asks me, "Why are you wearing your old shirt (tie, pants, shoes)? You have new ones. Your old clothes are sort of out of date; maybe it's time to try on the new." My usually response is, "I like my old clothes; there's nothing wrong with them. I can still get a lot of 'milage' out of them." Well sometimes I'm simply proved wrong...
One of my many interests is that of photography and one of the key principles of photography is to "protect your highlights." Now what does that mean? A highlight is usually the "brightest area of a photograph in which you can see detail." It is what gives the photo contrast and it is the portion of the photo that captures our attention. Recently I listened to photographer/philosopher Sean Tucker describe this theme of "protect your highlights" but he applied the principle to more than just photography; he said this principle also needs to be applied to life.
If you start at a point and walk 50 miles in one direction, obviously you will end up at another specific point. But if you start at the same beginning point and alter your direction even by one degree, 50 miles later you will be in an entirely different place. The lesson: small changes in direction over time take us to an entirely different ending.
Many people, especially as we begin a new year, plan to make huge changes in their life. Some of these include: a radically altered diet, an aggressive exercise program, accomplishing monumental new tasks, and possibly even the transformation of one's personality. The problem is, striving for big changes seldom works. But small changes, which are realistic and sustainable, can in time make a huge difference in the quality of our life.
For 2018, what small changes can you make in: your attitude, your spiritual disciplines, your diet, your financial management, your exercise routine? A basic principle of Solution Focused Therapy is that small changes lead to big changes. So as you live into 2018 and consider the "life improvements" you want to take on; Think Small! By the end of the year you may be surprised at where life has taken you.
The official name for Solution Focused Therapy is Solution Focused Brief Therapy (SFBT). But what in the world does "brief" mean? Does it mean that Solution Focused therapists only strive to offer "quick fixes?" Does it mean that the number of visits is automatically limited? Does it mean that clients can't come back if they feel there is still work to be done? None of these answers are correct.
Some forms of therapy are indeed long term because they focus on one problem after another and strive to dig deeper and deeper into the root causes of situations. These approaches may in fact, at times, be helpful, but in these approaches it is sometimes difficult to tell when one has finally reached a resolution to the issue which brought the client the therapy in the first place.
Brief, in Solution Focused Brief Therapy, really doesn't describe a period of time; rather it refers to a perspective. Brief means "not one session more than is clinically necessary." In SFBT the goal is not to chase "therapeutic rabbits;" rather the goal is to help the client make satisfactory progress towards their preferred future. Sometimes this journey is completed in just a few sessions. Sometimes the course of therapy takes longer. But for each client the focus is on helping them achieve the best hopes they had in mind when they sat down with the therapist for the very first time. Compared to other forms of therapy SFBT is often brief; because we listen to the client, determine a destination and begin the journey with that end in mind.
The primary approach to counseling utilized at Living Hope Family Therapy and Counseling is known as Solution Focused Brief Therapy. People often ask how this approach differs from other approaches to therapy. There are many distinguishing features, but the main one is that Solution Focused Brief Therapy focuses on the "other side of the wall." Now what in the world does that mean?
If you think of a wall that divides our present experience and circumstances from our preferred future (what we would like life to really be like), the wall could simply be labeled Our Problems. Most approaches to therapy focus on this wall. They try to solve problems, work around problems, or gain insight into problems. Sometimes they do this by either analyzing a client's present situation or their past in significant detail. The only problem with this is that what we focus on usually grows! In Solution Focused Brief Therapy we take a "mental leap" over the wall. We begin to focus on what life would be like without the problem. Attention is given to what our behaviors, thoughts, feelings, and experiences will be as we begin to live our Preferred Future. Then we begin to explore times in our life when we have experienced a bit of this Preferred Future and we look what steps might be take to help move towards this destination.
Believe me, I am fully aware that sometimes analyzing our problems and our past can be sort of fun. The experience can become something of a psychological treasure hunt. But I have found that the most effective way to help people experience deep change is to invite them to the other side of the wall. It's a whole new world and once you visit it I doubt you will want to go back.
Dr. Allen Schneider is a United Methodist pastor and a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist presently serving the Sapulpa and greater Tulsa communities.