you might have been puzzled or intrigued by all the talk and chatter about the Solution Focused Approach. This site hopefully provides some sort of start so that you can get an idea of what that is, but if you’d like to know more, I’m pleased to announce that this upcoming Wednesday I am hosting a short webinar on the topic.
In the webinar, I’m going to walk you through and introducing you to an approach that changed my professional (and bits of personal) life. If you’ll feel like this might be for you, I’ll also present an opportunity for you to get trained in the basics of the approach – for free. For the past year, we have worked hard with partners from Estonia and Poland to make this happen and now it’s finally here – a brand new online training that will teach you the basics and in this webinar I’ll be so pleased to give you a chance to see it and later on try it yourself should you wish to.
If you’d like to attend the webinar, please register here.
Hope to see you on Wednesday, 9am GMT+1 (10am CET).
Happy New Year, may it be called a Year of Hope and may it sprout all the seeds you have been planting over 2020!
If I have learned one new thing since the pandemic started, it has been running virtual groups, virtual teams, facilitating virtual meetings and delivering trainings online. And to be honest, I have been enjoying it massively! All the discoveries and possibilities that online environment offers very early on outweighed the doubts and frustrations for not being able to meet face to face. Below is an example of one such event, where Chris and I together delivered a hugely successful post-conference workshop in India. Literally, sky’s become no limit when it comes to running virtual groups. But as they say, it ain’t easy!
Solution Focused approach can be used in a wide variety of fields and settings, ranging from therapy to management, and working with individuals or with groups. Solution Focused Groupwork, whether as therapy, training, support, coaching, or facilitation, and in classes, meetings and other settings, on-line and face-to-face, offers huge potential and can be a very cost-effective, practical and enjoyable way of working with several people at the same time, whether a few or several dozen. It also requires a somewhat different application of Solution Focused skills to those used in individual work. And here’s what Chris and I have prepared for you for 2021: a two day course in Solution Focused Groupwork, that will be delivered online!
In this course, you will explore with Chris and myself how to apply the Solution Focused approach in a variety of settings, both virtual and ‘real’. Chris and I have worked with groups of children, young people, parents, trauma survivors, women in violent relationships, teams and leadership groups. With this experience, together with your experience and skills, you can expect two days of lively, creative, inspiring and highly practical applications of the principles of Solution Focused Groupwork. You will then want to use the what you have learned with your groups immediately, whether you have been working in group settings for a long time, or are thinking of starting to do so. And even if you are already experienced in using the SF approach in your practice, you will gain lots of new skills and ideas from this course.
During our two days together, we will explore the following topics:
Off to a good start: group warm up & group contracting
Group spirit & formation: building collaboration, safety, curiosity and respect
Using the group as a resource to make change simple: preferred future
Group discovery of histories of preferred futures: what is already working
Using scales in Groupwork
Solution Focused negotiating in/with the group
Solution Focused debriefing and reflection in groups
Group endings: backpack of ideas for after the group stops meeting
Various group formats, size, settings and duration: adapting SF
How to plan Groupwork & stay SF in it (when things go left instead of right)
This workshop will prove invaluable in providing a core set of basic principles for conducting any type of group I which you want to maximise the constructive contribution of all group members.
Chris Iveson and BRIEF, the leading training provider of Solution Focused Practice, have been my first teachers of SF when I accidentally bumped into it in 2014. And since, have remained my nr. 1. Over the past years, Chris and I grew closer as colleagues, friends and especially since 2019, co-trainers. Having workshops delivered for larger groups as well as boutique teams (in 2020 we visited Pakistan, India and Iran) we discovered that our training styles and diverse experience uniquely complement each other, so we decided to run this course for you.
Chris Iveson founded BRIEF with his colleagues, Evan George and Harvey Ratner in 1989 and with them has been developing the most minimal and simplified version of this world-wide phenomenon, Solution Focused Practice. He is author and co-author of many books about the approach, including the much-translated Solution Focused Brief Therapy: 100 Key Points and Techniques and Brief Coaching: A Solution Focused Approach. A former teacher, social worker and family therapist and manager Chris brings a wealth of experience to both his practice and teaching. He is also a well-respected presenter around the world.
