Solution-focused therapy was developed in 1970 by Steve de Shazer and Insoo Kim Berg because they wanted to help vulnerable populations in the most efficient way in only one or two sessions. As I personally work with people suffering from drug addiction, I try to bring this approach focused on solutions, ressources and abilities as often as possible and thus decided to write this article in order to show how much those little interventions had marvelous effects in my experiences.
Valorization, the forgotten magic stick
The less a person is used to be valorized, the more powerful the solution-focused coaching will be. It’s the case of people struggling with drug addiction as they are victims of constant criticism and devalorization from society which obviously has devastative effects on their self-esteem.
This is why I always try to put some « light » on the positive during the interactions that I have with these people. A patient once was panicked at the idea of spending the whole week-end outside, feeling vulnerable in front of his cravings. Instead of reminding him his last « failures » during his previous week-ends, my goal was to make him think about all the little moments when his strategies worked and allowed him not to consume. This made him notice that his social network was one of his main protection factor and it gave him confidence on his capacities of protecting himself from difficult times through the help of his family and friends.
Every time I interact with this patient, I can see his facial expression change as I valorize him. It always starts with an expression of surprise and then turns into a sincere smile as he feels that I’m authentic in what I tell him and that I really see in him the qualities that I describe. We always leave both enriched by our exchange.
Changing perspective is the key
I also had multiple times people coming to announce me that they didn’t consume their favorite substance during the week-end, even if they consumed something else to compensate. We could have the tendency to look for the reason of the consumption, talk about the ill-being of the person, emphasizing on what the person did « wrong ».
This is the time when I change perspective and congratulate the person for all the little moments when she didn’t consume, where she found the way to use another substance than his favorite one, etc. The goal here is not to be hypocritical or to act « blind », it is to make the person realize that she lives a lot of moments where she’s progressing, where she makes choices and use effective strategies. This valorization shows her a positive image of herself that she often haven’t seen for years and indicates that among the daily hell that she lives in, she knows how to create little « oasis » where her ressources and abilities are used in a spectacular way.
Different methods and numerous models confront in the drug addiction field and every one of them has his pros and cons. However, no matter the theoretical model we use, I stay persuaded that being focused on ressources, abilities and qualities allows the person to find her own solutions. We often see a « click » in persons suffering from drug addiction, making them stop after decades of struggle. When I keep in mind all the people’s faces that illuminated after a simple discussion, even lasting only 5 minutes, it makes no doubt for me that drug abuse is only the symptom of a deeper ill-being. We only can make it better through valorization, self-esteem, recognizing and training the skills that the person already has in order to reactivate her ressources.