The InterAction Collection

Solution Focused Practice

Effective Communication to Facilitate Change

Feb 27, 2023

Guy Shennan & Loredana Grigore & Greg Oberbeck

A Chapter with the Author Guy Shennan & Loredana Grigore & Greg Oberbeck

In this SFiO Chapter with the Author, Loredana Grigore and Greg Oberbeck lead the conversation and encourage questions from the audience about Guy Shennan’s book ‘Solution Focused Practice - Effective Communication to Facilitate Change’.

The book is a comprehensive guide to Solution Focused (SF) conversations for those in social work, counselling, coaching and supervision.  Guy explains the background to writing the book and shares his wisdom and knowledge about Solution Focus work in his amusing and humble fashion.

Book first edition reviewed by John Brooker

Whilst this book is not written for facilitators, I was attracted to it because I: ·      Wanted to learn tools from the therapy/counselling field to apply to my work ·      Am interested in using SF questions in conversations as the building blocks of change, an interest inspired by therapists such as Chris Iveson of Brief. I was delighted to find that it answered many long-standing questions I have had about certain aspects of SF and provides much that I can use in my work. While appreciating that our work in organisations has its roots in therapy, reading this book has made me appreciate how much organisational practitioners can learn from those in the support professions. Guy has much experience yet speaks with the voice of a fallible and pragmatic practitioner. He assures the novice that Solution Focus (SF) tools work admirably in most conversations, yet is honest enough to admit that they sometimes don’t work. Even so, he gives the reader the confidence to try them out, reassuring them that no harm will be done if they are unsuccessful. Indeed, I recently found myself in an impromptu coaching session and was grateful I had read this book. My only criticism is that the book is rather densely packed in places, which makes reading it more difficult. I would prefer shorter paragraphs, particularly in the introduction. That said, there is very much to like: ·      It is well structured and clearly signposted ·      Whilst this book could be used as an academic textbook (it has many academic references), Guy writes in plain English. This is a major plus point for the many SF practitioners who will read this in a second language, although there are a few colloquialisms that might confuse the non-English speaker, e.g. “hang on” (as in “wait”) on page 2. ·      The references to SF history are particularly helpful to explain some of the less obvious points about Solution Focus. For example, the explanation of how the miracle question developed and why some practitioners opt to use the preferred future answered a long-standing question of mine. ·      The use of many transcript examples (the therapist has an advantage over team coaches here) clearly shows how questions can impact a client. Helpfully, Guy shows examples of times when questions do not provide the expected response and how he deals with such situations ·      The summaries at the end of the chapter are well-written and very helpful, as are the questions designed to help the reader reflect ·      The Appendix of Questions is useful as a primer for the inexperienced. I particularly liked his analogy on Page 31, where he equates “contracting” with getting into a taxi, and the driver asks where you want to go. The taxi driver (SF practitioner) cannot move forward until the client answers.

In Summary This excellent book taught me much about using questions in conversations, not only with individuals but also with teams. For those readers who facilitate or team coach team workshops, I highly recommend that you add it to your collection of SF books alongside those that are more focused on working in organisations, such as The Solutions Focus (Jackson and McKergow, 2007), Solution Focused Team Coaching (Dierolf, 2014) and Team Coaching With the Solution Circle (Meier, 2005). This will provide a really good all-round approach for SF facilitators and team coaches. I recommend those who work in the support professions to read it as well as those working with or in organisations, it will be of immense value to you.

Guy Shennan
Guy Shennan
InterAction Contributor

Guy Shennan is a solution-focused therapist and trainer, also provides coaching, consultation and project work to individuals, teams and organisations; and training in how to use a solution-focused approach.

Loredana Grigore
Loredana Grigore
SFiO Contributor

Loredana is a social worker passionate about Solution Focused and its “magic” that helps people use their strengths and make the changes they want in their lives. Loredana has worked in various area of social work and for the last 11 years she has worked in children and families social care services. Loredana has completed her SF Diploma training with BRIEF and has been using SF in her work with families, young people, in supervision and in her current leadership role as a Service Manager of Edge of Care Services (DBIT) in Essex County Council (a service that has embedded successful SF practice in a safeguarding context) . Loredana is keen to keep up to date with the ever evolving thinking and brilliant contributions to the field by Solution Focused practitioners globally.

Greg Oberbeck
Greg Oberbeck
InterAction Contributor

Greg has been using the Solution Focused approach for over ten years now with a particular focus on family work.