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Running head: THE SITUATIONS-FOCUSED MODEL

The Situations-Focused Model: A Model Within Solution-Focused Brief Therapy


Tomasz Switek
The Solutions Focused Approach Center

Author Note
Tomasz Switek has an M.A. in social rehabilitation and is a solution-focused
therapist, trainer, and supervisor in Piastow, Warsaw, Poland.
Please direct correspondence regarding this article to email:
tomaszswitek@centrumpsr.eu

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2
Abstract

In this article, I am aiming to describe the situations-focused model and some of the
paths that led me to develop it. These paths have helped me move beyond the
problems versus solutions dichotomy and to focus on what I call situations focus. In
this article I will outline this situations-focused model. The main idea of the situationsfocused model is to leave behind the labeling of any situations as either being a
problem or a solution and move toward using the more neutral word situation. This
makes it possible to have neutral descriptions and to only use evaluative positive or
negative descriptions when useful. This then makes it possible to start using the
words problems and solutions in a complementary way, as possible options to
describe the same things; the same situation can be perceived as both a problem
and solution at the same time, depending on using different contexts and aspects. I
share a hope that at least some points in this article will in some way be sufficiently
useful for you, the reader.
Keywords: situations-focused, solution-focused, brief therapy, therapeutic
techniques

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The Situations-Focused Model: A Model Within Solution-Focused Brief Therapy


In this article, I am aiming to describe my situations-focused model and some
of the paths that led me to develop it. These paths have made me find a way beyond
the problems versus solutions contradiction, finding advantages in focusing on what I
call situations. I see this model as one within the solution-focused family of working
models. Something that may surprise you is that I also view the so-called "problemfocused" approaches as an important part in creating my personal style of work.
Presently through my situations-focused model, I demonstrate my effort to adapt
ideas from solution-focused brief therapy (SFBT) for my Polish colleagues to use
within the Polish real social welfare battle field.
My Personal Solution-Focused Journey
The first time heard about SFBT was about 16 years ago when one of my
mentors encouraged me to get more information about an interesting model that he
was learning at Jacek Lelonkiewiczs Brief Therapy Center in Poland. At the time it
was becoming quite easy to find details via internet so my first Google result was Hot
Tips and Hot Tips II by Insoo Kim Berg (n.d.a, n.d.b) at the Brief Family Therapy
Center (BFTC). I was fascinated by the solution-focused perspective of
conversations and the focus on working with the possibilities of all clients and began
investigating this model further. A little later, I quickly went through a pile of papers
and books from solution-focused writers, such as Keys to Solution in Brief Therapy
(de Shazer, 1985) and Clues: Investigating Solutions in Brief Therapy (de Shazer,
1988), Working with the Problem Drinker (Berg & Miller, 1992), and Residential
Treatment: A Cooperative, Competency-Based Approach to Therapy and Program
Design (Durrant, 1993). I then met Luc Isebaert and learned the solution-focused
model developed at the Korzybski Institute institutes in Belgium, known as the
Bruges model. After spending time in Bruges and reading Luc Isebaert and MarieChristines Cabis book Pour une Thrapie Brve. Le Libre Choix du Client Comme

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thique en Psychothrapie [For a brief therapy. The clients free choice as an ethic
positioning in psychotherapy] (Isebaert & Cabi, 1997), I was again very inspired and
continued to develop my practice using all I had learned. Some of the basic ideas
learned from Brues Model were for me: concept of creating useful meanings
(eusemie), possiblility of creating useful maps by therapist (hypothesis), utilizing
professional knowledge and sharing with client, understanding SFA much more as a
way of thinking, than a matter of thechnique.

I also came to the conclusion that

even though the basic solution-focused thinking stemmed from the work of BFTC in
Milwaukee, they were not the only group developing solution-focused work. Rather,
there were actually a couple of hot spots in the world working and developing the
solution-focused approach. With time, I attended many workshops at the Brief
Therapy Center in Poland as well as many conferences arranged by the European
Brief Therapy Association (EBTA). Listening to plenaries, partaking in workshops
and informal meetings, and making friends with so many solution-focused
practitioners encouraged me to work on adapting the solution-focused ideas to fit my
own inner, personal ecosystem.1 Giving obvious credits I want to stress that both sf
traditions - from Bruges and from Millwaukee - in various ways are basis for my
situations focused model.
One of the main questions that inspired my solution-focused thinking came from Luc
Isebaert during a visit to Bruges and the A-Z Saint John Hospital Psychiatric Unit in
1997. As far as I remember, the question was: Tomasz, do you really think that
SFBT is about using specific technique as a must? That you have to use the miracle
question in order to be sure that you work in a solution-focused way?
My answers to this and related questions were the beginning of the
crystallization of the situations-focused model, which then developed over time and
1 With the term personal ecosystem, I refer to the system of all cognitive factors which exists in my psyche, brain or wider
body, like knowledge, thoughts, meanings, concepts, words, and so on, which strives for equilibrium.

