Tapio Malinen, tapio.malinentathata.fi, Sundintie 26, FI 06650 Hamari, Finland

 

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FROM THINKTANK TO NEW THERAPY:
THE PROCESS OF SOLUTION-FOCUSED THEORY AND PRACTICE DEVELOPMENT

Tapio Malinen, M.Sc.

 

You never can predict the future by the past, because the past is changing all the time.
- Michael Bahktin

Inside myself I know, that the need to comprehend leads to blindness and in the wish to understand
there´s brutality built-in, that expels what understanding is seeking.
- Peter Hoeg

 

This is my account of the development of the solution-focused work method. It is based on both literature concerning the issue and an interview with Professor Elam Nunnally, who worked fourteen years in the Brief Family Therapy Center (BFTC) in Milwaukee from the beginning of the center and took part in the confusingly creative process that gave birth to solution-focused therapy (SFT). I have also used interviews conducted with the founders of SFT and family therapists collaborating with them by David Kiser for his dissertation. I am grateful to Linda Christie of the University of Purdue and Elam Nunnally of the University of Wisconsin for their help in giving birth to the following piece. Additional thanks go to Michael Hoyt for his thoughtful comments.


WARM UP

This article is intended to be, in every way, as subjective as possible, in order to be as objective as possible. It started from the very selfish desire of the writer to understand the historical and theoretical starting points of his own work as one phase of his professional development. It wasn’t important to search the foundations of the knowledge, i.e. what really happened; but the openness, wondering and asking – the Nietzschean desire as a philosophical and methodological starting point.

My purpose is not to describe a universal historical truth but a practical, need-orientated search. As an experience, the navigation of the professional ego is remarkable and cathartic for the writer, in the same way as reminiscence conversations in a reunion.They link one to the wholeness and blood of ones family.

Ken Wilber, an American philosopher, has brought out the two meanings of religions. On one hand, a religion can give a home to a lonely ego. On the other hand, it can be a mind-exploding experience of transformation, the death of all external beliefs. In this case, it moves one’s consciousness towards a greater authenticity. (Wilber, 1999, p. 27)

I want to apply Wilber’s thoughts to writing history. History as interpretation or translation gives an experience of meaning to a separate ego. A person can partly fasten onto and identify with a greater
entity to give meaning to their life. One can justify ones beliefs and conception of the world, as well as finding protection and safety. On the other hand, studying history can start a process of change.
It can break, destroy, push to emptiness. In this case, it transforms one’s world of meaning in a thorough way.

Unawareness enslaves us, and the objects of our identification control us. As we become aware of our psychological and social position in our relations, in our family, in our work through the enlightenment of historical knowledge, we can be released from our identifications. It is the death of the Believer and the birth of the Seer. We can transcend what is given. At the same time, we can include it in ourselves. We can rejoice at our roots without clinging to them, and thus tolerantly see their relative truth among other truths. I invite the reader to add and amend from his or her own experience and perspective.

What else can a practitioner learn from studying the process of developing the therapeutic ideas he is using? Along with this also follows more flexibility: being more conscious you can better make appropriate decisions. And all this adds more ethics to your work. Wendel Ray, a present director of the Mental Research Institute (MRI) has also stated that while studying the history you realize that everything is connected and once you really take it seriously that realization can change the world! (Malinen, 2002)

 

SCENERY

According to Steve de Shazer (Miller & de Shazer, 1998, p. 364) solution-focused therapy is a “rumour” or series of stories that circulate in therapy communities. In his opinion, these stories do not form a “model“ and the solution-focused work method has no “theory“, in the common sense of the word, as a scientific explanation. In other writings (http://maelstrom.stjohns.edu/archives/sft- 1.html., 27.1.2001) concerning the differences between explaining and describing, he states that if SFT had a clear theory, it would be as complex as any other Theory (1). This is how it could easily and completely cloud people’s minds. From this I understand that the aim of the SFT method is not to explain reality but rather to organise the human brain towards fruitful action.

The development of SFT – like any other creative project – was affected by several different social, cultural, political and economic factors. It is not the interest of this article to analyse the social situation that prevailed in the American society in the 1970’s and 1980’s. My purpose is rather to describe the creative process that created the theory of SFT and the group dynamics it includes. In addition, I shall survey the theoretical and philosophical world of thinking that surrounded the pioneers of BFTC as they developed their own method of work.

However, it is worth mentioning something of the social situation in those days. The Vietnam War ended in 1975 and Carter was elected President of the USA the following year. In 1980, he was followed by Ronald Reagan. At that time, brief therapy was still an exception among other psychotherapies. Public resources were used for the foundation of private family therapy institutes on only a small scale. Universities and the National Institute of Mental Health only supported so-called medical models of treatment. When BFTC opened its doors in 1978, the health care system did not sponsor SFT at all. In those days, it was possible for therapists – supported by insurance companies - to meet their clients twice or three times a week for up to three years. The nature of the therapy was usually analytical.

As the Health Maintenance Organisation (HMO) started its work in the middle of the 1980’s, the client visits reduced in the BFTC. This was due to the lack of co-operative contacts with those communities (Blue Cross / Blue Shield) that used to send their clients to the center with the HMO. Nowadays, insurance companies and HMO seldom recompense long therapies and they have shown interest in brief therapies and especially towards SFT. (see Hoyt, M.F.,1995)

________
(1) SdS is probably using a big T in the word ”Theory” in order to refer to the big stories that claim to represent objective ”Truth”.

 

THINKBATHING

Curiosity as Resource

A great man/woman is he/she who sees further than others because he/ she stands on the shoulders of others.

Several ways of thinking that have come into existence in family therapy communities and outside them have affected the development of the theory and method of SFT. In the early years, the founders of BFTC surveyed several different theories in order to explain their own clinical perceptions. de Shazer especially studied and showed interest in all kinds of approaches. Sometimes the team did conscious experiments with intervention with clients and tried to explain the results afterwards, with the help of different theories. Sometimes theories and ideas preceded clinical interventions. According to Molnar (Kiser, 1995, p.82) …“sometimes the concepts emerged first, sometimes afterwards, and sometimes quite at random.“

I am going to introduce those theories and philosophies that had a constant effect in the development of the SFT-method. Before doing that, I’d like to describe the history of an interesting article.

The Family has the Solution

In the same year that BFTC was founded (1978), Don Norum wrote an article “Brief Therapy: The Family Has the Solution“. This paper can, with good reason, be considered as one of the forerunners of SFT, because it introduces some of the principles of the new therapy. Norum wrote his text while working at Family Service in Milwaukee. de Shazer and other founders of the BFTC were also on the payroll of the center at the time. Family Process rejected the article, estimating it to be “shaky, highly dubious and unsupported“.

