If you have ever worked with children, then you know that getting them to open up and cooperate is not as easy as it may seem. Children often feel they are invincible and only think about the here and now. Caregivers often have complicated histories and are battling their own co-occurring issues.
Solution focused work is a great tool to help our families re-shift their thoughts about how they influence each other. Families are often ready to tell me everything that is “wrong” with each other, but look at me with confusion as I ask about each other’s strengths, what they do well, and what has helped them in the past.
One unique aspect of working with children is that there are multiple people involved in the child’s life, such as caregiver, siblings, teachers, school staff, extended family, probation, social worker, etc. Although it is important to have a relationship with the child, many times it is the work with the caregivers that makes the most impact. It is important to set an expectation at the beginning of treatment that you are there to help them focus on “how” they would know the child is improving and “what” can cause that change. Figuring out the strengths of the child and the caregiver is crucial; as those strengths will help you help the family build future solutions. Parents often have strengths in other areas of their lives that could make their parenting more successful. Caregivers/support people are quick to forget successful strategies. Based on the work by Matthew D. Selekman, MSW, LCSW, certified addictions counselor (founder and Co-Director of Partners for Collaborative Solutions) he promotes “bring back the best from the past.” Exploring exceptions helps people examine problems in a hopeful light and encourages them to regain what they once had.
Pointing out the small successes helps people stay on track, to rethink some of their other problems, and in return their positivity about the success promotes changes in others around them. This causes a domino effect, which in turn affects the child positively.
If you would like more information on working with children utilizing solution focused brief work, Children’s Solution Work, by Insoo Kim Berg and Therese Steiner is a great resource.
By Laura Diaz-Winterset, Psy.D. & Joshua Stuart, MFT Intern