The Presence of Empathy in SFBT

Posted by Elliott Connie - July 28, 2017 - Solution Focused Therapy - 16 Comments

Too often when I show video examples of SFBT sessions in my lectures someone will comment on how they did not see empathy present in the session. It drives me a bit crazy when people say that because there is clear empathy present, if you know how to look. In this video I will show you SFBT uses empathy and what it looks like.

  • Svea van der Hoorn

    Spot on – way to go. Lovely. Great material with which to knock the myth of lack of empathy from SFBT out the park. Thank you

    • Elliott Connie

      I’m very glad you liked it Svea, thanks for sharing your response!

  • Gail Castle

    Thanks Elliott! Great information, as always!

    • Elliott Connie

      You’re welcome Gail!

  • Janette Strokappe

    Thank you Elliott. I always appreciate the information you give us.

    • Elliott Connie

      You are so welcome Janette! I always appreciate you watching my videos and offering your comments.

  • Sally Morley

    Thanks for this video Elliott. It’s very very useful 🙂

    • Elliott Connie

      You are super welcome Sally!

  • Skye

    Great distinction and demonstration, Elliott. I found that really helpful! When I was taught SFBT, I was told NOT to discuss or delve into the problem. “The client’s problem is not your problem.” I found this rather cold and thought, if I were the client, I would like to be heard. Your approach here is so much more constructive and empathetic. Thank you for clarifying!

    • Elliott Connie

      You’re very welcome Skye and I am so glad to dispel what you had been previously taught.

      • Svea van der Hoorn

        Hi Skye – I think the art is for SFBT practitioners not to activate or delve it the problem or deficits. Rather to activate and amplify resourcefulness, possibilities, and desires. That allows the client to talk as much or as little as they want to about the problem and about deficits. This sounds a lot easier in words than in deeds! your comments about how you were taight SFBT reminds me of the wisdom of Steve de Shazer’s comment – its simple but not easy. I’d say it takes discipline and elegance and a respect for intricacy to learn SFBT never mind what it takes to open a learning space i which people can learn it in its fullness and finesse

        • Elliott Connie

          Well said Svea.

  • Ellen Sande

    AWESOME!! Having spent hours upon hours working on CBT empathy skills, this is SO much kinder and gentler!! I would love to hear more examples of SF empathy!

    • Elliott Connie

      Glad you like it Ellen! I will share more examples in the future I am sure!

  • steve flatt

    Hi Elliot, a really interesting monologue. You are describing the difference between emotional and cognitive empathy. Emotional empathy is a source of pain as it focuses both parties upon the problem “how tough that must be” sounds like a good empathic statement but actually re-inforces the mire in which the client is stuck, while the question you asked about what would be better is cognitive empathy that is really, again as you point out, getting to empathising with what the client really wants. the major problem that traditional psychotherapy has is that it doesn’t differentiate between emotional empathy and cognitive empathy. it assumes that there are no important differences. SF makes those differences explicit. we need to amplify these different types of empathy as paul bloom does in his book “against Empathy (thanks to Fredrikke Bannike for the reference) and know tat actually we are just as empathetic.. and more thoughtful about how we do it!

  • Lara Lewis

    Thanks Elliott. I was also taught not to let the client talk about the problem and it has always felt really counter-intuitive to me. I have usually found that when I do let clients talk about the problem they make much quicker progress. It’s the art of making sure that I do it in a really Solution Focused way that I am still trying to perfect – SFU is really helping with that. I am so glad I signed up.

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