Externalize symptoms and problems and ideas about blame, determinism and “unchangeable” problem identity ideas.
Motto: The person is never the problem; the problem is the problem.
Talking to the person or family as if the problem was another person with an identity, will, tactics and intentions which often have the effect of oppressing, undermining or dominating the person or the family.
Example: “When Paranoia whispers in your ears, do you always listen?”
Example: “So Depression has moved in with you for the last month?”
Example: “How long has Anorexia been lying to you?”
2. Find out how the problem has affected the person and others‚
Finding out how the person has felt dominated or forced by the problem to do or experience things he or she didn’t like. Be careful about using causal statements (“makes,” “causes,” “gets”).
Investigate areas of: 1. Experience, feelings arising from the influence of the problem; 2. Tactics or messages the problem uses to convince people of limitations or to discourage people; 3. What actions or habits the problem invites or encourages the person or the family to do; 4. Speculations about the intentions of the problem in regard to the person or relationships; 5. Preferences or differences in points of view the person has with the problem.
Example: “When has jealousy invited you to do something you regretted later?”
Example: “What kinds of foods does Anorexia try to get you to avoid?”
3. Find moments when things went better or different in regard to the problem‚
Finding out about moments of choice or success the person has had in not being dominated or forced by the problem to do or experience things he or she didn’t like. Inquire about differences the person has with the problem.
Example: “Tell me about some times when you haven’t believed the lies Anorexia has told you.”
Example: “How have you stood up to the Temper Tantrum Monster?”
4. Use these moments of choice or success as a gateway to alternate (hero/valued) stories of identity‚
Encourage the person or his/her intimates to explain what kind or person they are such that they had those moments of choice or success.
Example: “How do you explain that you are the kind of person who would lodge such a protest against Anorexia’s plans for you.”
Example: “What qualities do you think you possess that give you the wherewithal to oppose Depression in that way?”
5. Find evidence from the person’s or families past that supports the valued story‚
Finding historical evidence explaining how the person was able to stand up to, defeat or escape from the dominance or oppression of the problem.
Example: “What can you tell me about your past that would help me understand how you’ve been able to take these steps to stand up to Anorexia so well?”
Example: “Who is a person that knew you as a child who wouldn’t be surprised that you’ve been able to reject Violence as the dominant force in your relationship?”
6. Get them to speculate about a future that comes out of the valued story‚
Get the person or the family to speculate on what kinds of future developments will result if the path of resisting the problem is continued or expanded.
Example: “As you continue to stand up to Anorexia, what do you think will be different about your future than the future Anorexia had planned for you?”
Example: “As Jan continues to disbelieve the lies that delusions are telling her, how do you think that will affect her relationship to her friends?”
7. Develop a social sense of the valued story‚
Find a real or imagined audience for the changes you have been discussing. Enroll the person as an expert consultant on solving/defeating the problem. Situate the problem in a current social/political/values context.
Example: “Who could you tell about your development as a member of the Anti-Diet League that could help celebrate your freedom from Unreal Body Images?”
Example: “Are there people who have known you when you are not depressed who could remind you of your accomplishments and that your life is worth living?”