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with experience. At this time, I worked at an ambulatory setting for people with
alcohol problems as well as a non-governmental organization (NGO) aimed at
preventing domestic violence, where I worked with people who used to use violent
behaviors in their homes. I worked for the social welfare system with a diverse range
of clients with differing diagnoses. Very quickly, I realized that I liked that SFBT is not
about eliminating patterns, behaviors, and thoughts, but about creating useful
alternatives for them. At this point, I decided to continue using some of my previous
therapeutic experiences that I still found useful, as I was simultaneously trying to
establish SFBT ideas as my professional backbone and adopting SFBT into my inner
ecosystem. Working with clients brought me plenty of questions; some of them were
about the usefulness of staying exclusively within the clients perceptions and
perspectives, such that the therapist should leave no footprints. During this time, it
was very helpful that to be able to constantly observe and consider the answers that
de Shazer and Berg gave in discussions on the SFT-l listserv.2 At the same time, the
annual EBTA conferences were a great place to find people who were also eager to
talk about these questions and consider different approaches to the solution-focused
mainstream practice and what may lie beyond it. After this intense phase of
admiration of the solution-focused approach, it was the time to abandon the notion
that it was the best and the only way of helping people, and move toward a position
that the solution focus is one of many methods as good and as weak as other
methods, but closest to me. Thus, with this change in perspective, far more doubts
and questions started to emerge. I asked some of my solution-focused colleagues in
order to obtain more answers and, though I found some useful conversations, I very
often experienced answers that sounded like take aspirin and wait, suppose you've
2 The sft-list is an email listserv. See http://www.sikt.nu/enginstrsft.html for details.

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heard the answer what would be different, what is your experience until now, and
that is not solution-focused thinking. This was less than I had expected, and I
started to have the impression that, at least sometimes, asking questions was warmly
welcomed, but mainly when they were solution-focused questions, not questions that
challenged some of the solution-focused ideas or assumptions.
Doubts and Questions
One of the tendencies I was not able to agree with was the tendency to comment on
other therapeutic models, especially traditional or problem-focused" models in a
negative way. I had noticed this many times during workshops, where so-called old
or traditional models were presented with a hint of irony and critique. The same
tendency is echoed in solution-focused writing where, for example, authors refer to
practices performed within other traditional approaches as being bad by definition. I
also could not understand the use of the three types of client-therapist relationships
(customer-, visitor- and complaint-relationships), where two of them were named in a
way that suggested a non-collaborative relationship, while at the same time it was
claimed that every client cooperates in his or her own unique way (Berg, 1992;
Jacob, 2001). It was also difficult to fully support the idea that using diagnoses,
considering deficits, sharing ones perceptions with clients, and creating hypotheses
should not be treated as an option within SFBT. Additionally, the vivid expressions
about treating clients as the experts, who always knew better about what is good for
her/him sounded to me like a slight overestimation of clients abilities. It was also
difficult to blindly accept the idea that talking about problems is less useful than
talking about solutions, while I personally was not always even sure if the
conversation I was in was a problem-focused or solutions-building conversation.
These contradictions I noted are derived from the strong emphasis within the

