Solution Focus Process: Solution Talk vs. Problem Talk Pt 2

It is crucial that interviewing with helpee progress toward solutions. In addition to Exceptions and Miracle questions, Coping and Scaling questions are also useful and effective methods of moving helpees from problem talk to solution talk.

Questioning Interactions:

Coping Questions. Regardless of how problematic a situation may appear, it can always be worse. People do not always recognize or appreciate the constructive behaviors being exhibited during problematic times. When the miracle question and exceptions are unproductive, coping questions is another strategy for moving people from problem talk to solution talk. These questions help to identify and highlight important coping mechanisms already at work but ignored. Using the example above (it is obvious that the mother/daughter situation could be worse if it escalated into physical assaults), coping questions would ask: "What are you and your daughter doing to keep things from getting worse? How are those things helpful? What needs to happen for those things to continue? "How motivated are you to continue those things" or "How hopeful are you that those things will continue?"

Scaling Questions. Usually used when goals are more abstract. Scaling questions asks the helpee to make assessments regarding their hopefulness in problem solutions, self-esteem, confidence, relationships, etc. These questions are useful in concretizing what often are very complex ideas. In using the questions, it is important to specify time limits such as "today," "tomorrow," For example, using the same example above, the mother and daughter could be asked, "On a scale of 1 to 10 with 10 meaning you have every confidence the problem will be solved and 1 meaning no confidence at all, where would you put yourself today?" Mom may respond, 4 and daughter 2. The question may then be asked, "What would need to happen to move from 4 to 5 (Mom) 2 to 3 (daughter)? What will tell you that you moved up to number 5 (Mom) 3 (daughter)? On the same scale, how much would you say you are willing to work to solve this problem?"

Keep in mind that when using these questions, the helper wants to explore for the helpee's perception of what will be different when the miracle happens or the problem is solved. Remember also that change is hard work for the helpee - be patient and persistent in asking the interviewing questions.


I don't know

Some people say "I don't know" quite frequently. It may be helpful for them if the helper responds: "So, how would your life be different if you did know?" or "How would your life be better if you did know?" "Suppose you did know, what would you say?" (or) "What would you do?" Or, go to significant other questions. For example, "If I were to ask your husband, what do you think he would say?"

If helpee is resistent to miracle questions

Some people will not engage in miracle exploration. In these cases, the helper responds with questions along the lines: "When the problem is solved, what will you be doing differently? How do you know this problem can be solved?"

If helpee is unrealistic

Some individuals make outrageous statements. In these situations, the helper agrees with them by saying: "That would be great! What do you think are the chances of that happening? What tells you that it could happen in your life?"

Rev. Saundra L. Washington, D.D., is an ordained clergywoman, social worker, and Founder of AMEN Ministries."> She is also the author of two coffee table books: Room Beneath the Snow: Poems that Preach and Negative Disturbances: Homilies that Teach. Her new book, Out of Deep Waters: A Grief Healing Workbook, will be available soon.