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Solution Oriented Strategies with Couples

Summarize, validate and soften

This strategy ensures that the therapist is listening adequately, as well as validating each person without taking sides. In addition, through slight word changes, the therapist can soften what might be a blaming or discouraging communication from one partner to another.


This strategy has several functions. One is to join and more equalize the relationship (we all have issues and struggles in relationships, not just clients). Another is to normalize by helping couples realize that others may have the same kinds of issues, points of view or feelings. The last element of this strategy is to suggest new possibilities for actions or points of view.

Identifying and tracking problem patterns

This strategy, often combined with getting specific, helps the therapist understand what the couple or one partner is concerned about and how he or she experiences the problematic situation. In addition to getting an idea of the problem, the therapist is searching for typical patterns in the problematic interactions or situations.

Identifying and tracking solution patterns

This strategy, again often combined with getting specific, is used to evoke and highlight more helpful actions and points of view related to the problem based on the couple,s past experience

Suggesting possibilities

This strategy offers ideas from the therapist,s experience that might be helpful in the future, either based on what the couple has said so far (usually derived from the solution patterns) or based on some ideas the therapist has. It is important to give these suggestions in a tentative manner, not to impose them on couples. But it is just as important not to leave the therapist,s ideas out of the conversation in the name of neutrality or a non-expert position.

Getting specific/action descriptions

This strategy involves getting the couple to tell the therapist about specific incidents and actions, so the therapist can understand the couples situation without having to project or interpret as much as would be necessary with more vague descriptions. This often involves the use of what I call “videotalk, that is, having couples describe the situation as if it could be seen and heard on a videotape.

Naming classes of solution or problems and initiating searches

This strategy involves using vague, general words or inquiries to facilitate the evocation and organization of problem or solution categories or specific incidents that could be examples of those categories.

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