The staff of Family Service – including Steve de Shazer – considered Norum’s thoughts “impossible“ and had a very sceptical attitude towards them. LaCourt remembers (Kieser, 1995 p. 84) that Norum used to joke that “he had talked with clients on the phone, in his initial telephone conversation, and said something that somehow made them feel that they didn’t really need to come for therapy”. The main thesis of the article - that even at the end of the 1970’s provoked very strong reactions, even among the future developers of the SFT – was simple. According to Norum, the family has an inner ability to resolve their problems themselves. This argument did not match with the prevailing theoretical hegemony of strategic therapy which underlined the power of the therapist. In addition, Norum focused on the pre-treatment changes that usually occur between the reservation and the first session.

Nine years later, Michele Weirner-Davis et al. wrote an article (1987) describing how the team of the BFTC discovered the change preceding the session “by chance“ after interviewing one client. In 1989, Norum participated in a seminar arranged by Steve de Shazer and later wrote him an enthusiastic letter saying that SFT ideas were the same as his own thoughts and that he was happy to see them adopted by the team of the BFTC. (Kiser, 1995, p.84). In 2000, the Journal of Systemic Therapies honoured Norum by publishing his original article in the theme issue concerning SFT.

Heider’s Theory of Balance

Long before BFTC started its work, de Shazer became interested in Heider’s theory of balance. Like the ideas of triangulation used in family therapy, it surveyed the relations of three people in order to define them as being balanced or unbalanced. The pioneers of SFT used Heider’s theory for several months in planning interventions. At some stage however, they lost interest and the team started trying something else. The following comment, given by Nunnally, helps to explain why Heider’s theory was used and finally rejected. “We’d talk about which relationships are plus and which are minus and added them up to see whether we had a stable or unstable pattern. We had different levels, too, and this served as a guide. If you’ve got a certain kind of pattern then you use a certain kind of intervention. I think there were three things that led us away from balance theory. One, it´s just too cumbersome. Two, it was ambiguous. And three, we found that we were coming up with intewrventions that we could agree on before we even checked out the balance theory. That meant there were some underlying principles that were guiding us in designing interventions that were aside balance theory and so we needed to discover what those were.” (Kiser, 1995, p. 85)

Bateson, Erickson and MRI

Milton Erickson, an American psychiatrist, has had a great influence in the development of SFT. He has affected the method mainly through the interpretations of de Shazer and through the visits of the BFTC team to Palo Alto, the Mental Research Institute in California and especially to its Brief Therapy Center. Erickson’s thoughts had reached it in the 1950’s as Jay Haley and John Weakland visited him a couple of times a year over five years, as members of the research project of Gregory Bateson. Bateson, an English-born anthropologist, had a crucial role in the early development of family therapy in the 1950’s and 1960’s. In the thinking of BFTC, his influence is mainly implicit. It manifests itself in, for example, the strict effort to examine people’s problems from the systemic point of view, in focusing one’s attention to the relations and interdependency between persons. In a similar way, the influence of Bateson passes by the whole system-theoretically orientated field of family therapy (Aarnisalo & Mattila, 1988, p.8)

When BFTC started in 1978, its founders were very symptom- and problem-focused, like Erickson. Its clinical work mainly followed the strategic model of the MRI. According to the model, therapy mainly meant solving the client’s problem. It was tried to reach this aim through the active guidance of the therapist – central techniques were to give homework in order to change problematic patterns of behaviour, and to reframe or give new viewpoints to the client’s situation. In MRI, people believed – as did Erickson – that in most cases a small change in the client’s situation was enough. If that change occurred in the right place, it tended to grow like a snowball rolling down the hill. (Aarnisalo & Mattila, 1988, p.8)

de Shazer thought, like Erickson, that clients can change rapidly if only the process of change got started. Erickson always tried to make the therapy as short as possible. It is interesting to notice that in opposition to this line of thought, several developers of the SFT have not underlined the shortness of therapy. (Lipchik, 2002, p.176) de Shazer is, however, an exception in this respect. According to Nunnally,

“We never set out to do brief therapy even when we were working with the MRI approach. We were concerned about getting results quickly, interrupting the system, and with the actual systemic processes - not whether it took five, ten or fifteen sessions.“ (Kiser, 1995, p.88)

SFT inherited from Erickson the future-oriented method of work, goal-directedness, the idea of the interactional nature of the resistance, faith in the client’s own resources and in one’s ability to know what he/she needs in all situations. In SFT, one can also find many small suggestive details that are well-known from the methods of indirect hypnosis developed by Erickson. On the other hand, SFT significantly deviated from the approach of Erickson and MRI from the beginning.

“We expanded the MRI concept“, says Nunnally. “We were convinced that…as long as you can describe the problem in a systematic way, then you’ve got multi-opportunities, multi-options (i.e. doors) in term of where you can intervene and whom you’re going to intervene with.“ (Kiser, 1995, p.88)

Cronen´s Strange Loops and Catastrophe Theory

In 1982, family therapist Karl Tomm visited BFTC and introduced them to his article on Peter Cronen’s “strange loops.” In this model, human behaviour and interaction are hierarchically formed. So-called strange loops are built from problematic patterns of behaviour that cannot be given a solution through using the prevailing logic of the client. In order to organize their clinical perceptions and to plan the therapeutic interventions, Steve de Shazer and other members of BFTC studied Cronen’s ideas for some time. (Kiser, 1995, p. 90)

When problematic interactions were formed from apparently contradictory assumptions, therapists tried to get their clients to act by reflecting their confusion. Or, when the clients spoke unclearly, the therapists acted in the same way. After this, the clients often described their problems in more concrete detail.

Similarly, Thomas Kuhn (1962) understood the development of scientific thinking as a series of sudden paradigm changes, just as catastrophe theory believed in sudden and inconstant change. According to this approach, the sciences do not proceed smoothly but by revolutionary shifts from old theories to new ones. de Shazer and Jim Derks were especially interested in these thoughts in the beginning. They also believed that a change in family systems can occur in a revolutionary rather than progressive manner.