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solution-focused model to establish a dichotomy between problems versus solutions,


as though they are two separate and mutually exclusive patterns of conversation.
The problem versus solution division line has been created and described with
a tendency to question the problem-focused way of working and promote the
solution-focused way of working (Berg & Kelly, 2000). It was clear that problems
were perceived as a different category of the client's reality, and that solutions were a
very different and better one (George, Iveson, & Ratner, 1999). I had the impression
that part of the solution-focused identity had to be created by relating to and negating
what were collectively called problem-focused approaches (Metcalf, 1998; Sharry,
Madden, & Darmody, 2001).
The miracle question techniquewhereby the therapist engages the client in a
conversation about how life would look if a miracle were to occur such that all his/her
problems were suddenly resolvedwas and still is suggested as a powerful tool to
help clients to describe their preferred future free from problems. Also, solutionfocused therapists developed the technique of problem-free talk as a way to find
effective ways to locate clients resources. Exception questions help clients focus on
the times where the problem is not present or is less intense and develop a nonproblem narration about the past. In many ways we encourage to look for something
different, different to the problem, what seems to be better and more useful. Yet still,
in the promoted solution-focused techniques, like in the miracle question, the
technique is described in opposition to the problem. Out of this observation, I
realized that it is within the SFBT model that the problem actually is created as a real
factor to serve as a reference point to allow the building of this other real factor, the
one we called the solution.
Getting several lessons during the many workshops I attended, I learned that I
should not to talk about problems, since talking about problems would generate more
problems, while talking about solutions would generate solutions. However, I felt

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some kind of difficulty following and promoting this type of thinking. I was much more
close to Michael Hjerth's thinking that talking about solutions creates more talk about
solutions, but not nececarily more solutions, and that talking about problems, creates
more talk about problems, not obviously more problems.
Arriving at Some Answers
The context that I have been trying to describe above brought rumination and
some chaos to my own understanding of the solution-focused model, and also
reinforced my will to continue the questioning of some aspects of the model and how
it was described and taught. I did draw some conclusions, which led me toward the
formulation of what would become the situations-focused model, a model I place
within the broader concept of solution-focused brief therapy. My conclusions were as
follows:

The solution-focused approach is not about questions and answers; it is about


meanings, which are associated with the thought content, which is often
expressed using words during the conversation. In many cases, however, it is
more useful not to use words; instead, movement, sound, pictures, and other

channels of describing the world and expressing ideas can be used.


For a solution-focused therapist, it is very important to develop the ability to be
effective in utilizing the clients words, claims, statements, and answers; at the
same time, the therapist delivers his or her own statements. The therapists
statements should be introduced after he or she has gotten the client's
authorization. This is much more important than any ability to just ask the

standard solution-focused questions or use a particular technique.


Before the therapist goes forward with a client in therapy, he or she should be
sure that the client copes with his or her present reality in a sufficient way,

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meaning that some aspects of the clients safety as well as the safety of others

have to be taken into account.


There cannot be a solution-focused approach without a past history of the
client. Only with the past as a basis can you build on a clients perceptions of
the present and preferred situations. The past creates the situation and, at the
same time, also creates a range of possible choices by providing a set of
accumulated experiences. Also expectations of the possible future

consequences of the preferred situations creates the situation.


It may be the case that the only reasonable way to help the client to create his
or her preferred situation is to go through the existing problem stories to find

out more useful meanings within them.


Relying on and utilizing the clients resources beyond what will be supported
by the context outside the therapeutic relationship may actually disempower
the client and limit his or her possibilities. Thus, following a humanistic
tradition, the therapist might consider gathering and combining different
perspectives, knowledge, and experiences, while still respecting the clients

choices and working within his or her worldview.


Others perceptions may be equally important to the clients own in solutionbuilding the process. The art of solution-focused work lies in the process of

effectively connecting and utilizing the potentials of a situation.


The client is the owner of his or her life: But the client is not an all-knowing
expert who possesses every idea or answer in existence. Thus, incorporating
external perspectives can be more effective than constantly working within the

clients perspectives.
In some cases, the clients greatest resource may be his or her ability to

incorporate external resources.


It may be possible that the therapist or others may see things in a much more
appropriate and useful way than the client. This does not change that it is the

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clients perceptions and perspectives you must build upon and connect to, so
external perspectives must be compatible with the clients hardware and
software. Then, these external perspectives can become workable and

useful in therapy.
Solution-focused professionals are responsible for much more than asking
questions. These responsibilities may, for example, stem from ones role in an
organizationthe solution-focused practice will lead to different performances
depending on ones profession, such as social worker, school teacher, or

therapist.
Depending on the clients characteristics such as age, condition, and context,
using and applying SFBT methods should be carefully adapted to his or her
needs. There is a huge difference between working, for example, with
children versus adults, or physically well versus physically disabled clients.
Changing My Solution-Focused Perceptions
I cannot remember when the idea of a situations focus came to me for the first

time, but I see now that it was enhanced both by my clients and the colleagues I met
during my solution-focused training in clinical work and in workshops. Many times, I
experienced cases where so-called problems were experienced as a situation that
was the source of many minuses, and at the same time of some pluses. In similar
way, solutions were experienced as a situation of many pluses with some minuses. I
also found that when the client had achieved the so-called solutions, they were no
longer wanted outcomes, mainly because of the costs that were connected with
maintaining them. Some of my clients were unsatisfied with the achieved solutions
and decided to step back to previous situations, often the situation they initially
experienced as problematic. From the perspective of having achieved the desired
solution, however, the old situation became more wanted than the original solution.

