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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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Just Ask a Better Question

January 30, 20232 min read

Ever wonder what to do if a student can’t answer your question or says, “I don’t know.”

Chris Iveson is a dear friend at BRIEF therapy practice in London. One day, when my students and I were at his training, a student asked what to do when a client did not answer a question. Chris, in his very funny English manner, said, “ask a better question!”

The solution focused approach may look simple, but it does take a lot of thinking before answering, especially in regard to NOT asking about the problem. 

One way to do that is to always assume the school client has the answer. Always! Your job is simply to ask the right question. What is the right question? It’s always a question that seeks expertise.

Here’s an example:

A school counselor sent me an email last week:

“I was in our school staffroom having a friendly chat. A colleague said – this year is going to be hard like last year and I’m not sure how I’m going to get thru it. I responded with – “so how did you get thru last year?”

 There was no response, so I just left it at that.

 That evening I got a text that thanked me for that question. Since then, my colleague has said about 3 times in about 3 weeks – that question has been so helpful.

 Another case of ask the question and let it do the work!”

This is one of those “priceless” moments. That one question is rich with action:

  • The counselor saw an exception… and went for it. The teacher had gotten through something without realizing it.

  • The counselor also sent a message of affirmation and validation. 

  • The colleague became introspective as a result, recognized a success and was better for it.

This week, listen for a complaint or concern from one person and choose to respond back to it the way the counselor did above. 

“How did you get through something like this before?” 

How have you managed before?”  

Stay the course… without suggestions.

You might just get a few texts and emails yourself.

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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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