By Jennifer Yalowitz, LMFT
As solution-focused therapists, we spend a lot of time identifying and amplifying our clients’ Exceptions (Positive Differences). This allows us to understand what is different, how they got those differences to happen, and how they can possibly get the resulting changes to happen more often.
Exceptions (Positive Differences) are an important concept in solution-focused therapy. In Interviewing for Solutions, Peter De Jong and Insoo Kim Berg (2008) identify “Exploring for Exceptions” as one of the basic stages of solution-building. During this stage, “we ask about those times in clients’ lives when their problems are not happening or are less severe” and “we also ask about who did what to make the exceptions happen.”
And, as solution-focused therapists, congruence is important to us. Being congruent means being solution-focused in the way we approach our work and personal lives, in addition to being solution-focused during our conversations with clients. We value not only practicing, but living our lives in a solution-focused way. Therefore, considering our own therapist exceptions or “sparkling moments” just as we examine and relish in our clients’ is key to amplifying them and getting them to happen more often for both us and our clients.
Over the years, I have had many interesting conversations with fellow solution focused practitioners about sparkling moments—those brilliant times in therapy that feel exceptional—and have often been surprised to discover the things we as therapists have been doing differently that have allowed these therapeutic exceptions to happen. I have also been struck by how helpful the co-creation that happens in conversation is to us in discovering the differences that have led to the exceptions.
Congruence has a tremendous impact on us as solution-focused therapists. The more we approach our professional lives in solution-focused ways, the easier it becomes to engage in solution-building conversations with our clients. We suspect that this may be because the more we think and act in solution-focused ways, the more integrated solution-focused concepts become in our minds and selves. Therefore, the more we talk about and think about our sparkling moments in therapy, the more interesting ideas we can generate about how to continue doing what works well and do it more often.
So in the spirit of congruence and exceptions, the following exercise is designed to help you identify the times that you have been sparkling recently, and then to become more specific about how this is actually occurring. What are you doing, saying, or experiencing differently to make these moments happen in your sessions?