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For example, some of my clients decided to go back to their partners at the risk of
experiencing violence instead of being alone during Christmas time and having to
spend weeks or months at a shelter. Some of my clients decided to go back to an
overwhelming workload instead of spending more time with their families and their
dynamics. Still, other clients decided go back to their previous diets rather than
experiencing the constant fights with their families about their new strange ways of
eating.
I had actually started to get the impression that defining something as a
problem or a solution is very tricky, and that in fact probably most everything can be
called both a problem and a solution, depending on ones perspective, values, and
points of reference. It helped me to realize that keeping this distinction between
problems versus solutions was not as useful as an idea that I would have liked it to
be that using this distinction had led me to experiencing many phenomena as full of
minuses, when I could have seen pluses. One of the minuses was that the
distinction made it difficult to find useful, solution-focused conversation around parts
of situations that were connected to what was called a problem focus and its roots,
understanding, dynamics, and attributes. On the other hand, it was also difficult to
talk about potential minuses of the preferred future situations, as they were defined
as solutions.
The very first practical conclusion, still based on using the problem-solution
labeling and definition, was that solution talk can be a talk about solutions, as well as
about problems, and that problem talk can be a talk about problems, as well as about
solutions. This idea encouraged me to start thinking that neither problem talk nor
solution talk rely so much on the theme of conversation, but rather, rely much more
on the way we talk about clients life situations. The importance was the shifting from
what I talk about to the how I talk about it; then I can talk about all situations, their

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content, meanings, and pluses and minuses. So, at this time, the critical ideas
derived from solution-forced brief therapy (Nylund & Corsiglia, 1994) became very
close to me. They describe how a compulsive need for the therapist to use words
like change, better, good, preferred future, suppose, not knowing, doing less, and so
on, in replacement of any problem-based narrations may in fact be less useful or
even harmful to the clients therapeutic experience.
It was at this time I stared to consider the usefulness of both versions of the
questions below. It helped me free my mind from having to place all therapeutic
phenomena in one or the other side of the solution versus problem division line. I
invite the reader to try to read and make sense of both formulations below. It is a
trick of perspectives and perception to be able to do it:
In spite of the problem/solution, what is lacking in your life?
What is difficult to take care of because of the problem/solution?
What is difficult to achieve given the problem/solution?
What important things do you feel are endangered because of the

problem/solution?
What do you miss most in the problem situation/solution situation?
I used these questions to successfully alternate between both focuses, and

the answers helped my clients to name both unsatisfied needs and wanted goals.
The Concept of the Situations-Focused Model
The following months and years of experience impelled me to quit using the
problems versus solutions dichotomy and to move toward using another word which
seemed to be much more neutral and useful. I started to use the word situation or
situations. From my perspective the word situation had a much closer connection to
the possibility for reflection around questions such as: What was? What is? What will
be? I found it important to be able to pose this question in a non-evaluative way, to
allow all aspects of so-called pluses and minuses of a situation to be possible to be
talked about in the therapeutic conversation, and to be free from a compulsive
changing of the clients perspectives and perceptions to fit a solution-focused
perspective. Idea of considering things from different perspectives and contexts

