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Category Archive: solution-focused

Self-Determined Goals

Self-Determined Goals and Treatment of Domestic Violence Offenders: What If We Leave It Up to Them?

Lee, Uken, & Sebold (2014)

Abstract: Despite empirical evidence of self-determined goals and positive treatment outcomes, most conventional treatment programs of domestic violence offenders do not use self-determined goals as an integral part of their treatment efforts. The foundation for this article is a qualitative study that used data from 127 domestic violence offenders to explore the content and characteristics of goals that were self-determined by the offenders in a solution-focused, goal-directed treatment program. The emergent themes showed that the self-determined goals developed by offenders focused on self-focused and relational-focused attitudinal change and skills development. Three observed characteristics of these goals revolved around (a) emotional regulation versus cognitive understanding, (b) positively stated versus negatively stated goals, and (c) capacity building versus problem elimination. The implications of findings are discussed with the intention of generating useful dialogues among helping professionals to revisit treatment practices, orientations, and assumptions regarding treatment of domestic violence offenders.


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Dogmatism in positive psychology and in the solution-focused approach?

Dalai+Lama+Speaks+Sydney+C9bRyEeThN3lAfter recent discoveries of mistakes in research by Barbara Fredrickson (see here and here) some people have criticized positive psychology. James Coyne, a professor and clinical psychologist working in Groningen and Pennsylvania, is one of its fiercest critics. He not only argues that positive psychology’s message is too simple (see here) but, as his tweets show, he also thinks 1) that positive psychology is dogmatic (and that the whole idea behind PP is based on a unjustified contrast with the rest of (negative?) psychology, 2) that positive psychology has a guru culture (in which, as he implies, Martin Seligman is the pope of positive psychology), and 3) that positive psychology is too much driven by commercial motives (many scientists within positive psychology would be more interested in selling books and training programs than in science). Coyne says: Positive psychology is applied ideology, not science (source).  Click here to read more »

Why we don’t use the concept of the future perfect

The main inspiration for our progress-focused approach is the work by Insoo Kim Berg, Steve de Shazer and their colleagues of the Brief Family Therapy Center (read all about it here). These pioneers, building on the work of Milton Erickson, The Mental Research Institute, and others, developed the core of what is now known as solution-focused brief therapy.

We – and many other people – started applying the principles and techniques outside the context of psychotherapy, some 13 years ago. In recent years, we have started to call our approach ‘the progress-focused approach’. We are still indebted to the work by de Shazer, Berg and others but our approach has evolved in different directions than mainstream solution-focused work seems to have evolved. Click here to read more »

4 Studies into the characteristics and benefits of the solution-focused approach

4 papersI was asked about a few recent papers about some studies I did into what the solution-focused approach is and what it yield. Here are those papers:


  1. The Solution-Focused Mindset: An Empirical Test of Solution-Focused Assumptions
  2. What Solution-Focused Coaches Do: An Empirical Test of an Operationalization of Solution-Focused Coach Behaviors
  3. Testing the Association Between Solution-Focused Coaching and Client Perceived Coaching Outcomes
  4. How the Solution-Focusedness of Coaches Is Related To Their Thriving at Work Click here to read more »

The term progress-focused

In recent years, we have started to use, along with the term solution-focused, the term progress-focused to describe how we work. We have become quite accustomed to this label and think that it does justice to the dynamic character of the solution-focused approach. The solution-focused approach has always been about making stepwise progress in the direction of the desired situation. The term progress-focused also does justice to a few of our own innovations and to several very inspiring influences by people which we have integrated into our approach. Some examples of such people are Carol Dweck, Anders Ericsson, Teresa Amabile, Icek Ajzen, Barbra Fredrickson, Edward Deci and Richard Ryan, and others.


Since we started to use the term progress-focused we have noticed that many people find the term clear and attractive. To people who are not yet familiar with the core of our approach we sometimes explain it by mentioning the following four steps:


  1. In what would you like to make progress?
  2. What does that progress look like?
  3. What progress have you already made?
  4. What small step forward could you now take?

Solution-Focused Support of People with Intellectual Disabilities

Solution-focused support of people with intellectual disabilitiesJohn Roeden has written a thesis about the effects of Solution-Focused Therapy (SFT) in people with intellectual disabilities (ID) and the effects of Solution-Focused Coaching (SFC) of staff supporting people with ID. Clients receiving SFT, and staff receiving SFC, were compared with clients and staff receiving care-as-usual, and coaching-as-usual respectively. After SFT, the SFBT-clients almost all reached their goals and performed better on psychological, social functioning, and resilience. After SFC, SFC-staff progressed towards their team goals and improved on proactive thinking and on the quality of client-caregiver relationships. This strengths-based SF-approach was valued positively by both clients and staff.

The thesis can be ordered via

Taming the beast (case)

I got this interesting comment from Niklas Tiger:


I have been reading your blog for a while and I have really enjoyed it a lot. Your way of making SF understandable is brilliant! I am in the process of implementing SF skills into my organization, an IT company in northern Sweden with about 30 employees. We have been facing a problem that has been growing slowly over the years, that we have tried to address a number of times (but have never succeded in “taming the beast”). It’s an extremly complex IT-releated challenge that involves tons of different technology, processes and people. It also involves almost every aspect of our professional skills and knowledge and almost every employee in the company. We had recently come to the point where it is was so huge we didn’t even think it would be possible to EVER find a solutions to this – it would take time, effort, energy, money and a project so huge we couldn’t even imagine who would want to try… Overwhelming is an understatement. Click here to read more »

5 Progress-focused questions: a powerful sequence

A good way to enable progress is to pose some well thought out questions. It helps when these questions fit well with each other and build on each other. A few years ago, I developed a sequence of 5 progress-focused  questions. I have used it often and I have found it to be powerful and flexible set of questions which can be useful in many change processes. Here it is:

  1. Continuation: While change is important and useful, it is wise to not change more than necessary. As far as you are concerned, which things (activities and processes) within the organization / team are going well enough and do not have to be changed? Click here to read more »

The Scaling Question

In 1965 the psychologist Hadley Cantril wrote an article in which he described an intervention which he called The Cantril Self-Anchoring Striving Scale. This intervention can be seen as a forerunner of the what is now one of the most popular techniques of coaches: the scaling question. The scaling question became very popular with therapists and coaches through the work of Insoo Kim Berg, Steve de Shazer and their colleagues of the Brief Family Therapy Center, the originators of solution-focused brief therapy. They added important new elements to the scaling question. During the last decade the intervention has been refined further and its applications have become broader. Today, scaling questions are among the most flexible and versatile techniques for coaches.


A standard and complete application of scaling questions contains the following steps: Click here to read more »

Case: the trust is gone

Some time ago I was invited to facilitate a session with the management team of a consultancy firm. This constultancy was founded several years ago by five young consultants and had now grown to a few dozen employees. I received a phone call by the chairman of the management team who told me that a conflict had emerged in the management team. He told me that the trust between the individual members of the management was gone and that they would like to try to solve this problem with my help.

At first, the idea was to start off with one-day session and to plan later sessions after that. I suggested to shorten this first session to half a day. Eventually it turned out that no further sessions were needed because the management felt they could continue the process by themselves. Click here to read more »

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