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Find talent. I believe that we need to offer our clients a service that is congruent with their circumstances and preferences and we also need to be accountable both to them and the wider community as regards the effectiveness of what we do.

My own background is in youth work, social work and counselling, as well as training and lecturing. My experience comes mainly from working with individual clients and couples. I have used the model with a wide range of clients in various settings — a student counselling service, a voluntary agency offering family and couples counselling, private practice, and employee assistance programmes.

Some solution-focused therapists will use the model in a purist way, while others will be open to integrating it with other models. I belong to the latter school and it is my hope that this book will appeal to a broad spectrum of therapists who are receptive to incorporating new ideas into their practice.

This book does not imply criticism of the models used by other practitioners, although I would question the need for long-term therapy for all but a minority of clients. The solution-focused principle — namely, if it works then keep doing it — is a pragmatic signal to continue with whatever approach we are using if this is indeed effective for our clients.

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There is no therapy that will always work and the more tools we have in the toolbox the better, provided we know and understand why we are using them. The current climate in therapy today encourages us to adopt an eclectic, developmental attitude to our own work.

The movement towards consensus and a respect for diversity is replacing the sterile polemics of therapy politics and it is in this spirit that the book has been written. I have tried to acknowledge the limitations of the approach as well as its potential. When any approach places a heavy emphasis on a certain type of intervention — which, in the case of SFT, means the use of questions — it inevitably neglects interventions used in other types of therapy.

Followers of other therapies will therefore be sensitive to what is not done in SFT as well as surprised at times by what is done. No therapy can claim to do everything, however, and it is misleading to judge one therapy on the basis of what happens in others. Some critics dismiss SFT as being somewhat lightweight in terms of ideology, yet the philosophical underpinning is conceptually difficult to grasp and simplicity in practice is a rare event! SFT requires considerable relationship skills, as well as the ability to focus on what is positive and non-problematic for the client.

The novice practitioner, therefore, unencumbered by conflicting ideologies, may find it easier to practise in a solution-focused way than someone who is coming to it with a lot of intellectual baggage. And in some cases as well people with non-counselling backgrounds who are working in settings that require counselling skills will take enthusiastically to the solution-focused approach because it strikes them as practical and accessible.

They are relieved that they do not have to be problem solvers. However, in my opinion, for those who are planning to work as counsellors or therapists it can be helpful to have undergone a generalist counselling training first. It is a matter of some regret that the UK government has invested heavily in Cognitive Behaviour Therapy as an evidence-based practice that is superior to other approaches.

It is a great and expensive mistake which excludes many qualified, well trained and skilled counsellors. As a profession I hope we can maintain our integrity and continue to offer solution-focused therapy as an effective, economical and sustainable way of helping people. Being solution-focused is not just for clients, it is also a gift for you.

I would like to express my sincere thanks to those people who made this book possible. In the first place, my warmest thanks go to my wife Moira and my grown-up daughters Donnamarie, Joanne and Katrina for the love and support they have always given me. I am especially grateful to the many students and clients who have taught me so much over the years. I would like to express my sincere thanks to all those who have contributed to the production of this second edition.

I wish to thank my colleagues at Sage for all their help — to Alison Poyner for her faith in the book, to Louise Wise for her warm support, and to Rachel Burrows and her colleagues for their work on improving the manuscript.

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Thanks also to Stephen Palmer who has championed my writing of Solution-Focused books. I am grateful to Alasdair Macdonald for adding an updated foreword to this edition. Alasdair has been a towering figure in the development of Solution-Focused work in the UK and I and many others are in his debt. Over the past few years it has been my privilege to introduce many hundreds of people to Solution-Focused ideas and practice. Their creative and enthusiastic engagement with the approach has taught me a great deal.

As ever my thanks go to my family — Donnamarie, Joanne and Katrina. Finally, may I thank my wife Moira who continues to offer her total support in all aspects of my life.

Solution-focused Techniques

Her contribution to this edition has been crucial. Her clarity of thought, her wisdom and compassion, have made this a much better book than it would otherwise have been. My thanks once again go to Steve Conlon, Peter Creagh and Garrath Ford, my colleagues in Focus on Solutions, who have contributed a great deal to my continuing development as an SF trainer and practitioner. I would like to record my immense gratitude to the clients, students and trainees with whom it has been my privilege to work over many years.

It is good to see the next generation taking the solution-focused cause forward. I would like to express my thanks to Dr Stephen Palmer who continues to offer me such strong support in the writing and publication of solution-focused books.

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I am also grateful to all the staff at Sage who have helped in the production and publication of this edition — Alison Poyner, Susan Worsey and Kate Wharton in particular. It has been a pleasure to work with such a patient, understanding and supportive partner as Sage. My biggest thanks must go to Moira my wife, Donnamarie, Joanne and Katrina, my daughters, and John my son-in-law. Moira has once again read and enormously improved the final manuscript of the book and encouraged me at every step of the way. Thank you for doing all the things that needed to be done while I finished this edition.

My gratitude must also go to my terrific grandchildren, Ella, Clara and George, who made sure I always remembered that there is more to life than work!


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Between the second and the third edition of this book I had to undergo major heart surgery. The care my family gave me throughout those difficult days is something I will never forget. The medical and nursing care I received in hospital and the love I received at home made me realise once again what a fortunate person I am. An independent training organisation specialising in the solution-focused approach to personal and organisational change. Mainly provides inhouse training for organisations.

Website for the European Brief Therapy Association.


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  7. This provides an ever-growing collection of research, articles and information on the annual conferences. The Canadian network for solution-focused practitioners. This website includes a useful collection of articles and interviews. BTN has a discussion forum facility. Ben Furman and Tapani Ahola's Helsinki Brief Therapy Institute website, which illustrates the various adaptations of solution-talk and reteaming.

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    Includes summaries of the latest published research in therapy outcomes across the broad range of therapeutic approaches. The site features a particularly interesting baloney watch. Website for Bill O'Hanlon. Bill's site explains his particular slant on solution-focused work and includes an attic with various handouts and lists.

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