Go back to previous page...


Hitchhikers guide to solution-focused therapy contd ...



At initial glance, a traveller may feel there are few tourist attractions in SFL. There are no great or deeply historic buildings, no momentous, "not to be missed" sights and few major shopping attractions. But don't be misled by first impressions. As you adjust to the ambience of SFL, you will see that each settlement has a subtle and unique beauty of its own. Everyone here has adapted and acclimatized to the peculiarities of their own specific location, with tantalizing differences most worthy of further exploration.

This is the beauty of the planet. The essentials are re-worked each time a settlement, or even a new building, is built. No two houses or pieces of work will ever be the same. The local components will be subtly different; each constructed by a craftsperson with unique talent. Even if a master blueprint is utilised, each outcome always looks different. Highly respected designers such as Steve de Shazer and Insoo Kim Berg are frequently seen traversing the countryside, but they lend their voices to construction rather than destruction. They are curious about how the new settlements are developing and growing, rather than demanding that settlements slavishly replicate their own without cognisance of the independent and local variables.

With this generous and generative approach other designers have emerged. In the Great Southern Land, Brian Cade and Michael Durrant have an established settlement in the east, and yours truly (Alison and Pam) continue to encourage and facilitate many little villages in the south. In nearby Asian settlements, Chee Siah Ling Chang and colleagues in Singapore have begun a groundswell of solution-focused interest. China and other northern Asian settlements have also laid down foundations as Professor Mo-Yee Lee helps them settle into this new therapy planet.

In the tiny but densely populated United Kingdom, The Brief Therapy Centre trains and encourages further development under the tutelage of Evan George and his team. There are many small but vibrant communities throughout the United States settlement which have translated the language of Milwaukee into their own distinctive dialect. Linda Metcalf works in Texas, particularly with children and schools. Bill O'Hanlon presides over Possibility Land. Michelle Weiner-Davis works at Divorce Busting and Yvonne Dolan finding ways to work helpfully with those who have been abused.

The Institute for Therapeutic Change in Chicago, peopled by Scott Miller, Mark Hubble and Barry Duncan assists travellers to understand the planet by reviewing, researching and collating materials relating to how workers can be really helpful to their clients, and how to assess whether progress is being made. Some, such as those from the Milwaukee settlement, and John Walter and Jane Peller in Chicago, have written seminal works that have helped clarify thinking and practice, particularly about the distinction between the solution-focused planet and other similar constellations.

Along with these people, there is the myriad of other workers who may not be so apparent because they don't aspire to authorship. Daily, they do unique work that helps clients be in control of their lives as they move closer to their goals.

No-go areas

A word of warning to be aware of cheap imitations. There are some lands which closely resemble SFL at first glance. They can be recognised by a thin veneer of strength-seeking behaviour which turns out to be annoyingly Pollyanna-ish, having no lasting resilience in assisting clients to change. These workers tend to give answers or advice, and quickly revert to problem development when clients prefer not to do as they are directed.


It takes a while for the eye to acclimatize to the subtlety of this land. There are no theme parks and little in the way of high-energy or dangerous sports. Settlers seem to be more interested in conversations, what the other person is saying and how they intend to move on from here.

However, settlers will tell of the buzz they get just from living on this planet:

• The way of working does not have to be hard. Simple, economical, domestic solutions are definitely in favour, and taking small steps to progress are encouraged;

• Things from the past that have worked before but been forgotten can be reutilised, so there is no compulsive drive to always find something new;

• The work is collaborative, so it is not just the worker who works hard to create a new future;

• The worker does not have to understand all of the past, or create insight for the client;

• The responsibility for the "real" work lies with client, so the worker can relax more than is normal in other territories;

• There is a lower rate of burnout among workers;

Watching the client develop and become empowered is usually enjoyable;

• There is a sense of lightness in this brand of therapy. It's not that serious issues aren't dealt with, but workers know that if they become too heavy, then things don't seem to become easier.

To conclude, William James once wrote something that seems to describe SFT Land well:

"I am done with great things and big plans, great institutions and big successes. I am for those tiny invisible loving human forces that work from the individual to individual, creeping through the crannies of the world like so many rootlets, or like the capillary oozing of water, yet which, if given time, will rend the hardest monuments of human pride."

Bon Voyage

* Pam and Alison have taken considerable licence in writing this piece everyone knows those from down-under are affected by the forces of inverse gravity. We apologise to anyone who might be disturbed by the manner in which we have written, comments we have made, or the metaphor we have used. We particularly sincerely apologise to any travellers who were inadvertently forgotten or misrepresented.

About the authors

Alison Lewis-Nicholson trained as a Hospital Administrator in the UK before migrating to Australia in 1984. Soon after this migration she trained in Social Work and Family Therapy and quickly found she needed to migrate again to Solution Focused Land, where she has become a naturalized citizen.

Dr Pam Martin Pam is a clinical psychologist and family therapist who has a private practice in Melbourne, Australia. She has been living in Solution Focused Land for about 15 years, and has enjoyed every minute of it.


Return to New Therapist home page


Copyright © New Therapist