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showed wery well, that the same "something" can be useful and not useful at the
same time. Useful in one context of life (eg. family) and not useful in different context
of life (eg. work) Then, it's much easier to grasp that the figure (it's pluses and it's
minuses) depends on the chosen background. Defining something as a problem or
as a solution may then be considered in a more flexible way depending on context,
and the meaning of the situation can simultaneously contain pluses and minuses.
Three Perspectives: Present, Preferred, and Exceptions Situations
The present situation is one of the three main perspectives to consider while
having a preferred situation-building conversation, which contains the following:
neutral descriptions, negative (minuses) descriptions, and positive (pluses)
descriptions of the present, past, and future. So, the three perspectives are the
present situations, the preferred situations, and the data situations perspective.
You can notice that in this model these three types of situations are described
by using different types of quality. "Present situations" is described by the perspective
of time - the most important factor of the present situation is its presence. Present
situation is about something which simply exists now in client's life, or at least,
something client thinks that exists. We draw the strong connection between "present
situation" and its experiencing, understanding by the client. While we move toward
"preferred situations" we stop to use quality of time - "preferred situation" is not
located directly in the time perspective - in the future - it's located somewhere in time
- maybe in the future, but also maybe in presence. By doing this we make it also
more the matter of "possible now" than just "possible future". Instead of using time
quality, we use "will quality" - something more wanted, more desired, more preferred.
Again we do not use the term "preferred future" since such wording puts perspective
somewhere in the future. We want to bring the change closer to the client so we hope
that term "preferred situation" is closer to "now", that "preferred future". Moving
toward the past and utilizing past experiences we decided to use word "data

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situations". In SFBT tradition utilizing client's past experiences are called "exceptions"
- times when the problem does not appear, or was less intense, or when at least
parts of client's goals or preferred future already exists. It was obvious that in
exception technique we refer to client's personal experience. I.K. Berg defines
"exceptions" as, "those past experiences in a client's life when the problem may
reasonably be expected to have occurred, but somehow did not". (Berg, I.K. and de
Jong, P. (2002) Interviewing for solutions, Brooks Cole, p. 104). In our model we try
to utilize very various sources of experience and set of them are external to clients
experience. Thus we have to consider redefining "exceptions" definition or just to
start to use different wording. In our training practice we used to present traditional
exceptions definition and after we present our "exceptions" definition which is:
"Exceptions - client's or other's experience, which can be possibly useful for a
client to achieve established preferred goals and preferred change"
Concept of "Data situations" are described by the quality of "experience,
knowledge, know how, information". It's based on our "exceptions" definition. That's
why sometimes instead of term "data situation" we use term "exceptions situation".
So "data situation" means (or almost present) situations which contains useful
"knowledge, information, data" which possibly can support achieving client's, other's
or instituional established goals. In obvious way source of "data situations" we see in
"exceptions technique" - "When it was like that? How it was? How it came?" which
refers just to client's experience. In our model we just went beyond client's
experience and we try to utilize every possible source of experience - internal and
external to the client. (more about "data situations" you can read in next parts of it's
article)

See Figure 1 for a conceptual model of the three perspectives.

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Present
Situations

+n

Exeptions
Situations

Preferred
Situations

- n+
Figure 1. In situation-focused conversations, all situations contain the possibility of a
neutral description while also defining possible evaluative descriptions that are
positives (pluses) and/or negative (minuses).
In a conversation, all situations can be described in a neutral way by asking
questions, like:

How is it? What is going on? How do you react? What is going on in your

mind?
Tell me more about your (past, present, preferred life situation . . .
How would your partner describe the situation?
Whats going on around you?
I would like to hear more about your relationship with . . .
What do you think about . . . ?
Can you say something about yourself and your work?
As a therapist, I see your situation in this way . . .
Additionally, all situations can be described also using evaluative questions
when defining some of the minuses or pluses. The below questions are constructed
to talk about a present situation:

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What worries/makes you somehow happy in your situation?


What is difficult/okay for you in your childrens reaction(s)?
Tell me more about the troubles/advantages youre facing in this situation?
What is hard/easy to accept about your workplace?
Which of your reactions is/are not useful to you/your family?
What dont//do they like in your attitude?
Please describe your deficits/resources as a . . . a bit more . . .
The main idea of the situations-focused model is to leave behind the labeling

of situations as either being a problem or a solution. The idea is to then leave the
problem versus solution contradiction and to move toward using the more neutral
term situation(s).
We define "situation" as the status of the circumstances, factors, or the combination of
circumstances at a specific point in time, which contains components which are and it's
understandings. In other words the way something is positioned and connected with its
surroundings. (definition based on "situation" definition by American Heritage Dictionary)

