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1001 Solution-Focused QuestionsReview - 1001 Solution-Focused Questions
Handbook for Solution-Focused Interviewing
by Fredrike Bannink
W. W. Norton, 2010
Review by Beth T. Cholette, Ph.D.
Feb 1st 2011 (Volume 15, Issue 5)

This book (originally published in Dutch) is intended to be a handbook for the solution-focused interviewing method.  Living up to the title of her work, author and clinical psychologist Fredrike Bannink literally does provide 1,001 solution-focused questions; these can be found in Chapter 10.  However, Bannink delves much deeper than this simple list, offering the reader a brief history of solution-focused work, a guide to identifying the various types of client motivation, and specific information on how to use solution-focused interviewing in therapy sessions.  Furthermore, Bannink includes a total of twenty-four exercises throughout the book.  These are designed both as occasions for self-reflection and as opportunities to practice solution-focused methods.

As noted, Bannink begins with an overview of solution-focused interviewing.  This includes a review of the most basic principles of the method, such as the idea that only a small change is needed and the importance of the client defining the goal of treatment, as well as a brief initial discussion of the basic types of questions employed by this method (e.g., exceptions, scaling questions).  Bannink goes on to address the issue of motivation in solution-focus treatment, describing the differences between customers, complainants, and visitors and discussing the solution-focused questions appropriate to each type of client.  (Note that the solution-focused questions are actually listed throughout the book in addition to the complete list of 1,001 questions provided in Chapter 10.)

Bannink then leads the reader through the entire solution-focused treatment process, breaking down the model session by session.  She starts with the first session, offering detailed information on everything from how long this session should last to which solution-focused questions should be used to how to conclude the session.  Bannink's guidelines are specific:  in addition to a myriad of sample questions, she also provides case examples.  From the initial session, she continues on to address subsequent appointments, homework assignments, and concluding the sessions (termination).  She also incorporates use of related solution-focused skills such as externalizing the problem, projecting into the future, and utilizing an interactional matrix (e.g., asking clients to reflect on how others might respond to the question). 

Chapter 10, which offers the promised 1,001 solution-focused questions, organizes the questions under a total of nineteen sub-headings.  Some of the questions are for general use, such as questions about goal formation and questions about competencies.  Others cover either specific situations or specific clients, including (but not limited to) the following:  questions for clients who have experienced traumatic events, questions for clients in cognitive therapy, questions for clients in a crisis situation, questions for children, questions for groups (couples, families), questions for increasing hope, and questions about relapse.

Solution-focused interviewing can also be applied to situations outside of the therapy relationship.  Bannink talks about working with other professionals, particularly treatment referrers, but she describes how to conduct solution-focused meetings and other business-related applications as well.  In addition, she devotes a chapter to using solution-focused work for reflecting on treatment/peer consultation.  To conclude the book, Bannink runs through an entire solution-focused therapy case example, from the initial appointment to the follow-up session several months later.  Finally, she includes several very useful appendices which offer quick references to protocols for the first session, goal formation, subsequent sessions, finding exceptions, formulating feedback, and externalizing the problem.

As a clinical psychologist myself, I have long been drawn to the solution-focused method, including attending several workshops led by Bill O-Hanlon, a pioneer in Solution-Oriented Therapy.  However, as much as I like this approach in theory, I have frequently struggled with it in practice.  But in reading Bannink's book, I found that many of my own "sticking points" with solution-focused interviewing were addressed for the first time—for example, how to intervene when a client persists in responding "I don't know."

In summary, for those looking to become skilled in this method, Bannink has created an invaluable instruction manual that is likely to become highlighted and dog-eared extensively over time (as my own copy already has).  

 

© 2011 Beth Cholette

 

Beth Cholette, Ph.D., is a clinical psychologist who provides psychotherapy to college students.


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