What is SF?

Solutions Focus (SF) is an incisive way to build positive change in tough and often complex, situations. It is a rich and multi-dimensional approach with roots in ‘brief therapy’, and has a long and well-established heritage in many contexts including organisational change, education, conflict resolution and coaching. There are at least three ways to see SF from different perspectives:

At its simplest, you can view SF as being about ‘finding what works’ or ‘finding useful change and amplifying it’. This makes it a powerful tool for engagement; it creates rapid progress and gets things moving when they are difficult or confusing. For an introduction, read Mark McKergow’s article Solutions Focus –  Changing Everything By Changing As Little As Possible.

At another level, you can see SF as a way to work with complex systems, where a change in any one element may well lead to   other widespread changes that are not highly predictable. In such systems, a complete understanding is impossible and so you must find levers for change that are not analysis. SF is an excellent way to work with, rather than fight, emergent change with people and organisations. For an introduction to this perspective, read Mark McKergow’s published paper Language, complexity and narrative emergence: Lessons from Solution Focused practice.

SF, being a conversational tool, is all about language. The forms of questions and conversations used in SF work are quite specific, following a quite rigorous form in the ways in which issues of causality, emotion, responsibility etc are handled. There are important parallels with the thinking of Ludwig Wittgenstein, and connections to post-structural and embodied narrative schools. SF can be seen as a practice that links complexity and narrative, part of a larger meta-thing of ‘narrative emergence’. For an introduction at this level, read the book chapter by Gale Miller and Mark McKergow published by Oxford University Press, From Wittgenstein, Complexity and Narrative Emergence.

Perspectives 2 and 3 can look a little daunting at first. However, it’s quite in order to use SF as a powerful tool without being an expert in complexity or narrative – indeed, that is the beauty of the approach! However, you might just get hooked…

For a lengthier article on SF by Mark McKergow, please click here.

For a summary article by Philip Lievens please click here.

To find out what clues tell you that a piece of work is solution focused, please go here.