This makes it possible to have neutral descriptions and to only use evaluative
descriptions when helpful. This makes it possible to start using the terms problems
and solutions in a complementary way, as possible options to describe the same
things, since the same situation can be perceived as a problem and solution at the
same time. In my current practice, thinking in terms of pluses and minuses is more
active than thinking in terms of problems and solutions. I also like to use the term
preferred situation instead of preferred future, because a preferred situation
seems much nearer in time than a preferred future, which seems further away in the
more distant idea of the future.
Three Useful Perspectives: Clients, Others, and Therapists
In the situations-focused model, there are also three main points of reference
(i.e., perspectives; see Figure 2) from which to describe and build the descriptions of
the present, preferred, and past situations. The first one seems to be very natural to
the solution-focused model: It is (1) the clients perspective. The second perspective
is also often utilized with the wider solution-focused approach: It is (2) the

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perspective of others, such as family members, friends, and so on. Lastly, within the
situations-focused model, the professional perspectives of (3) the therapist are
actively incorporated. To include a professional perspective and still work within the
wider context of the solution-focused approach, the therapist needs, of course, to be
following some rules.

therapists
perscpectives

other's
perspectives
client's
perspectives

Figure 2. The three perspectives that may offer useful recourses, information, and
ideas to the treatment.
Below are some examples of questions that are formulated with these three
perspectives in mind and can be modified to include all three the perspectives:

What do you think about your present/future/past situation(s)?


What do others (e.g., family, friends, co-workers) think about your

present/future/past situation(s)?
Would you like to know something about what my experience as a [insert
professional role] tells me about this present/future/past situation(s)?
In the situations-focused model, the clients perspective is still the dominant

and main perspective to work with and within, at the same time the perspective of
others and also the therapist could be potentially very useful and valuable for a client.
These additional perspectives can invigorate the working on and achieving of

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preferred situations by utilizing data which only can be obtained from these
complementary perspectives. This is achieved by describing the present situations
and exceptions situations also from these perspectives.
The Concept of Seven Levels of Data (Exceptions) Situations
Within the situation-focused model, exceptions situations ate defined as
follows: Exceptions are any data from a situation, usually from the past, which
potentially could be useful for a client in the context of the present situations and the
preferred situations.
Theoretically, each conversation about exceptions is undertaken to meet at least one
of two goals. The first of goal is inspirational, and the second is operational.
The definition of an inspirational goal is a goal achieved by talking about the
exceptions and focusing on building pictures of the clients definition of his or her
better functioning. The therapists main interest is in the description of how the
exceptions situations were experienced rather than in finding out possible sources or
means how to achieve such a state.
By contrast, an operating goal is directly focused on the aspects of know-how,
such that the therapist helps the client figure out possible connections, positive
influences, and useful strategies that allow the client to achieve the preferred
situation.
There are different kinds of the exceptions and in this model only some of
them stem directly from the clients experience. But still, to keep referring to the
clients experience in searching for exceptions in any typical situation should be the
obvious and natural first choice.

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CLIENTS
EXCEPTIONS
OTHERS
EXCEPTIONS

CLIENT'S
EXCEPTIONS
FROM OTHERS

MYSTIC
EXCEPTIONS

PROFFESIONAL
FROM OTHERS
CLIENTS
KNOWLEDGE
EXCEPTIONS

Figure 3. The situations-focused exceptions circle.


Figure 3 visually represents the seven levels of exceptions situations within the
situations-focused model.
1. Clients exceptions. Within the SFBT, tradition this is the obvious source
of searching for useful experiences. Typical questions to clients regarding clients
exceptions include: When was the situation a little better? Wow, how did you do
that?
2. Client's exceptions from others. These kinds of exceptions are
connected to the client's own experience and knowledge, but based on observing
and getting information from others. Typical questions are: Where have you seen this

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issue being handled in a good way? What did you see? What was helpful in that
situation?
3. Others exceptions. This source of exceptions comes forward when a
client has the opportunity to talk with and exchange personal know-how with others
who have personally experienced similar situations, difficulties, goals, and preferred
situations. Client support groups, for example, provide such an opportunity. Here,
the therapist can be helpful in introducing the idea of the meeting and providing
information about that the possibilities at hand. Typical questions or statements from
the therapist can be: Would you like to meet with other people who share a similar
situation? The situation they are in may not be exactly the same as yours, but in
some aspects, it is similar! Maybe you can inspire each other with your personal
experiences. Maybe you can find out something that is useful for you. Maybe
sharing your experience can be helpful to someone else.
4. Professional exceptions based on other clients experiences. In some
cases, it may be clear for both client and the therapist that the therapists knowledge,
clinical experience, and even personal experience may be a useful source of ideas
for the client. This could include, for example, ideas on how to cope with life or how
to achieve the preferred situation. In these cases, the important issue is that the
therapist has the clients authorization to speak about his or her own know-how.
Typical questions or statements from the therapist may include: Would you be
interested in what I've learned from my clients in situations that I find somehow
similar to yours? Sometimes this can be useful and sometimes not. Would you like
to listen for a bit and maybe even ask me about some details?
5. Knowledge exceptions. For many reasons, sometimes the mentioned
above mentioned sources of exceptions are not sufficiently useful for clients.
However, the therapist will still have a professional body of theoretical knowledge that
can be potentially useful. Depending on the context, this data can be helpful as long

