Northwest Brief Therapy Training Center
Olympia, Washington


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:
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:
If you still get a “Nothing.”, start asking about differences, such as:
If there has been a setback, you can ask questions around what has been learned:
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:
Once you have gotten as much information as possible about a positive change, start over with the next one:
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:
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.

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