I’ve been working with groups since 2008. My work varies from running groups in formal settings: university tutors, students with disabilities, academic staff, EU commission, Slovenian government as well as non formal education on international level under Erasmus+ and European Solidarity Corps. I’m experienced in running groups as well as teams of various sizes and durations, some of the topics of which include tolerance, youth entrepreneurship, human rights, peace education, inclusion, conflict resolution, stress management, mental health, solidarity and non-formal education.
This course will be epic. Details to register can be accessed here. Chris and I are looking forward to welcome you on board!
everyday we have a chance to discover and define ourselves brand new – who we are and who we want to be. I like the saying that goes we are an average of 5 people we spend most time with (so choose wisely!)
Recently, I took on a new challenge. I’ll be working as a coach with a feminist organisation in London, supporting young women in reaching economic justice, independence and fulfilling their potential. Working with young people 1-2-1 or as group work has always been at my heart and seeing young people unlocking their potential is one of the most exciting parts of professional life. But what is our role in helping them unlock it? Is our call to make a difference? Help people?
I’m not sure I believe in the concept of “helping” people. Such a statement somehow resonates in taking away the credits they deserve in the process and in helping professions we often paradoxically divert the verb “helping” away from its core by calling ourselves helpers, leaders, difference makers, uplifters, etc.
We are not gods in a sense to have something that others don’t, be it superpowers, super tools, a vision or other “supreme” qualities. Therefore, we must be very careful what verb we choose to describe what we do with people and in this world. Otherwise we might end up “getting people to do something”. And we shouldn’t. Not our place to get, move or make people do anything as if without us they would not be able to do it. There is an equal amount of divine energy in all of us when we let it show itself, so how can we allow that to happen and be in this world that might benefit others while they are unlocking their own potential? Here are a few ideas that emerged when thinking about my presence and doing my job better. I would like things working out for you so that you leave with:
Having confidence about you that is going to guide and support you, as you are figuring out where you want and can go in your life.
Having more clarity and energy as well as feeling like riding on a cloud rather than mere coping.
Having a full sense of who you are by embracing this world in all its fullness that it is and learning to appreciate all of the components of it that have led to where you are now.
Being a person that anyone who comes in contact with you will benefit as a result of being near you.
Not feeling bad when the above doesn’t happen.
Being kind, acceptant and friendly of yourself and anyone around you even when they do their lives differently. We are not perfect, we are never going to get our shit done and as such, we can’t get it wrong for life is happening for us, not to us, differently for everybody.
Having way more fun on the way.
Sleeping good and eating well however that looks for you.
Tuning into the frequency of who you really are and spreading the joy of it.
Wanting others to have that too.
These 10 ideas have been immensely helpful in thinking how I want to do my job as well as how I want to be in this world as a professional. Without having to step on a stage and shout how cool these ideas are. They may sound completely rubbish. Or totally useful. Both ways can lead to you discovering your own.
another year turned around and if you are here, you are lucky. Many people are dying these days – more than normally. Death is part of life, but life as is happening now, is something most of us are not used to. Not in a good way.
I walk the streets of London and they change day by day. Massively. Less and less people, trains and Tube feeling like Phantoms, shops either empty or overly crowded while people aspire not to be too close to one another. Schools closing. Shops and restaurants closing. The Covid-19 has touched all of our lives and it feels like we are fighting an enemy we don’t know, don’t see and don’t notice when it’s present, but we are aware that it is there, among us every second we dare to live.
This is the time where it is very easy to collapse, fear and lose hope. I watch people and they are petrified. Closed down. Or pretending nothing’s happening.
This is also the time where care escalates. Where public and private sectors continue to work and make trials and errors to get us all through this. Our street has received community notices on the door to educate us how to protect ourselves and our loved ones. And in the shop today, as people were queueing to enter the store, they still found some kindness and consideration to let a mother with a buggy enter first. The neighbours still say hello to each other, even though from the distance. And families who have locked themselves in their houses, are spending quality time together. It seems as if winter is coming even though the nature is sprouting but undoubtedly, there will be scent of cinnamon and freshly baked biscuits breezing through the windows. There will be small acts of kindness everywhere, among increased crime and impatience. As much as we cannot know or predict how long this uncertain period will last or when its peak will be, we do have a choice to direct our focus: either on how our systems are collapsing, or on how our systems are coping. You will find evidence of both. And imagine what difference it might make to your wellbeing (and possibly health, definitely mental health), if you choose to focus on what (still) works.
