Northwest Brief Therapy Training Center
SECOND SESSION QUESTIONS
Sometimes beginning solution-focused therapists have trouble maintaining a solution-focused approach after the first session. This handout is intended to help maintain that focus. Below are some suggestions for staying with it. Most likely you will come up with a number of your own ideas after some practice.
Probably the most important thing is to be persistent in asking solution-focused questions so that the clients notice what is good for them. Once they get started talking/thinking in this way, it is your job to follow along and help them stay solution-focused as they work toward their goal.
To start the second session, ask about positive changes that occurred between sessions. A good way to start out on the right foot is to ask one of the following questions:
"What have you been doing that's good for you?"
“On a ten point scale, where zero stands for how things were before our first session and 10 stands for the problems that brought you to therapy are completely solved, what number would you give it today?”
Often clients will not quite know what to do with such a question, since they still expect to talk about problems, difficulties etc. As a result they may answer with “Nothing’s better.” or something like it. It is useful to assume they did not hear the question properly, so repeat the question either directly or in some variation, such as:
“What’s happened to give you the idea there has been improvement?”
“How far have you gotten in moving towards your goal since last time?"
If you still get a “Nothing.”, start asking about differences, such as:
“So what’s different?”
“Tell me about what’s happened since we met last time.”
“Were some times better than others since we met last time?”
If there has been a setback, you can ask questions around what has been learned:
“What have you learned from this?”
“What was different this time that you can use if this happens again?”
“What kept you going through this?”
“What would you do differently next time?”
Once you start getting positive changes, it is important to expand and amplify them for the clients. The clients may not have an answer to every one of your amplification questions, but that’s O.K. You’ve got them thinking in the right direction:
“How did you do that?” (“How did that happen?”)
“How did you know that was the right thing to do?”
“What helped you to do this?”
“What did your husband (wife, son, boss...) notice?”
“Who else noticed?” (repeat as long as you get a new answer)
“How did they react differently?”
“Then what happened?”
“How much difference did this make?”
Once you have gotten as much information as possible about a positive change, start over with the next one:
“What else is better?”
After you have elicited changes/improvements, it is important to connect them with the goal(s) the client has for therapy, unless the client has done this already:
“How is this related to what you came in here for?”
“Supposing these changes continued, would you be satisfied you had achieved your goal for therapy?”
“How far along are you now in achieving your therapy goal? (use 10 point scale)
“What else needs to happen?”
If there are no positive changes (which is unlikely), there may not be a goal you are working on together, in which case you may want to revisit the goal to make sure you’re on track. If you find out there is no clear goal, you may want to renegotiate the goal (start over with first session questions, i.e. “So how can I help?”). In this instance it often turns out that after the first session the clients decided the goal discussed then actually isn’t what they wanted to work on or they did not have a well-formed goal in the first place.
It is important to ask the questions above with genuine curiosity (and don’t assume you know the answer beforehand--you’ll often be surprised). The questions are intended to get clients started thinking in a solution-oriented way. Once they start, get out of the way and let them continue, asking questions only to keep them on task (solution-oriented and relevant to their goal). In other words, follow rather than lead as much as possible. After all, your goal is to get them to do this on their own and work yourself out of a job as soon as possible.