Milan Family Therapy

In Kiser’s interviews, only de Shazer thought that Milan family therapy did not have had an influence on the development of SFT. According to all the other pioneers, the work of Palazzoli, Boscolo, Cecchin and Prata was intensively surveyed and eagerly discussed. Nunnally tells that

“The Milan group’s interest in hypothesizing played a part in our early work. If you look at a paper Insoo Berg and I did” We Tried to Push the River” (Nunnally & Berg, 1983), you’ll find the Milan type of work involved…The use of the team to hypothesize about what’s going on and, “What would be a useful intervention given what’s going on in the system, the system meaning them and us?“ (Kiser, 1995, p. 92)

According to LaCourt, too, (Kiser, 1995, p.93) the Milan theorists had an obvious influence on the SFT approach. The members of BFTC diligently studied their texts and made experiments with their long, complex messages in sessions. These were usually isomorphic, similar in construction to the therapy system and sounded very psychodynamic. The team changed from being a passive perceiver to being a more active actor in the therapy process. In the spirit of Milan family therapy, the pauses between sessions were subject to experimentation, too. Many SFT-pioneers think that giving a compliment, positive feedback, derives from the ‘positive connotation’ used by the Milan group as well. However, it is difficult to precisely say who affected whom in those days of creative work, or where exactly a new method was born.

Ludwig Wittgenstein

The philosopher, who had the greatest influence – and still does – on the thinking of Steve de Shazer, the central theoretician of SFT, is the Austrian-born Ludwig Wittgenstein. According to him, social reality and human relations are constructed by actions that he “ language games.” They are formed from different ways of using language, which we exploit in order to create meanings and to construct our relationships. According to this point of view, therapy is a system formulated by various language games in interaction. (Malinen, 2000, p.16) SFT stands for a different language game than problem- focused therapy. The mission of SFT- oriented therapist is to focus on exceptions, goals and solutions.

Over the last few years, de Shazer has adopted many of Wittgenstein’s ideas in his writings and speeches about SFT (e.g. Miller & de Shazer, 1998). According to de Shazer, the SFT-approach is developing towards an “interactive constructionism.” In this way of thinking, meanings are born through the prevailing practices of speech, in dialogical interaction between people using them. That indicates that the meaning of each word is the same as its way of use in the current situation. When the therapist participates in the conversation with a client, he/she is immediately a part of the therapeutic system in which interaction and meanings are collaboratively constructed. In addition, de Shazer has also always been interested in the Wittgensteinian idea of a “drive for simplicity and an indirectness he shared with Milton Erickson“. (Kiser, 1995, p. 93)

 

THE UNITY OF RESEARCH AND THEORY

From the very beginning, the functional principles of the BFTC included the living interaction of therapy, research, and theory. For many members of the team these three things were conceptually equal things that manifested themselves in different times and places. Perceiving the interactions between therapist and client was considered as making research and constructing theory as much as constructing hypotheses was. Even though ideas and theories of others were used, many of the main ideas of the team were based on examining their own clinical work. Certain kinds of questions were surveyed and clients’ reactions to them were noted. What worked was done more. The development of the theory manifested itself as a living flood of client work, reflection, re-work and theory discussions. According to Molnar, there was a certain rhythm between these factors that could not be foreseen. (Kiser, 1995, p.98) Sometimes the team might totally interrupt doing therapy in order to think over what was going on in it.

A good example of how the process of development went on in practice was the attitude towards the “resistance of the client.” The understanding of its nature clearly meant a shift towards a new method of work. In BFTC, “resistance” was seen as a product of interaction between the therapist and the client, not as an inner quality of the latter. Berg considers the issue:

“I still remember our very first research project when we used graduate students, who didn’t know anything about the clients, to score client responses to the delivery of messages after the break. We taped client’s reactions and turned the sound off, and just watched non-verbal cues and tried to predict whether clients would perform the tasks or not. Tried to predict the client’s compliance if you will. And the staff also made a prediction just watching the tape. And that was the beginning of our thinking about the death of resistance idea, that maybe the therapist has some input on clients compliance. Prior to that, we never thought of looking at what we were doing, (instead) we would study the clients a lot. We thought…all this had to do with joining, the whole concept of joining, so we thought we were studying joining and client responses to our joining. That was the beginning of our thinking that it is not the client´s resistance, but maybe it was something like whether the client nodded their head more, during the intervention message, that predicted whether they were more likely to perform the task. So we asked, How can we get them to nod their head more? And I think that´s where the whole idea of complimenting them..so that was the death of resistance.“ (Kiser, 1995, p. 127)

The concept of resistance belongs to consistency. Collaboration, in its turn, is a concept associated with the theory of change. They are like two sides of the same coin. We get what we focus on. In 1977 and 1978, there was a lively discussion going on about the differences between pathology- focused, problem-describing questions and questions that express interest towards the changes in the therapy system and towards the theory of change.

Even if research, theory and the practice of therapy were seen as inseparable entities, several separate research projects were also started in BTFC. However, the studies were not of a high methodological level and they often lacked control groups. Steve de Shazer, Wallace Gingerich and Michele Weiner-Davis used to get together once a week over three years – three hours per meeting – to discuss actual issues. This socalled research team was of crucial importance to the development of SFT, and it produced many of the most central ideas of the work method. Disseminating information and knowledge to others, however, did not happen in real time. Lipchik and Walter remember (Kiser, 1995, p.101) that de Shazer sometimes used to interrupt the clinical conversations and say: “I wouldn’t do that… this is what we are presently thinking…this is the question I would ask…”

Farther on those research projects that in practice developed the theory of SFT in different ways are described in more detail.

 

THE ELEMENTS OF THE CREATIVE PROCESS IN THE DEVELOPMENT OF THE SFT

The Art of Joy

A creative happening at its best, can be a cheerful art - a kind of high degree of play. Pekka Himanen has described in his book The Hacker Ethic - and the Spirit of the Information Age (2000, p.21), how the creative work of hackers embodies a cheerful, passionate devotion to an issue that in itself is interesting and inspiring. There is constant discussion about critical and developing problems, and the reward of participation is not counted in money but in the respect of equals. The work is not is done as a duty but because it is something interesting and challenging.
My impression is that the Protestant work ethic did not much control the early spirit of BFTC, either. The atmosphere of Milwaukee in those days can be characterized by the words “passionate,” “creation,” “concentrated play“ – the same words used to describe the hacker world of today.

Is it possible to analyze some factors of the creative process connected to the development of a new theory, that would explain why it happened as it happened? What forces or phenomena promoted the creativity? What is the role of the environment in the creative process? What kind of individual or group psychological phenomena act as catalysts in forming something new? The following passages describe how isolation, feedback and independence affected the development of SFT.

Isolation

Isolation has both advantages and disadvantages. In the case of the BFTC, the geographical and theoretical isolation in a group level as well as on the individual level clearly added to the creative energy of its members, as well as the experience of inner meaning and motivation. From the very beginning, the unity and creativeness of the team were increased by the “us versus them“ effect.
For example, LaCourt talked of holding a seminar at the end of the 1970’s in which she introduced the use of brief therapy with incest families.

