Claire McNeil ran a workshop on the Solution Focused Approach to working with people who stutter at our National Dysfluency CEN study day. The Solution Focused Approach was developed by social workers in 1980s Milwaukee who made a switch from focusing on clients’ problems to foregrounding solution behaviours that the client might already be engaging in and considering how to promote these behaviours. Within this approach the therapist works to create an expectation of change, draws the client’s attention to their strengths, and highlights their successes.
Claire illustrated these ideas through videos and lots of examples from her own experience. There were practical exercises that got us using Solution Focused questions with one another. By exploring the interests and competencies of a client, emphasising how they have managed past difficulties, and highlighting ways in which they are already taking proactive steps, therapy can take on a more positive light and foster greater client independence.
For example, in response to a parent who is expressing significant anxiety about their child’s stammering, the therapist might complement the parent’s proactivity, highlight some of the ways the parent is already supporting their child’s speech, or draw attention to areas where the child already demonstrates skill.
Within a Solution Focused Approach, clients are supported to identify their own goals as well as notice their strengths and successes in order to generate solutions. It is reasoned that goals and solutions that are generated by the client, rather than a therapist identifying what the client should achieve and how to do so, will be more personally meaningful and promote engagement with therapy. An interesting aspect of this approach is that it takes some of the pressure off the therapist to “fix” clients’ difficulties. Instead, the therapist takes on a facilitative role, helping clients to reflect and generate their own solutions.
Participants came away from this study day feeling that they had been shown a very positive, practical, client-led framework to guide the therapy process. The Solution Focused Approach could also be a valuable tool outside of therapy, for example in supervision/team meetings as well helping to achieve personal goals outside of work altogether.