This week, I’m teaching an intensive course with two of my colleagues, Adam Froerer and Cecil Walker. And we’re teaching people, this is our level two training to get certified to do Solution Focused Brief Therapy and all kinds of things, and it’s super duper fun and super exciting. And one of the ideas that stands out from teaching today was talking about something that we refer to as History of the Outcome.
So what is History of the Outcome? Whenever we ask clients, what outcome they hope to achieve from being in therapy? We have to understand that just by them saying that they want this thing, like maybe it’s to be happy or to be sober or to be whatever they must have had it at some point in the past. So the fact that they’re wanting it and desirous of it now means it has shown up at least a bit in their past.
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And we should ask about it. Now that doesn’t mean that it showed up for a long time and it doesn’t mean it just shows up intensely, but we do get to ask, what is your past relationship with the outcome you’re now seeking? Because having those conversations kind of reignites that part of themselves, and it helps them remember that past was actually positive.
I’m from Boston, Massachusetts, or the Boston area. And I took Adam to the place where I’m from. And there is a Chinese food place called Wah Sing in Franklin, Massachusetts. That was like my childhood staple. I used to deliver papers just so I can get like $5 to go eat a meal at Wah Sing, Adam and I go back to Boston and I said to him, I want to take you to this place that I would go to as a child called Wah Sing and it’s really good. And I remember we spent $8 for like this mountain of food. And for me, it’s like this delicious food. And it’s, you know, kind of fast food and it’s greasy and it’s not healthy and it’s gross and all those things and Adam eats it.
And I can tell he’s not loving it as much as I’m loving it. He’s not devouring it and experiencing it as delicious as much as I am. And I realized it’s because to me it tastes like nostalgia. And it transports me to some happy parts of my childhood, even though my childhood was riddled with unhappy parts and unhappy moments. I also have this experience of having true, genuine joy of eating Wah Sing as a child, with my friends, we used to literally deliver papers and then walk to this kind of strip mall where the Wah Sing restaurant was. And we would order Wah Sing and eat it and we just thought we were the coolest kids going, and Adam doesn’t have that relationship with Wah Sing.
So he’s eating it. For him, he’s like, why is Elliott love this like super greasy unhealthy food? And for me, I’m like, man, it tastes just like it did 20 years ago. And it’s because it transported me back to a time in my childhood that was filled with happiness and happy memories and joy. And as I was eating these things, I was having all of these thoughts about all of these happy memories and about all the good things that happened in that restaurant when I was a young child.
When you ask clients, when a client says to you, I hope to be happy and you ask them, so when in your life do you remember happiness showing up? And what did you notice that let you know that the happiness was present? They might say, you know, when I was nine, I got a new bike for Christmas and you ask them, what was it about that new bike that provoked happiness? What color was the bike? Who did you ride the bike with? What route did you ride the bike? When people start just describing their past relationship with joy, it triggers that nostalgia. And they start remembering and connecting with that part of themselves, which makes change in the present time, much more doable and much more likely.
Now, sometimes the biggest barrier to accomplishing change is people forgetting that it’s possible. So having a conversation about how it used to be present and how it used to show up and what it was like when it was there, will allow people to know that if it can happen before it can happen again. So when you’re having a Solution Focused conversation with your clients, try to make sure that it tastes like nostalgia.
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