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Monday Ideas for School Counselors

Weekly articles for school counselors with ideas on how to resolve typical school situations with students, teachers and parents using the solution focused approach.

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Want Better Conversations? Talk Less and Just Listen

January 22, 20242 min read

I vividly remember the first time I implemented the solution-focused approach with a school client.

It was a conversation with a mother and her thirteen-year-old daughter. The daughter, feeling embarrassed due to a blemish on her forehead, reluctantly sat in my office with her finger covering it. The mother's response to the question, "What are your best hopes?" reflected her frustration as she simply “wanted to get along with her daughter again,” who responded with a dismissive eye roll.

At that time, I was new to the solution-focused approach, but the mother's desire to "get along with her daughter again" stood out, since I was focusing more on their competence and not on the problem.  All I needed to do was to ask both of them to reminisce about those times and what was different then.

The mother's face lit up as she talked about their experiences in sixth grade, when they used to shop together, engage in conversations, and her daughter genuinely enjoyed being around her. Still, though, the daughter remained quiet

Then I asked the mother a pivotal question: "What do you think you did during her sixth-grade year that made her so fond of being around you?"

The mother gazed at her daughter and replied, "It was probably the way I talked to her.” 

The daughter began nodding and crying.

In the next two meetings, the daughter spoke about how much better things had become since her mother started communicating with her "like she used to."

This case demonstrates a fundamental concept of the solution-focused approach, which can be challenging for some. It's often difficult not to offer suggestions or advice to school clients regarding their social, emotional, and even academic concerns, especially when we have the education and expertise. However, doing so can inadvertently deprive them of the opportunity to feel competent and empowered.

If you're new to the solution-focused approach, welcome! This method has the potential to change your school counseling practice simply by teaching you how to listen well to what your school clients say.

Instead of trying to understand why a problem occurs, you will instead learn to ask about times when it did not occur. 

To help you get started or just keep getting better in the solution focused approach, this week on SF Connection, I've invited a special guest, Cher Kretz, a fellow school counselor, from Riverside, California. Cher has recently participated in a TEDx event where her TEDx Talk was about the solution focused approach to conversations.  She will share an excerpt from her talk that will illustrate the power of using it with everyone you see as a school counselor.

Join me and our growing community of solution focused school counselors on Wednesday, January 24, at 12 PM CST.


Solution-focused counselingSchool counselingEffective communicationActive listeningEmpowerment
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Dr Linda Metcalf

Linda Metcalf is the best-selling author of Counseling Toward Solutions and 10 other books. Linda is a former middle school teacher, all-level certified school counselor, licensed professional counselor supervisor, and licensed marriage and family therapist in the State of Texas. She is a Professor at Texas Wesleyan University.

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