Perhaps It’s Not About Building Your Toolbox

Posted by Elliott Connie - May 12, 2017 - Solution Focused Therapy - 6 Comments


One of the commonly accepted metaphors used in the field of psychotherapy for learning new approaches and gaining new training is the idea of building a therapeutic toolbox. I have always struggled with this idea and have now gotten to the point that I want to challenge this frequently used metaphor. In this video I share my perspective on this and what I think we should be doing instead.

  • Christopher L Smith

    There are mixed elements in the transition to the idea of a language. There are certainly positives in terms of ongoing fluency and need for continued practice and growth. On the other hand, a linguist who is truly bilingual will have developed their mind to look at the world in different ways and be able to use these ways in different contexts. English comes with it certain assumptions. Hungarian lacks elements of possessiveness. The language of the Eskimo recognizes the diversity we call snow. Being a linguist is hard but does allow the person to shift their mind in ways appropriate for what is being encountered.

    • Elliott Connie

      Thanks for the comment Christopher. The shift from thinking of training in these approaches (in this case SFBT) as a language instead of a tool for a tool box is an important one. Even with the points you mention about language having their own assumptions, as this is also true for each psychotherapy approach having their own assumptions as well.

  • Greg Sumpter

    Elliot,
    I enjoyed the video, and have struggled with the same thoughts – this idea of just adding another tool to the toolbox. With your metaphor of a language, I do wonder about the ability to speak the language of the client. If I’m fluent in English, and someone asks me to speak with a primarily Spanish speaking individual that might be a difficult conversation. If I could speak a little Spanish, my ability to help that individual could be greatly improved. As you stated in your comment to Chris, approaches come with different assumptions. I think clients have different views of the world as well. In working with juveniles for instance, while being solution focused or looking at making a change might be needed, there may be skill gaps that exist – so would some cognitive approach to building that skill be the thing that is needed more urgently. Basically, I tend to agree with your thoughts about language being more important than a toolbox approach, but wonder if that oversimplifies it. I don’t have a better metaphor, just wondering aloud.

    • Elliott Connie

      Hey Greg! They key in thinking of these approaches as languages is in the fact that we must build the skill to speak them. Also, as you mention, we must also treat every client as if they have their own language as well and thus we need to learn it. It is not about matching our language to theirs, instead, it is about us using our language skills to learn their vocabulary and then speak with their tongue.

  • Skye

    This approach makes sense to me. I’m just wondering if we can use SFBT in tandem with Ericksonian hypnotherapy, Elliott? You mentioned Bill O’Hanlon and I believe he teaches both Ericksonian hypnotherapy as well as SF therapy, so I was wondering if it is possible to combine the two when helping a client. I’m just not sure HOW. Any thoughts? Thanks!

    • Elliott Connie

      Thanks for the comment Skye, that is a great question. I would say that SFBT is a stand alone approach is hard to mix it with other (even very similar) approaches.

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