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as the client is interested in considering it. Typical questions or statements from the
therapist might include: Would you like to consider some ideas that are connected
with theoretical knowledge that might be useful? Sometimes this can be useful and
sometimes not. So, what do you think, from the perspective or lens of this piece of
theory that we talked about? Do you think it fits your situation in some way and could
make any practical sense for you?
6. Mystic exceptions. Some of our clients bring the resource of having a
relationship with God or another personal belief that provides meaning or hope.
Here, the therapists personal beliefs are not so important; much more important are
the beliefs of the client. In most cases, the belief is in Gods existence, assuming
God's ability, sharing God's grace, and God's inspiration. Medical doctors in Poland
can in very difficult situations encourage clients to use this strategy by saying, We
have done all we could. Now you can pray and wait. Following such strategies can
be incorporated into a situation by the therapist encouraging the client to turn to his
or her God for advice or inspiration. Typical statements from the therapist in the
finding of a mystic exception strategy include:

So, you said you have strong relationship with your God. I wonder if you
maybe can talk to and ask your God for a kind of advice or a sort of inspiration
in this situation. So please, when you talk to your God, keep your ears, soul,
and mind open and try to figure out your God's suggestions in this situation.
Clients Perceptions
How clients express their present perceptions about something is very often

not the only perception that exists as a possibility within the clients inner universe
and around him or her. Especially at the start of the therapeutic process, perceptions
expressed by clients in the present moment are the strongest and represent the
client's main focus and energy. Sometimes such perceptions belong to narrations

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that reinforce the present situations and serve to preserve them. The therapist can
then assume that the client's preferred situation very well may require accessing
different perceptions and figuring out meanings and what the possible alternative
perceptions could be. While the client speaks about his or her dominant perceptions
(e.g., his or her currently perceived reason to seek therapy), other perceptions about
that something are in the present moment weaker and have a lower energy level, but
exist as a possible alternative to the dominant perception. This means that
sometimes the therapist needs to first accept and receive the clients current
perceptions with their high energy before looking for other ones. By doing so, the
therapist can create a context in which the client can experience that within his or her
inner universe exists many more possible perceptions about that something. By the
therapist helping to elicit and reinforce other alternative perceptions, the client can
consider which perceptions about that something are useful and desired by him or
her. Each perception has its own map with its usefulness as well as its dysfunctions.
The therapist should avoid taking sides and deciding between them; instead, the
client decides which map should be crystallized, and which should be de-crystallized.
Still, the rule that the client is free to choose as an ethical rule that must be applied
within the therapeutic process.
Within this model, the therapist can then look for the client's possible
alternative perceptions in every aspect of his or her world that requires some
cognitive activity (in the widest sense of the word including emotions, behaviors, and
bodily sensations) and facilitate in the creation of associated meanings for the client.
This means that the therapist will possibly talk with the client about his or her
perceptions about very different aspects of his or her situations from the past,
present, and future, including problems, solutions, self-pictures, situations, life facts,
and significant persons. This strategy will create a multiple session scenario and is

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especially useful in a context with a longer-term SFBT, such that the therapist will
provide continuous support the change process over time.
Conclusion
Since I finally decided to stop using the dichotomy of problems versus
solutions in my practice, I have moved my focus toward employing more neutral
wording and at the basis for this change is the use of the word situations. This
seemingly cosmetic change in my thinking and practice created many useful changes
for me. It was for this reason that I decided to share this process. In writing this
article, it became clear to me that a precise and fully clear description of my personal
inner meanings connected with the situations-focused model was not possible. Thus,
I share a hope that at least some points, some lines, which build this article, were in
some way sufficiently useful for you, the reader.

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