I hope that in a year time I will write another blog for my birthday. But if I don’t that’s fine too. It has been some ride, this life journey and I am glad we are all still here. As a mental health professional, I am also minding that the general pandemics will cause people to experience mental health difficulties they haven’t experienced before. I do hope that if it happens to you, you will get in touch with someone who can be with you through those times and help you sustain your wellbeing. You can also write to me.
Wishing you all sharp focus of your choice and wash your hands in the way that is right for you and others around you,
today is exactly one year since I formally left Slovenia, cancelled all my papers, accounts, insurances and moved to London with a one-way ticket, no work contract and no place to live. Looking back over the past year, I think it was the best decision I ever made but not because London would have been so spectacular or I wanted to escape something. Neither, really. It is more an analogy with our working with clients when at the beginning of our work, some would have it difficult describing what is it they are hoping for and even more difficult describing what that might look like. I did feel a bit doubtful and scared at the beginning, but also trusting that life will present itself to me best it could. And it did.
We live our lives the best we can in given circumstances. And many times we think we are giving all we can. And other times there is so much more to discover, but we do not give ourselves a chance or simply overlook that we might have extra resources, some of which we have long forgotten about or some we thought we never had. Yet they surface, when we need them.
And they surface when you do things you’ve never done before, in places you’re not used to. Easy roads do not make skilled drivers, but skilled drivers often don’t consider themselves as such once they master the skill. In Solution Focused Brief Therapy or Coaching we however do. Looking for hidden gems is exactly what us as practitioners are curious about – the resources people have and demonstrate every single day, but might not be aware of or the circumstances around them don’t recognise it as such. As was with me – now looking back moving to London doesn’t seem such a big thing, but thinking about it on this special day, my life has changed dramatically since then. Travelling loads, I always had a sense that I need to pack many things “just in case”. Whenever I moved in to a new place I wanted to make it a “home”. In the past year I learned that the more I drag around, the more I enhance my sense of vulnerability. I am totally comfortable with uncomfortable now and pack extremely light. Feel totally stable with unstable world. And those are actually skills – I know that everywhere I’ll go and anything I’ll do in the future, I’ll not only manage, but also enjoy the journey. I don’t need stable, predictable or safe anymore. It’s an illusion anyway. Life is a constant-changing process and stability is rather our enormous skills of survival and thriving disguised. So glad to be a Londoner now. Feels good to be here and I think I might stay another year. UK is a great country and I feel good in it. For now (and asking about Brexit – if UK government doesn’t know what to say, how would I?)
As for you, never underestimate your skills. Rather than looking how far you still need to go, how about turning back and celebrate how far you’ve come?
today my husband and I spent (or wasted?) a day of our lives at the ER and some other hospital departments in Ljubljana. He’s had quite bad luck lately and it seems it’s “one damn thing after another” and neither him, nor his Drs are certain of what the cause and what the symptom is anymore.
I wrote a quite personal newsletter to my Slovenian community today. About this hospital visit. I never particularly fancied hospitals, doctors, nurses, white coats and jumping stickers you got as a baby if you behaved well. I don’t recall getting any and was probably great pain to my mum whenever she had to bring me. Once I even managed to hold on to the sink so tightly that it separated from the wall and broke. She probably had to pay for that.
Then my own time in hospitals – in short – essential, not fun, painful. Or so I thought. Until today.
Having all the time in the world waiting for my husband, I spent it observing people. Patients, their carers, relatives as well as staff. Not a happy place: patients impatient (funny how the word impatient implies patients/patience?), carers worried, no laughter, silent conversations on one hand or too loud screaming in the phones on the other, staff rushing, looking away not to be barked at when the next patients’ turn was. Plenty of evidence of pain, hopelessness, bitter faces, as well as sometimes shame and often loneliness. On top, used facilities, broken air conditions, smelly rooms of drugs and old, ill people. That’s what it seemed on the surface. Until one decides to look for different signs.