“I thought I was going to get tarred and feathered…there was so much opposition to working this way. That was very energizing though. There we were, bonded together by being a common kind of me against the world. We were fighting to get a foot in the door, of being accepted as a legitimate model of therapy.” (Kiser, 1995, p.107).

The geographical position of Milwaukee between the eastern and western coasts also emphasized the isolation of the founders in the officially accepted therapeutic community of those days. However, this intellectual and theoretical distance only hastened the creative process in which the theory of the SFT-method was developed. It increased the interaction between the founders, creating a collegial atmosphere and bound the members more tighter together.

de Shazer considered the basic assumptions of the prevailing marital- and family therapy “wrongheaded “ and that isolation was needed in order to stay away from the “evil influences.” (Kiser, 1995, p. 109). In his opinion, the BFTC team was continually challenging the prevailing method of therapy and was like a thorn in the foot of the official therapy. The pioneers felt they were “black sheep“, that got energy from each other in their isolation. Before the publication of de Shazer’s book “Keys to Solution in Brief Therapy“ in 1985, only few therapists were aware of the nature of the work made in the BFTC. Lipchik says:

“I remember going to AFTA (American Family Therapy Association) in 1985 or so. A meeting of the elite in the field, let's say 250, 300 of them, and thinking, '‘Oh my god, there’s nobody here except Steve, Insoo, John (Weakland) and I from MRI who talk the same language. Everybody else is talking a different language. However, the experience didn´t change our theoretical direction. We felt we were special in our own way and didn´t need anyone. The purpose and goals of our agency weren´t business and to make money. We prided ourselves for having loftier goals: the development of theory and training.“ (Kiser, 1995, p.110)

The consistenzy of the new team, working in isolation, was increased by its members’ habit of socialising with each other in their spare time. They used to go out together and had common interests, e.g. music. Little by little, they found a small selected group of family therapists (Lyman Wynne, Scott Frazier, Karl Tomm and Michael White) with whom they could share ideas. These therapists understood the significance of the work of BFTC and the pioneers could share with them and feel reciprocal respect and admiration. The team also could get vital feedback from them.

Many creative people (e.g. Descartes, Newton, Kant, Nietzche, Wittgenstein) have established only few significant relationships during their lives. Similarly for de Shazer, recurrent isolation and loneliness was a part of his work. The interaction of isolation and feedback functioned as a dynamic and assisted his individual, creative work.“He would go disappear and come out and we´d sit down and talk about this concept or that, or he would give us a portion of the book or an article, a recent article that he´d just finished and we´d all kind of our over it…and so we would spend a lot of time reading what he had been writing.” (Kiser, 1995, p.114) In addition, de Shazer’s repeated, long walks helped him to organize his thoughts and let him “write in his head“. “I don’t know what I’m thinking before I write it down,” he says. Deviating from the other members of the team, he did not have to talk about his ideas in order to be able to arrange them in his mind or to write them down as articles or books. As Lipchik puts it:

“Yeah, because that’s Steve. He can go for a walk and he can do everything internally…that’s his personality. He does it all inside of himself, he organizes it in his head and then sits down and he writes it out, as opposed to someone like me who needs to hear it spoken.“ (Kiser, 1995, p.114)

Feedback

Both the feedback from outside and inside the team a) increased the awareness of the changes that were going on all the time in the development of the theory b) modified the existing theory and c) prevented the team from going too far in their experiments. The central group of the early years was the main source of feedback for de Shazer. Berg especially worked as a critic and editor for her husband. Later. Alex Molnar and Michele Weiner-Davis among others, formed a group in which constant feedback about the developing process was given. As the work model became more popular, trainees, visitors and attendees of conferences had their own role in the process of developing theory. Without external feedback, it would have been difficult for the team to notice changes that were made all the time.

The feedback functioned as a mirror, reflecting the prevailing situation.The living reflection in its turn changed the existing theory and the interaction between therapist and client. Sometimes the team gave up analyzing the work that had been done for a long time and only worked as therapists. Then, in some session something surprising happened again, something that forced the team to write and discuss their perceptions. de Shazer told Kiser how he once got back an article of his with the comment, “incoherent nonsense.” However, the journal published the article after a year without changing a word in it.

“Sometimes we took some feedback and used it in a way that would say, “We need to leave that stuff alone. Let´s just slow down and wait.” (Kiser, 1995, p.116)

Independence

From the very beginning, the BFTC was totally independent of external sponsors. This had two sides: on the one hand it let the team decide about the use of time, guaranteeing freedom from external expectations and estimates. But, on the other hand, the founders had to make remarkable individual and economic sacrifices. For example, de Shazer and Jim Derk did not get any compensation for their work. This economic austerity continued for the first eight years and there was a constant lack of money. On the other hand

“We did what we wanted to do. Nobody told us what to do. We lived on our income and …all we had to do was present ourselves to the people who were going to send us cases, present (ourselves) attractive enough so that they would send us cases.” (Kiser, 1995, p.117)

Using the concepts of hackers (Himanen, 2000, p.69), it can be said that the BFTC worked according to the ‘basar model’. The variety of approaches was important: when the ideas were set out in an early phase, they benefited from each other’s feedback. In a basar, people try different approaches and when someone gets a brilliant idea, the others make use of and develop it. This kind of open, non-hierarchical work usually is free and therefore very creative and efficient.

 

FROM PROBLEM-FOCUSED TO SOLUTION-FOCUSED APPROACH

Energy tensions

Steve de Shazer graduated from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee in 1970 as a candidate of social work (MSSW). Berg had followed the same program and graduated the year before. However, they had never met each other. After his graduation, de Shazer did clinical work in the Family Service Center of Palo Alto, California, and Berg was made head of the Department of Family Therapy in a similar center in Milwaukee. They first met in 1977. Nunnally tells how it went:

“I had then my private practice, but I wanted to co-work with somebody and I don´t exactly remember, how I first met Insoo Kim Berg…perhaps I had phoned to Family Services and told about my interest. During our first year together (1976), while I worked part-time in the center, Paul Watzlawick and John Weakland came from California to Chicago to do a two-day seminar, where we all went. Insoo, Eve Lipschik, Marilyn LaCourt and the young man, whose name I don´t remember (Don Norum) and Jim Derks. When we came back from Chicago, we were quite excited and immediately started to apply what we have learned…our group travelled - if I remember right – in 1977 to California for several days to listen to Watzlawick and Weakland. I wasn´t among them. It was here John Weakland presented Insoo Kim Berg to Steve de Shazer. Steve followed Insoo to Milwaukee and after a couple of months they got married. (Malinen, 2001, p.20)

Berg herself connects this meeting and the influence of the couple’s relationship, to the development of SFT as follows:

“I was very interested in brief therapy before I met Steve, that´s how we met actually, because of our common interest in brief therapy. We met in Palo Alto (i.e., at MRI). So we both had the MRI model as “the” model for doing therapy and I think how we got together it was more than just a marriage, a personal marriage…it was a professional relationship…and that had a lot to do with this model being pushed forward.” (Kiser, 1995, p.121)

After his return to Milwaukee, de Shazer became head of research at Family Service. In addition to Jim Derks, Marilyn LaCourt, Eve Lipchick, Don Norum and Elam Nunnally, he and Berg were the “system thinkers” of the center. They regularly followed each other’s sessions and discussed them afterwards and met each other in order to get more training. There was an obvious tension between them and the “psychodynamicers” of the institution. The enthusiasm and creative energy of the group was only increased by this juxtaposition.

