It is with great sadness that we share the news of the death of one of our trainers, Martin Oswin.

Martin OswinMartin was the first to deliver the course that had been created by Greg Vinnicombe and myself, and was the first to test whether the structure and content would work in the hands of someone else. In the event , Martin demonstrated that the integrity of the course was not only replicable, but also allowed others to colour the course with their own individual flair and style. This, in turn, gave us the confidence to recruit further hand-picked trainers – Naomi, Stephan, Suzi, Tara and Kidge.

Successful completion of our course requires students to present five sources of evidence of learning, two being a Practice Log and a Case Study. Practice Logs and Case Studies are usually accounts of how SF Practice has been used in conversations with service users. I still recall an occasion when Martin contacted me to say that one of his students was a manager and could she use her use of SF in meetings in the Practice Log and as a Case Study. We checked our assessment criteria and could see no reason why not.

The celebration of Martin’s life was attended by about 500 people. In the midst of the gathering I chanced to meet the manager who had written the Case Study, Anne. Unbeknownst to me, Anne’s use of SF as a manager had led to extraordinary changes in her service. Also, unbeknownst to me Martin, as the unsung hero he was, had continued to provide massive support to make this possible. When I asked Anne if she could say more about what had been achieved, she shared the following.

“Martin has been such a big part of our life in the service as a previous colleague, friend and later trainer and mentor. The service developments started a number of years ago when I met up with Martin and he was speaking about the exciting course he was on and how it had the potential to change the way we provide mental health care – Solution Focused Therapy. I had known Martin for some years and worked in some complex situations with him, and his ability to meet people at their level and acknowledge and empower them by his caring, fun and at times pure whacky personality was always dynamic and infectious, so if he thought this was going to work I was intrigued to know more. I spoke with Martin on and off over the years and then we came back and revisited solution focused therapy in a more strategic way.

I enrolled on the solution focused therapy certificate course with a desire to use SFT in team and service development which I have found to be a powerful tool and has instigated a number of positive changes in our locality. My portfolio was made up of transformation workshops in Primary care, Learning disability and Secondary Mental Health care through SFT which I would have only achieved through Martin’s mentoring and guidance. Most take a handful of clinical cases to describe how they can use SFT in practice. With Martin’s encouragement I took a series of community service development workshops affecting many staff – I could only have done this with Martin there saying “you can do it and make it work”.

In the service we had been planning a transformation of how we manage and lead community services. We were keen for management structures to work across pathways that service users access for their care, and also ensure a coordinated approach to provision. We wanted to break down barriers between teams so that service users did not experience multiple referrals and team criteria but felt they were on a pathway of recovery that was right for them, and to achieve this we needed to have more coordination. I had a vision of everyone who accessed the service through our Crisis pathways and entry points to services having a united response and that this should be empowering for service users and carers, not prescriptive by staff. This would be a cultural transformation of practice rather than changing teams and staffing as we see in most service transformations.

As I met and talked through with Martin we viewed how solution focused therapy could be our tool to ensure compassion, empowerment and coordination. After months of negotiation and planning Martin drew up a training programme for staff working in the crisis pathway so that service users met in acute hospitals, through Police intervention, Crisis House, Crisis Cafes, Primary Care workers and Crisis Resolution Home Treatment teams all experienced a SFT approach. This was completed by a raft of training days for staff with follow up days and supervision, whilst Martin supported me to maintain momentum from the senior management team to ensure ongoing progress.

Martin was a dear friend who I had planned to work more with, but sadly that will not be now. He brought SFT to my work and I am keen to ensure this lives on as I see the benefits for our service users, carers and staff.”

Martin’s wife has asked that stories of Martin can be shared with her so that she can share them with Martin’s young sons as they get older. I very much appreciate this opportunity to share one of many stories that can keep the memory of Martin alive and keep Martin as an on-going source of inspiration. If you would like to contact Anne to ask more about what has been achieved and how this was done please contact me on and I will put you in touch.

John Wheeler
Head of Centre. Solution Focused Trainers.