I so deeply admire and respect health workers, especially nurses and cleaners who spend the most time mingling with us mortals. So much dedication, so much patience and such professionalism. We spent 9 hours there and saw two shifts. They were so quick, efficient, communicated lots in order to find the best solution for each patient. Vast evidence and presence of professional work ethics. Then I listened to a conversation behind the door, supposed to be closed. Everybody knows the waiting lines for some services can be insane. The nurses were discussing what to do with a certain patient who in their opinion, needed to be seen before couple of months. They spent at least 45 mins phoning already enrolled patients on their registry just to see if there was a possible cancellation so they could squeeze this man in. And there was. So they did. I doubt this is stated in their contract as task description.
But such care wasn’t present only among staff. There was evidence of it among patients too. The way how they were with each other. At first sight, one might think that we were all sitting there selfishly, waiting for our turn to see the doctor, hoping it would have been before others. And in doing so, not wanting to engage or in case an encounter happened, take all the time in conversation to speak about oneself, one’s health history and troubling occurrence. But that was the first sight and it was not entirely accurate. For instance this: At one point, a young woman, probably a nurse or a young doctor (she was dressed in white) rushed from the ER straight onto a chair next to mine, buried her head into her hands and bursted into tears. It wasn’t just a cry, it was fury, she was out of her mind. Of course having sat next to her I leaned towards and embraced her. But I wasn’t the only one. Another woman approached too and offered her another shoulder to cry on. Then somebody brought a bottle of water and discretely backed up, as two of us were enough. Another one turned the ventilator down. And the rest were silent. Silent, unmoving, but very much present. The entire room organised itself so they could support a stranger in distress. It was beautiful to see, if one decides to look for the signs of human care.
This is what Alasdair MacIntyre wrote about and called it virtue ethics. I explored bits of it in my Doc, but probably not really understanding what it meant in practice. MacIntyre talked about needing interdependency because this is how people learn virtue of care, love, compassion and the like. We don’t learn virtues reading about it. We need circumstances where we can experience it. Experience what it’s like to look after someone and be looked after. Of course some individuals don’t take their chance, but others do. And it is those then who look after others and hence provide experience of being cared for which is then at some point, likely to be passed on.
So from today I officially like hospitals. The aspect of it which provides so much evidence of human care, vulnerability and interconnectedness. If one is willing to look out for it. This is what we train people in Solution Focused practice.
nowadays you may come across many tips, strategies and theories that are solution-focused, future oriented and try to emphasise the positive, like:
What these approaches all have in common is, that they steer away from looking for what’s wrong and instead focus on the opposite: what’s working, positive, what’s wanted, etc. If taking for example, they are focusing on what if (your life was XXX – insert the preferred term). We have got quite some evidence showing that for instance, expressing gratitude, writing letters of appreciation, practising positivity and the like tasks, bring about fruitful results. And we also have evidence that in many cases these results do not last.
I do not wish to go into the discussion and critique other approaches. But I do wish to draw the line of what makes Solution Focused approach different to other solution and future oriented approaches. So here are a few of my arguments:
Solution Focused is not about solutions. It is about the solution context, as Evan George from BRIEF likes to say. Which makes SF not interested in concrete action, steps, which in many cases do not happen for various reasons. It is instead interested in signs. Which are always present, regardless of the action.
Solution Focused is about preferred future. It stays close to the description of the client’s future, therefore we do not insert any adjectives such as positive, better, grand, fulfilling, etc. We simply call it “preferred”, which means that our clients define what preferred is. Thus we are not emphasising the positives. Which brings me to:
Solution Focused is not about the positive. It is about what is wanted and what is working. For instance, if a client whose partner died tragically in an accident, for such client the term “positive” may not suit, as it is overly ambitious and all in all, not suitable. Still, they may want to find comfort, peace or just time to pause and deal with grief and loss. Many people do not live lives that enable them to even think about positive. This does not mean that they have stopped living, though some of them might have tried to end their lives.
