"Understanding" is overrated: Skip to the solutionChip and Dan discuss “solutions-focused therapy,” in which therapists skip past the "why" of significant problems and instead guide patients to quick-but-effective solutions. They don’t spend a moment digging around your childhood or uncovering hidden motives for what you do. Understanding a problem doesn’t guarantee you’ll solve it. Instead they do this:
Early in the first session, after hearing the patient explain his or her problem, the therapist posts the Miracle Question: “Can I ask you a sort of strange question? Suppose that you go to bed tonight and sleep well. Sometime, in the middle of the night, while you are sleeping, a miracle happens and all the troubles that brought you here are resolved. When you wake up in the morning, what’s the first small sign you’d see that would make you think, ‘well, something must have happened—the problem is gone!’ Here’s how one couple in marital therapy answered the Miracle Question posed by their therapist, Brian Cade of Sydney, Australia. WIFE: I’d be happy, feeling at ease at last. I’d be more pleasant to Bob, not jumping down his throat all the time. CADE: What will you do instead? WIFE: Well, there would be more understanding between us. We’d listen to what each other was saying. HUSBAND: Yes, at the moment, we don’t really listen to each other. We just can’t wait to get our own point in. CADE: How could you tell that the other was really listening? WIFE: In the face, I think. We’d perhaps make more eye contact. (Pauses, then laughs.) We’d nod in the right places. ... Once they’ve helped patients identify specific and vivid signs of progress, they pivot to a second question, which is perhaps even more important. It’s the Exception Question: “When was the last time you saw a little bit of the miracle, even just for a short time?” [For example,] “When was the last time you felt like your husband was truly listening to you?” It’s an ingenious tactic. What the therapist is trying to demonstrate, in a subtle way, is that the client is capable of solving her own problem. As a matter of fact, the client is offering up proof that she’s already solved it, at least in some circumstances.
--Switch, Chip Heath and Dan Heath