“At Family Service there was a core group of 20 psychodynamic therapisst and those of us that started doing family therapy…so we were pushed together…and we bonded together a Family Service just out of self-protection. So a lot of creativity and the tightness was a result of trying to protect ourselves from rest of the clan.” (Kiser, 1995, p.122)

The clear conflict between family therapists and the other staff prevailing in the centre led to de Shazer and Jim Derks leaving the centre. In 1978, they founded a new center on their own.

Brief Family Therapy Center

In the beginning, the founders met their clients at de Shazer’s and Berg’s home. The interviews were held in the living room, with the team sitting on the stairs. Later the sessions were watched on video from upstairs. After a year or so, they got their own office on Capitol Drive, in the north of Milwaukee. Elam Nunnally also moved his practice to this new location. Each of them lent $600 to the center without knowing whether they would see their money again. According to Elam Nunnally,

“Insoo stayed at Family Service…although she also worked part-time at BFTC. Her salary was the only source of income, because BFTC didn´t yield much profit. After a couple of months Eve Lipschik and Marilyn La Court finished their studies in the Family Center. 1979 they moved full-time to BFTC and so did Insoo in 1981. Now the center had five workers. I and familydoctor called Marvin Wiener stayed there as part-time practitioners. The young man (Don Norum) I told you, was with us in Chicago and he never moved to BFTC. He kept contact with us for awhile, but then he moved away from the Family Service to become a manager of the Mental Health Department of Family Health Plan and sort of vanished from the picture.” (Malinen, 2001, p. 21)

In the beginning of the 1980’s, de Shazer became more and more the leader in the group. At the same time, several well-known therapists (e.g. Alex Molnar, John Walter and Michele Weiner-Davis) began to spend their time in the center and get clinical training. One of the trainees during that time remembered observing “Steve sitting in his chair while all of them sat on the floor…pontificating over the whole thing.” (Kiser, 1995, 123) When Derks and LaCourt left the group in 1984, de Shazer, Berg and Lipchick kept working together for a couple of years. According to Lipchik, that period was especially fruitful. de Shazer wrote Keys to Solution in Brief Therapy (1985). Berg actively took part in politics and Lipchick started to publish articles concerning systemic issues. Although the founders are not quite unanimous whether they meant to create a new model of therapy or not, they all agree that they meant to develop a creative “think tank.” What worked in therapy was consciously sought and written about. This was considered to be more important than making money. The unifying goal of the pioneers was to help clients change their lives and then to examine this process.
As BFTC started its work in 1978, its therapeutic approach still followed the strategic model of the Mental Research Institute (MRI), by focusing on the detailed description of problems, changing problematic patterns of interaction. It was thought that the problematic behaviour always has a balancing role in the family system.

Node Points
The founders also disagree on when the change from problem-focused to solution-focused therapy took place. The basic principles existed years before BFCT opened its doors, but at the beginning the work was not yet solution-focused. According to Nunnally, the model developed towards a solution-focused approach during 1983 and 1984, (Malinen, 2001, p. 21) The book Keys to Solution in Brief Therapy, published by Steve de Shazer in -85, and the ”Brief Therapy: Focused Solution Development,”published by the team in 1988, could be considered as introductions to the therapy model of BFTC.

In the transitional process one can see certain developmental node points that show the way towards a clear solution-focused approach. Of course, it is difficult to say whether they showed up only linearly and what the possible non-linear changes include. In any case, it seems that the developers were not entirely conscious of them, because they recall that they used to have brainstorms asking questions such as “What are we really doing?” and “Are we doing something different?” and “What is this?” (Kiser, 1995, p.124)

To provide some clarity and organization, I’ve classified the first three developmental items that were linked together in terms of their contents under the heading “Therapist and Systems”. These are: a) using positive feedback b) future-oriented change and c) examining solution-focused speech. The previously mentioned ‘death of resistance’ (see Section 4) also belongs to these entities. Other significant nod points are: a) the first session formula task b) the change preceding the session c) the miracle question and d) stressing the intervention nature of the interview.

 

THERAPIST AND SYSTEM

Positive Feedback

de Shazer believes that therapists create a social construction called “therapy” with their clients. (de Shazer, 1991, p.28) According to this conception, the therapist in the therapy room and the one behind the mirror are both a part of the therapy system. If they were outsiders, they would act as expert authorities and the therapy would come as a surgery led by them. In the opinion of de Shazer, therapists like Jay Haley, Cloe Madanes and Selvini Palazzolli gave too much power to the therapist in their work. This was due to their interpretation of the work of Milton Erickson; he was considered to be a “wizard” whose stressed the “magic of the therapist”. The solution-focused approach in its turn stresses the “magic of the client.”

The idea of the therapist/team and the client as being part one system emerged from the clinical work of BFTC and also from the influence of other family therapists of that time. This point of view also led to more intensive concentrating on the therapy session itself instead of the intervention after pause.

According to those interviewed by Kiser, positive feedback forms a crucial part in the change from problem-focused to more clear solution-focused approach. de Shazer describes this:
“Clienst started to ask what the team thought. So we decided that if the team was going to think anything, they ought to think nice things. So we told them nice things…in order to encourage them to continue therapy. So the team was nice, the therapist was nice, and things moved along nicely.” (Kiser, 1995, p.126)

In positive feedback, one can perceive the influences of the “positive connotation” used in Milan family therapy (see Section 3.6). When the positive feedback was routinely used, the step to asking questions such as “What works in your life?” or “What makes you content?” was not a long one.

Future-Oriented Change

The concept of “future-oriented therapy” had already arisen in Family Service. According to Derks, “we talked about future oriented therapy as (if to say), wouldn´t it be fairly obvious that if you have past and present oriented therapies you could have future oriented, and I think we even joked about it.”