Solution Focused has no agenda of what is working. The previously mentioned evidence which shows correlation of certain tasks with desired change, is left aside in SF approach. Simply because it comes from research and thus leaves a possibility that it might not work for our client. Instead, we believe that our clients are capable of designing their own strategies of what is working for them and more, they already have the skills and resources to follow these strategies if they choose to do so. Oddly, SF research shows, that when the practitioner lets go of their own agenda, their willingness to offer useful tips and advice as well as let go of being interested in what clients will do after the session, clients’ progress towards change happens faster. Thus, tasks are not necessary and may even be a burden to change.
Solution Focused is not following “fake it till you make it” rule. Yes, it does work with the “what if” concept, but it rather brings it into description of “what is”. Therefore, it does not require effort to pretend the “what if”, instead it invites our clients to notice the “what if” into “what is”. Again, emphasis is on working with concepts and descriptions our clients give us – not what we think they might need or want.
This may sound simple. And it is. There is no grand theory or vast knowledge in the practitioner’s purse and backpack. Instead they come into the conversation as a blank page and try not to read between the lines, either trying to figure out what the client “really” wants and “really” says. But this is far from easy. Whenever I train professionals in SF, they say after trying out a couple of exercises, that this is the hardest part. I couldn’t agree more. And this makes a profound distinction comparing SF to any other approach, even though the core interest and focus may be the same. But SF’s viewpoint and paradigm make it very, very unique. Which in my opinion allows it to be effective with people, who find themselves in all sort of life situations, across cultures and with different levels of motivation or abilities to make change happen.
This autumn, I will be going new places to teach Solution Focused Brief Therapy: Georgia in September, Greece in October and India in December. I cannot wait to meet new professionals, explore SF with them and share my passion.
we have a new Doctor in the house. Not a medical one, but a PhD. Last Wednesday I passed the last formality and am now officially Dr Biba (which is strange, because my bibliography will say I obtained it in 2018 but here we go – done and finished!). I couldn’t have wished for a nicer ceremony and my farewell to the academia. Lovely memories, lots of gratitude, appreciation and a huge relief.
One of my Committee members, a professor, said it’s easy to obtain a PhD, but after, the person holding it must prove every single day they’re worth it. With such a title comes responsibility, as does with talents. Talents are not only gifts, they are duties as well. The holder’s got duty to use them for the benefit of not only pleasing themselves, whatever the talent may be – art, science, children upbringing, cooking, craft, etc.
My professional path has taken many unexpected turns and I’ve no ambition to stay in the academia for now. But if it wasn’t for my university, my supervisors, extracurricular activities as well as setbacks, I would have probably never left Slovenia and discovered the field I am so passionate about at the moment. Time for the next step. My ambition is the world. My passion is Solution Focused Practice.
So here comes some bits of news I have been looking forward to telling you for a while: I am not alone in this. About a year ago, a fortunate coincidence crossed paths of three people: Ben Scott, Greg Oberbeck and myself.
A thought that brought us together concerns the future of SF and how to spread its brilliance to the next wave of practitioners. All of us have been training others in SF and recently, we formed a trio called SF Possibilities (SFP). We have noticed there are many frontline workers, practitioners and enthusiasts worldwide, who are keen and curious about SF and haven’t got access (geographical or financial) to high quality training. We want to respond by providing international Solution Focused Training with up to date observations from our own frontline practice.
What is uniting us is our wish to keep the SF approach simple, minimalistic and straightforward. The core of our ethos is continuing to follow the guiding principles our teachers at BRIEF have been inspired by for 30 years. Innovation, observing and presenting our own work as well as staying humble is something that brings us together, in spite of our personal differences and training styles which we see as beneficial and enriching.
So this is where I am going from here. It has become a “we”. We are “coming out” at the UKASFP Conference this July in Bath and before that, if you’ve ambition, you can join us in a 3-day training course in Solution Focused Practice in Bedford, UK. The invitations will go out soon, as will our web presence. Meanwhile, you are welcome to have a look at this page. We’d love to have you with us!
I really like the thought that life doesn’t happen to us. It happens for us. I don’t mean it in a self-centred narcissistic way, but rather as an ongoing invitation for different experience life is and has to offer. Then it is of course up to you how you evaluate this experience, for instance bad, good, joyful, pleasant, rough, painful, exhilarating, etc.
