Two of the underpinning principles of Solution Focused work are:
If it works, do more of it
If it’s not working, do something different
Sounds simple, right? Blindingly obvious? Maybe.
But you’d be surprised how often we fall into a habit of continuing to do things, even though they’re not working for us. It can be small things, like having to move six things out of the way to get to the kitchen appliance you use regularly. Spending 10 minutes reorganising the cupboard could make that so much simpler. Or it could be big things like continuing with a volunteering commitment that once inspired you, but now fills you with dread. Taking time out to re-evaluate your priorities and deciding to step away could release so much mental energy.
I often quote the saying, ‘If you do what you’ve always done, you’ll get what you’ve always got’. So if you want a different outcome, do something different.
The flip side of the coin is when we fail to notice when things are working well and tell ourselves a story that ‘there’s nothing good in my life’.
When I’m explaining this to clients, I use the example of being at work and having a pretty productive day. But before you finish up, you take a call from the client-from-hell. They’re really angry about something and vent all their frustrations on you. Nothing you can say will placate them and they hang up before you can resolve the issue. You get home, and your partner says, ‘How was work?’. Chances are you say, something like ‘It was awful. I had this really horrible call from a client who was really aggressive’. You’ve forgotten that most of your day was absolutely fine.
And it can be like that in life. One of the features of being anxious or depressed is that our brains can play tricks on us. We can become convinced that we’ve never been happy, or we’ve never had a moment when we’ve been free from anxiety, or we’ve never stood up for ourselves. Our memories become distorted. But it feels real.
Part of my job as a therapist is to help people identify what’s working, even when life seems hopeless. And it comes as a pleasant surprise when clients start to identify times when things weren’t quite as bad. When they were able to have a relaxed conversation without second guessing themselves, when they popped to the shop without taking Imodium or when they immersed themselves in the pages of a good novel.
These are small wins but are hugely significant in recognising that there are things that are going well. And as we say, if it works, do more of it.
The aim of therapy is to help clients gain a clearer perspective on what works and what doesn’t. Once they have that clarity, they can make better choices about how to use their valuable time and mental energy.