“Another key time was Eve (Lipchik) when she asked the question, “How will you know when you don´t need to come here anymore?” And I think that was the big deal, because that was very definitely future oriented. Not just present oriented because we´d gotten to the orientation of the present and the future orientation came tagging along a little by little. Well, it was long before 1984. I know that because I left in ´84. (Kiser, 1995, p.129)

The “scale question” similarly arose by chance. de Shazer tells of a client who had come to his second session. The therapist asked how he was doing or what was better now. The client had spontaneously replied: “I’ve almost reached 10 already!” The therapist began to play with the idea of using numbers to describe one’s situation. This started the development of the scale question used in solution-focused therapy. During the work process, something happened that was perceived to be useful and it was done again. (de Shazer, 1999)

Exploring the solution-speech

The people of BFTC also saw that the solution speech of the clients increased when the therapists paid more attention to their questions. According to Weiner-Davis, the team used to brainstorm on that issue from time to time. They would compete as to who could invent the most questions which would increase clients’ solution speech and how they could be used earlier in the session. The research of Gingerich on solution speech (Gingerich et al. 1988) got the team to use different interview techniques, during which there was no need to talk about problems at all.

The First Session Formula Task

In 1982, the ‘First Session Formula Task’ was developed: “We would like you to observe before our next meeting what such things happen in your family/marriage/relationship that you wish to continue.” (de Shazer, 1985)

It was first believed in BFTC that feedback given to the clients should be isomorphic, that is, structurally harmonious with the problems described by people. In using the first session formula task, it had to be explained why interventions that had no explicit contact to the problem and could be given in many different situations, worked. According to de Shazer, the conclusion that arose from this was very shocking and radical - that problems and solutions have no close connection with each other.

“We tried the first session formula task in every case and it proved to be a real shock to all of us. We had thought all the way, that every case is different and here we had the model that worked in many situations…we didn´t know what to do with it. We had to figure out why this happened? (Kiser, 1995, p.133)

As a result of the first session formula task, clients described changes, after which there was no need to come to therapy anymore. This led de Shazer to think that the reason why people managed to find their solutions had to be explained in a different manner to the reason that brought them to therapy. The separation of the problem and the solution led the team to further consider the clinical criteria of their work. Lipchik in her turn paid more attention to the process of interview itself.

At this stage a series of question was developed that concentrated on those moments when the problem didn’t appear. From this, it was a short step to the question: “Did these changes also appear before coming to therapy?” These kind of questions, that focused on problem-free situations, were called “questions surveying exceptions”.

Although the first session formula task developed their work method towards a solution-focused approach, the founders did not yet call the model solution-focused. However, they knew that they were concentrating on the future and on what already worked in the client’s life. As the solutions were separated from the problems, the group were no longer interested in researching the area of problems so closely. From this it followed that they increasingly branched away from the model of the Mental Reseach Institute.

In de Shazer’s opinion, the first session formula task formed the most crucial nod point towards the development of solution-focused therapy, because a sudden change in the work took place along with it. Before 1982, the most common message had been “Observe the things you don’t want to change.” According to Nunnally, the predecessor to this first session formula task had been developed under the influence of paradoxical therapies. In them, the client was often asked to refrain from changing in order to make the change happen.The question preceding the intervention made the clients conscious of what they, or someone else, did that they liked.

“I remember very clearly the day – tells Nunnally – Steve (de Shazer) and I and Marilyn LaCourt were sitting around talking about this and we kind of jelled on a better way of doing that, which was to ask clients, “Notice what´s happening that you want to keep have happening.” And we were already using that “You don´t want to change” message and getting good results from it and then we shifted to this, “Notice what you´re doing that you want to keep doing” or “Notice what´s happening that you want to keep have happening”…and the clients were coming back with either things that they had already been doing, which were not new, and very often with one or more things they thought were new and we subsequently decided often weren´t. But these were often very congruent with their goal direction…I remember the precise moment when one day I said to Steve,”What we´re really focusing on here is the solution. You may already thought of that. And he responded: “This is solution therapy.” That was the first time I´d heard it, but he may have thought of the same thing earlier.” (Kiser, 1995, p.132)

The Change Preceding the Session

Among the founders of the BFTC, there are also different opinions of the meaning of the change preceding the session in the development of the solution-focused therapy. Some of the pioneers think that it wasn’t particularly important when others – like Steve de Shazer -consider it crucial to the final conceptual breakthrough.

Some members of the group received this new invention as a “real mind-blower,” whereas others thought that the issue had already been dealt with ten years ago, during the times of the Family Service and before the article written by Weiner-Davis et al. in 1987. As one can see from Don Norum’s article ( 2000), mention of the change preceding the session already existed long before the findings of Weiner-Davis et al. in the middle 80’s. Due to this, the origins of the idea are difficult to track down.

Derks, one of the pioneers, deals with the issue as follows: “We were doing a lot of that thing at Family Services and…I´m trying to remember where we got some of this stuff, it certainly wasn´t ours of origin. Oh, God, there was a guy at Family Services who wrote couple of chapters in books…and essentially they would say, “You´ve had the problem for a quite some time and I´m wondering did something happen that got you to pick up the phone…to call here. Was there some straw that broke the camel´s back?” And really focus on that frame and the next step in the process was, “What (else) did you do?” “What changes did you make besides calling here? and “How have things been between you and your husband?” (Kiser, 1995, p.135)

Miracle Question

“Suppose that one night, while you were asleep, there was a miracle and this problem was solved. How would you know? What would be different?” (de Shazer, 188, p.5)

The miracle question was developed in the middle ´ 80’s as an effort to describe concretely the behaviour after solving the problems. Wilks tells about the development of this question of SFT which is probably their best-known; and also talks about his co-operation with de Shazer:

