Why Listening is the Most Important Skill in SFBT
For many, many years. In fact, most of my career, if you had asked me what I thought was important in Solution Focused Brief Therapy, I passionately would have told you to master the art of asking good questions, but to be honest with you, something in me has shifted recently. And I no longer believe that. Like, of course, asking questions is important because this is a question based process, and questions are central to what we do, but I no longer believe that the most important skill you can master is the art of asking questions.
I now believe that the most important art in Solution Focused Brief Therapy is listening and listening for evidence of your client’s strength, resilience, what Adam Froerer would call listening for their greatness.
But I think this is an approach based upon listening, not so much based upon asking questions. And one of the reasons for that is the way I experience the person I’m talking to and the way I listen to the person that I’m talking to, will inform how I ask them questions and will inform how I talk to them. I was doing supervision today with somebody going through one of my courses,
and she was explaining how she had a session this past week and working with the client was really, really difficult. And the client was saying like, I don’t get along well with my dad and my dad’s this, my dad’s that. And all of these like really horrible, disrespectful ways of describing dad, curse words and all this. And if I experienced that child who was about 14,
15 years old, if I experienced that child as like rude, disrespectful, then I’m going to have a very different way of talking to them. If I experienced them as like confident enough to say what’s on their mind, then I’m going to have a very different way of talking to them. Now I’m not trying to make excuses for them saying,
you know, curse words and all the things and that sort of thing. But I can say to a client, if I hear that as strength I can say to my client, it sounds like you’re really, really frustrated. And in a minute, we’ll talk about like healthy ways to deal with and talk about that frustration. But where did you learn to be able to speak your mind and say how you’re feeling?
Like, where did you develop the strength to do that? And I can only ask questions like that. If I’m hearing what my client is saying as evidence of their strength, even if they’re using their strength in appropriately. So it’s such an important skill that you learn to listen for evidence of your client’s strength and greatness. And it is always there. Now sometimes client strengths and greatness shows up in disguise. Sometimes it shows up wearing a different uniform. Sometimes it shows up in a weird way, but it’s always there. And in order to do this approach well, you have to train your ears to hear it.
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