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.

One concept which has emerged and has gained some popularity which we do not use is the concept of the future perfect. The term future perfect (Jackson & McKergow, 2002) refers to something which will have happened (see here). We object to the use of this concept in the context of the solution-focused approach for two reasons.

The first reason is that the word perfect, intended or not, evokes an association with a perfect future, an ideal future. This association is undesirable, as far as we are concerned. We argue that the solution-focused approach is about a better future, not about a perfect future. A focus on a perfect future is likely to backfire. When people try to imagine a perfect future, they actually tend to get lees energized because they realize how far removed they still are from that future (see for instance this study).

At the same time, it is unwise and not necessary to imagine a perfect future because it is, by definition, not attainable. Unexpected and undesirable events will always keep on happening to some extent. Thus, there will always be tensions and problems (see also The inevitability and usefulness of tensions). Tensions and problems are inherent to life. A perfect future will never come.

A second reason why we don’t think the term future perfect is a fitting one for our approach, is that, while is is true that the solution-focused approach focuses on what clients will do in the future but not on what they will have done. It focuses on ‘What will you be doing?’ instead of ‘What will you have done?’ As I have explained in previous posts, talking about future behavior is one of the most powerful and useful things in the solution-focused approach (see this and this).

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