“Let me give you an example of how I was an irritant factor in the same way that an oyster develops a pearl to cope with an irritating grain of sand, and also an example what I mean when I say that he (de Shazer) took the ideas they were discussing a lot further. There was a session back in 1984 or early ´85. I was behind the mirror with a couple of advanced traineers. Steve was conducting the case as the front-line therapist. And one of the questions that Steve asked the client was , “If a miracle happened in the middle of the night when you were all asleep and you woke up and the problem had been solved, how would you know that?” Well, that was the first time I had heard it. So I thought to myself, “That´s interesting.” But two days later I was supervising a case from behind the mirror. It was a marital case and she (the therapist) was trying very hard to get a definition of the complait and had tried for several sessions and was getting nowhere. Finally, I phoned in this question (miracle question) and said, “Can you ask them that?” She asked this question of this couple, “How would you know that”? and suddenly their eyes lit up and the wife said:”Well, for one thing, when we woke up in the morning instead of just turning to me…instead just turning to the clock and saying, “Oh shit,” which is what my husband always does, he would say, “Good morning darling, did you sleep well?”…And she gave a whole bunch of these (examples) and he did the same and the case really took off. Well, having been impressed with how powerfully this question worked, I started playing around with the theory behind it and experimenting with it, and variations of it, in other sessions of mine and thought, “This is quite a question.” So I decided to discuss it with Steve in some depth and find out what his views were on it and did he realize how powerful this was. So I took him aside and told him what I just tols you and said, “Have you used this question before?” And he said, “Sure, I´ve used it every now and again. I´ve used it a couple of of times before and it can be quite useful.”…this was late ´84, I would say. Possible early ´85. He was interested that I was taking such an interest in it and I said to him, “I believe that this question is of a fundamentally different nature to any of your skeleton key questions and that it´s, in fact, a different level altogether…if we could work out how this question works and the underlying logic of it, it could open up a whole new field of intervention.” He was very appreciative, and intrigued, and added, “By the way, if you notice any other things like that, do keep pointing them out…I do all sorts of things without knowing why I do them or they may be valuable and I rely on you and others to draw my attention to them.” (Kiser, 1995, p.136)

As the miracle question became one of the therapy interview routines in BFTC, it could also be used to find exceptions. The therapist could ask, e.g.: “”Is something of this miracle happening already?” According to Weiner-Davis, Eve Lipchik was the first in the work team who used this question.

Another version of the birth of “the favourite child” of BFTC can be found in the book The Miracle Method written by Scott Miller and Insoo Berg (Miller & Berg, 1995, p.36)

“Back in 1984 a woman called us for appointment, demanding that she be seen that day because it was an emergency. She began sobbing as she told the receptionist how her husband´s drinking was out of control and that he had even been violent toward her. She was still tearful when she arrived for her scheduled appointment later that day. As she entered the therapist´s office and began to sit down, she said, “My problem is so serious that it will take a miracle to solve it!” Following her lead, the therapist simply said, “Well, suppose one happened…?” After a few moments of silent thought she began to describe what she wanted to be different about the situation that was troubling her. As she described what she wanted in more detail, a smile began to creep into her face and the tone of her voice became more hopeful. As she stood to leave the office, she told the therapist that she was feeling much better. The following week she returned and reported that she had turned that feeling into some small but significant changes in her life and her marriage.”

Among the founders there were also – and still are – some critical attitudes towards the miracle question. Elam Nunnally said in August 1999 (Malinen, 2001, p.22) that “Eve and I disagreed on the miracle question, which was made kind of shrine. In my opinion the miracle question is not so much about the miracle question, but everything that makes the client think about the futrte without the problem. The miracle question is just one way to do it. Insoo and Steve don´t think this way. For them the miracle question is like a shrine with candles. We quite much disagreed about this. The miracle question is a great invention, but sometimes to concentrate just on it covers the prcsess itself and there are also other ways to get the client to think about the futute without the problem… I´m a little bit disturbed that one – although effective – question has been so much canonized.”

Interventive Interaction

Before 1985, de Shazer considered that the intervention after the break to be the primary effector of the session. The final purpose of the interview was to choose the right intervention for the client. Gingerich’s research of solution talk and Lipchik’s interest in interview questions shifted the emphasis more and more from the message after the break to the session itself and to the interventive nature of the questions.

This gradual change made de Shazer write his book Clues: Investigating Solutions in Brief Therapy (1988). He says that he did it reluctantly. In the beginning, he was worried that this interest in language and constructionism could make the model more complex. He thought that this new turn could move it in a less pragmatic and more esoteric direction. However, this new focus of interest combined Shazer’s long-standing interest in philosophy – especially Wittgenstein – with solution development work.

Berg thought that the influence of Selvini Palazzoli and other Milan family therapists could be seen in this change. “And I think everything sort of came at the same time. And then that´s that time that the Palazzoli article on interviewing came out…the circularity paper…and then that was followed with Peggy Penn´s articles on circular questions. These articles stimulated us to look at this as an interactional process….I think that Eve (Lipchik) picked up on that and started looking at the interview process more…I think before that (before the first session formula task) we put a lot of emphasis on the intervention task.” (Kiser, 1995, p.138)

Of course, the interest towards the intervention after the break derived from strategic therapies that usually stressed the functional actions and interventions in solving the problem. However, the members of the BTFC started to concentrate more and more on interaction in the session rather thanon intervention and giving homework.

Personalities

“Is it me who set the bow, or is it the bow that pulls me to the full tension?” (Herrigel, 1978)

Each new approach or therapeutic method has always reflected the experiences or personalities of its founders to some extent. On the other hand, it is good to remember that the diffusion from the private to the public is not a mechanical process but, as Heidegger puts it“the human being is a openness through which beingness manifests, but only to the exted that we are open to the beingness.” (Heidegger, 2001, 102) There is no ego as such, which is separate from beingness and society. In fact, the “ego” forms itself each moment in interaction with other people, according to a narrative that we create together. (Lax, 1996, 71) My thoughts would not exist without being in contact with culture, language and existing meanings. According to Wilber (1996, p.81), individual thoughts could and should always be examined with reference to intentionality, behaviour, culture and social life. These four levels define each other in a reciprocal manner; they are, at the same time, both the reasons for and consequences of each other.
It is interesting to see that the ethnic, cultural and educational backgrounds of the pioneers of the solution-focused work method are so colourful. There is French blood running in de Shazer’s veins,
Insoo Berg is Korean, Eve Lipchik a Jewish refugee immigrant and Elam Nunnally has close contacts with Finnish culture because of his Finnish wife. In addition, de Shazer has worked as a musician and artist. Berg has studied pharmacology, and in the team there also was a linguist, sociologist and educational scientist (Berg, 2000) Kiser considers this variety a catalyst for the development of a new theory, rather than an obstruction. (Kiser, 1995, p.77) The founders also – except de Shazer – agree that their personalities significantly affected the development of SFT.

Insoo Kim Berg says she has always gone against the flow both in her private and professional life.
“I sort of rebelled against my family. My marrying an American (her first husband) was a horrendous thing that happened to the family and I just said “To hell with you” and just left Korea.” (Kiser, 1995, p.143) According to her, the separation from her family forced her to succeed in a foreign country. Her work filled her life completely: she and Steve often worked seven days and 70-80 hours a week.

Marilyn LaCourt nowadays wonders whether it’s possible for a therapist to act in an ethical way in a system that is often lacking in solidarity, pathologizing and damaging one’s privacy. (La Court, 2001) As someone who stresses social equality and justice, she has enjoyed doing important work such as replacing the concept of resistance in therapy with the concept of co-operation and living practice.