Since I recovered and am able to fully walk again, I enjoy walks differently and do my best to go out for a walk every day. Sometimes with a purpose, like buying pineapple and sometimes without. As I was walking the streets of West London the other day, when we had a longer period of 20+ degree days over Easter, I accidentally ran across a painting.
Visual art has never been my cup of tea, it hasn’t touched me like music does, so it is quite obvious I am not a frequent or a passionate gallery visitor. I can appreciate the efforts of an artist, however am unable to tune into their channel of expression. Never did I think I’d buy any artwork for myself. Until recently.
On my purpose-less walk (or was it?) I was appreciating the sun, enjoying the warm breeze, my walking, friendly faces, colourful markets and playful unleashed dogs. And there it was, this painting. It put down to words what I was thinking, or better said, daydreaming. It said
She Designed a Life She Loved.
Art enriches and stretches our worlds, it puts to words and images the thoughts better than we’d manage without it. An artist offers you ways of thinking and being that are new to you or that speak to what is already there, seeking or provoking your response. Yes, this painting has been an answer to my deliberate creation to design a life I love. So now it is hanging in my London office to remind me every single day of my choices, to answer life’s invitations and translate it into experience that fits the life I would love.
Today I was supposed to fly back to Ljubljana, Slovenia. It was an early morning flight from a quite remote airport, so I decided to catch a late night film at 1am and then have a long walk to Marble Arch from where I’d catch a bus to the airport. All chilled, casual and quite relaxed. Until my bag came out of the security check. I got cold feet, realising I left my passport behind. So there I was, with two hours before my flight, without an ID document which of course, prohibited my boarding.
This is quite a stressful situation with obviously, many practical and emotional implications.
And in the middle of this contrast of having a good night which then escalated into an invitation to not be granted access to fly, I chose to feel good. Not because I would have evidence to justify feeling good or that this time life’s invitation sounded pleasant, no, far from it. Feel good because I want to deliberately embrace full experience life has to offer me and to keep designing the life I love. It all comes down to one single question, which is so important in Solution Focused Practice. If I did X …
what difference would that make for the rest of my day?
So I came back to my London house and not to mention that the entire house found my sudden return quite amusing, I had a good day. Imagine the difference this deliberate decision has made on the way how I thought about what to do next. Which airplane ticket to buy, how to get from the airport asap, how to tell people I promised to meet I am letting them down, etc. It makes a massive difference. So now I have a juicy story. And you have some (hopefully useful) blog.
This came across as I was sipping my morning coffee. In therapy and coaching, there are numerous examples of unethical practices and behaviours. One of them is surely keeping clients in therapy or coaching process longer than necessary and useful for them and sometimes these intentions might be profit driven.
When I deliver trainings in Solution Focused Practice for professionals around the EU and UK, I often tell them that if they want to become rich, they have to change to another modality. SF process is brief and if one is surviving on clients only, one might either become really good at constantly and frequently attracting new clients, or make their living elsewhere (or be unethical, which I will not consider at all atm).
Solution Focused Practice will invite you to think about your preferred future. It will help you describe new ways of living for yourself and might open up new possibilities of a future you consider worth living. It will not tell you what to do and will not provide an explanation of why you haven’t managed to get there yet (or reversed, why you have been in the situation you do not want to be in). The research across cultures, countries and settings shows to have lasting effects comparable to any other type of therapy or coaching, with the difference that you arrive at your desired outcome faster. So why do more, when you can do less? Why spend half of your life in therapy if there are other, faster and lighter options with the same outlooks?
And one more thing re below picture. Therapy and coaching in my modest opinion, are not business services. They should not correlate to one’s ability to pay or afford it. The practitioner should always strive to be brief – not do one session more than what is absolutely necessary. And the “necessity” should always be determined by the client, not your expert opinion. So when the patient feels well, they should not be given extra drugs “just in case” or when the client feels they are able to move on or live their life in the way that is right for them, they should not be imposed another session “just in case”. If they ask for it, that’s a different thing altogether.
So whenever you meet a therapist or coach who will tell you in advance how many sessions it will take, walk away. They have no ways of knowing and their theories are merely theories – they help us think, but not always act.