Jim Derks tells of how he used to work as a crisis therapist and superviser in a psychiatric clinic.(Derks, 2001) In addition, he has worked as a co-ordinator in large research projects that have dealt with alcohol and depression. These have included significant interventions in the area of public health.

Eve Lipchik think that solution-focused work method suits her, because it give her a good feeling and because therapists don’t have to slave away in long, intimate therapy relations. Lipchik has always stressed the intervention nature of interaction and the significance of emotions in solution-focused brief therapy. She told Kiser that she has always felt herself to be an outsider because of her origins. Being an equal part of a small group, in which there was another immigrant (Berg), was an extremely important experience to her. (Kiser, 1995, p.143)

It is easy to imagine how deeply the pioneer era of SFT fascinated Elam Nunnally who has worked as a volunteer in Finland. At the time, there was obviously a lot of good will and feeling that they were embarked on a Great Adventure. When I asked him in August 1999 about the resources he has had that helped him in his profession, he answered: “Oh, there are many!…but perhaps the thought that making money and power are meaningless in life, if you don´t somehow promote the life of the other human being, too…I believe that there´s value in every human being, even thought they have committed horrible things and crimes. Their value as a human being is immeasurable and therefore everyone is undefined valuable as they are. (Malinen, 2001, p.24)

In the personality of Steve de Shazer many aspects that are typical to extremely creative people are joined together: deep commitment to work – even at the cost of personal relationships – the tendency to fall back on his own thoughts, frictions in social life and a strong faith in the significance of his own work. de Shazer describes himself “as a lonely wolf, “ an aspect of his personality that derives from a family where “radical independence” was appreciated. According to Insoo Kim Berg, his wife, he has an amazing talent to concentrate on the thing he is doing. “When he is writing he becomes extremely preoccupied and it is like living with a pregnant woman.” (Kiser, 1995, p.146)

 

IN THE THINKTANK

The writers of the book Explorative learning – the limits of intelligent action and how to break them (Hakkarainen & Lonka & Lipponen, 1999, 144) state that scientific research is not simply based on an intelligent individual’s single insights. The adoption of a research tradition and interactions with the scientific community plays a crucial part in the birth of scientific inventions,. Research into the inventive process has shown that creative insight is often preceded by a long-term working to solve the problem and a process of social interaction. They significantly effect both the birth of a new invention and its content. The development of new ideas is a socially decentralised process that demands open space where outer and inner dialogues can form freely and where unpredictability is respected and cherished.

The team of BFTC formed, at its best, a think tank that contained a wide variety of intellectual stimulus and energy. This kind of learning environment could be called a “second level environment” with regard to its expertise, knowledge management and creative development: This is as opposed to the “first level environment” (e.g. everyday life or school) where people only adapt to relatively unchanging conditions. (Hakkarainen, et al. 1999, p.151) Typically in second level environments the action of the community and its individuals constantly changes the conditions of change. This leads to a gradual growth towards the demanding level. In the early years, the developers of SFT were involved in long discussions every day on issues arisen from client sessions. In the beginning, these discussions were case-by-case but from the beginning of the 80’s, more theoretical issues started to be considered as well.

Over several years, only two or three clients were met per day. With this arrangement, time was consciously left open for theoretical discussion. The basic assumptions of therapeutic work were constantly opened to question. The main questions were: “What exactly are we doing?” and “Why do we do things this way?” Different opinions were allowed in the team. There was no doubt that this had a significant effect on the development of the method. In de Shazer’s opinion, it was only thanks to these different points of view that the depth in perception was reached. “And when the team started talking about something in the same way…it was a signal that they could start writing about it.” (Kiser, 1995, p.155)

The marriage of de Shazer and Berg formed a great dynamo in the development of SFT. The couple complemented each other in many respects. According to Berg “Steve´s role was clearly to be very creative, innovative kind of role, that´s his job, and I think my role was to somehow make that fit…to make i at little easier to digest for the rest of the world. He tends to be very extreme…well, he has to be…innovative means you have to be different.” (Kiser, 1995, p.161) de Shazer in his turn considered – and obviously still does - his wife to be the main developer of the clinical method. Of course, this is not to say that other pioneers did not have a role in the issue and that de Shazer did not learn a lot from their work. On the contrary: the therapists constantly surveyed each others work and discussed their own ideas and what they have heard from others all the time. However, the interaction between the couple was the most dynamic and complementary element. LaCourt tells how “Steve watched Insoo work a lot and he paid very close attention to what was pragmatically working within what she was doing…and Insoo´s work was really effective. So I think Steve had a lot of stuff to sort out by observing her and then he would deduce underlying assumptions of her work and how things worked as they worked.” (Kiser, 1995, p.163) This had a good fit with Insoo´s intuitive way to work. She states herself that “Sometimes I do things without raelizing what I do. I think that I just go into the session and I just do it. And because it just seemed…it seems to make sense to do it that way and then somebody (usually deShazer) says, “You did something different”, and I´d say, “What?” and they would say, “Well, you did this and this different.” And then we talk about it quite a bit until it makes sense and we end up kind of an explanation.” (Kiser, 1995, p.163)

Although the development of SFT was a group process, de Shazer was generally considered to be its main creator and proponent, amongst team members. This was partly due to his theoretical tendencies and his passion to write. As de Shazer started to get a reputation from his books, the interaction between him and other members of the team decreased and therapists from outside the team came into the picture. Their involvement was also a conscious way to avoid orthodoxy and to produce constant change in the development of the theory. For example, the discussions with Wally Gingerich, Alex Molnar and Michele Weiner-Davis often generated research projects, articles or changes in the existing theory. (Kiser, 1995, p.152) When other members of the team had a regular client practice, de Shazer could concentrate on the written aspect. On the other hand, this created disagreement among the team. When SFT started to be acknowledged, more conflicts appeared. Derks and LaCourt left the team in 1984, Lipchik in 1986 and Nunnally in 1990. (Malinen, 2001, p. 21) After the separation, they all have worked actively on behalf of SFT in their fields.

 

CONCLUSION

There are dead words and living words. Dead words are used in everyday discourses in explaining and analytical speech and in control. They can seldom exceed the ordinary and cary away the individual. Living words in their turn have a fascinating ability to push a human mind towards the unknown and open it to the unspoken and unwritten. (Olson, 2000, p.28) In addition, all words get their power from the situations they are spoken or written in. They don’t have any power on their own; they are “wide” and lack meanings which are contextual.

My story of the development of solution-focused therapy method ends at the point where the writer is right now. Because this situation has no end, the meaning and power of these words is in their incompleteness. They can become alive in the dialogues and interpretations that, in their own different ways, bring the narrative further into the future.

 

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