A Solution-Focused Recursive Frame Analysis of the “Arguing” Couple
Anthony Nguyen
Our Lady of the Lake University


Introduction

Historical Perspective

Solution-focused therapy (SFT) began in the late 1970s at the Brief Family Therapy Center (BFTC) in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. The BFTC worked from the approach of a team, which consisted of several clinicians such as Steve de Shazer and Insoo Kim Berg (the principle founders of SFT) as well as Peter De Jong, Larry Hopwood, Eve Lipchik, Scott Miller, Michele Weiner-Davis, Wally Gingerich, Alex Molnar, and Elam Nunnally (Bertolino & O’Hanlon, 2002). These therapists collaborated to develop SFT with many of the ideas stemming from the Mental Research Institute (MRI) in Palo Alto, California. The MRI model was headed by Milton Erickson and Gregory Bateson. The main focus of the former clinician was to find ways to reduce resistance in hypnotherapy whereas the latter clinician’s work was on understanding human communication and paradox. In 1982, SFT started to differentiate itself from MRI by focusing on clients’ inherent strengths and resources to find solutions instead of solely centering on the problem and disrupting its cycle (Lipchik, 2002).
In order to understand SFT more completely, knowledge of its basic assumptions and premises are necessary. These assumptions help solution-focused therapists to conceptualize cases and guide their work with clients. Walter and Peller (1992) summarized the SFT assumptions as follows:
1. Sessions should center more on solution talk instead of problem talk. The focal point of therapy is on the positives, solution, and future orientation in order to create change and to accomplish the goal that the client wishes.
2. Every problem has exceptions that can be found through the therapeutic relationship. Exceptions can help lead to solutions.
3. Change is constantly occurring.
4. Small change helps build and create the pathway for bigger change.
5. Clients continually cooperate in therapy. If we enter clients’ worldviews of how change takes place, then cooperation in therapy is certain.
6. The potential means needed to solve the problem lies within the client.
7. The role of the client is to be the expert while the therapist acts as a facilitator or a guide.
8. Problems are interactional.
9. “If it works, don’t fix it” (p. 37).
10. “If everything you are doing is not working, do something different” (p. 38).
Major Influences

According Bertolino and O’Hanlon (2002), SFT was significantly influenced by notions from second-order cybernetics, postmodernism, constructivism, and social constructionism. Second-order cybernetics is an approach that emphasizes the counselor as a component of the therapeutic system instead of just an external observer to the client’s problem. This indicates that the therapist and client both have the ability to affect one another. Additionally, postmodernism perceives that there are no universal truths because people’s stories and worldviews are constructed by society, culture, and history. Consequently, mental health professionals began to see problems existing as a result of language and interaction. Furthermore, therapy became a joint endeavor in that counselors and clients both played the role of expert, which replaced the traditional idea of the clinician being the sole expert in therapy. These beliefs later became known as constructivism and social constructionism (Bertolino & O’Hanlon, 2002).




Major Voice in the Theory

Steve de Shazer is considered to be one of the key voices in SFT due to his major contributions of the miracle question (de Shazer, 1988) and the first session formula task (de Shazer, 1985). de Shazer (1988) would generally ask the miracle question as follows: “Suppose that one night, while you were asleep, there was a miracle and this problem was solved. How would you know? What would be different” (p. 5). The miracle question would be utilized in nearly every first session at the BFTC in order to obtain a good picture of what the client’s solution would look like if the problem were solved. This technique is more specifically used when clients give vague goals that are not concrete, behavioral, and specific (de Shazer, 1988).
de Shazer (1985) designed another central technique to SFT called the first session formula task, which is typically assgined as:
Between now and next time we meet, we would like you to observe, so that you can describe to us next time, what happens in your [pick one: family, life, marriage, relationship] that you want to continue to have happen. (p. 137)
This task was specifically developed to change clients’ focus from past events to present and future oriented situations. Clients are often pessimistic in that they expect the problem to exacerbate. However, assigning this task explicitly and implicitly communicates to clients that some sort of change will occur (de Shazer, 1985).
The other major voice in SFT was Insoo Kim Berg. Her efforts and contributions were largely focused on training other counselors to utilize the theory as well as exploring SFT’s implications and how it can be applied to various problems with individual clients (de Shazer, 1985). This is evidenced by her successful work with alcohol and substance abusers, involuntary clients, such as children, dyads, and mandated clients, and clients in crisis situations (Berg & Miller, 1995a, 1995b; Berg & Shafer, 2004; De Jong & Berg, 2001, 2002).
Theoretical Basics

Problem Origination

de Shazer et al. (1986) simply stated that problems are formed in the “context of human interaction” (pg. 208). This can be interpreted as the interaction that occurs in relationships between people. Problems are also formed because people have defined the situation as a problem (Walter & Peller, 1992), meaning they view a change in circumstances differently. Clients already have the strengths and resources to solve their difficulties (de Shazer et al., 1986; Lipchik, 2002); however, they are often engulfed in the problem that they overlook how to apply these existing skills to the circumstance changes in the relationship (O’Hanlon & Weiner-Davis, 1989).
Problem Maintenance

In SFT, the context of human interaction not only causes problem development, but it also heavily contributes to problem maintenance (de Shazer et al., 1986). Furthermore, problems are maintained because of the “misdirected actions they [clients] persist in taking” (Walter & Peller, 1992, p. 24). This quote suggests that when people continue trying the same unsuccessful solutions to solve their problems, it actually causes the problems to persist.
Problem Resolution

According to O’Hanlon and Wiener-Davis (1989), there are three ways for solving problems in solution-focused therapy. The first approach for problem resolution is to change the cyclical actions and behaviors involved in the problem (i.e., change the doing of the problem). This allows clients to do something different than their previous failed solution attempts, which can lead to resolving the problem. The second method for problem resolution is to change how the problem is understood and perceived (i.e., change the viewing of the problem). Altering the clients’ perspectives on the problem enables them to identify their strengths and resources and to change the behaviors embedded within the situation. The solution-focused therapist’s last approach is to access strengths and resources from the clients so that they may be applied to solve the problem. This can lead to the previously stated methods of changing the viewing and doing of the problem (O’Hanlon & Wiener-Davis, 1989).
Description

The following case analysis illustrates how I used SFT and recursive framing. My goal is to analyze the dialogue created between the clients and co-therapists. I used the recursive frame analysis method taught in class to organize this conversation through a series of galleries. The identified client in this case is a heterosexual couple named Terry and Jane. Terry is a 37 year old Caucasian man, who works as a landscaper. Jane, his girlfriend, is also 37 years old, but is unemployed. They have been dating for a total of five and a half years and are not currently living together. Jane lives with her four children and ex-husband while Terry lives with his mother. Their stated goal (from the intake form) was to work on having better communication skills and to trust each other better. Terry’s complaint was that he could not trust Jane anymore because she had cheated on him with his best friend, Dane. Jane stated that she wanted Terry to learn how to communicate without yelling and being aggressive towards her. Additionally, both clients agreed that they wanted to stop arguing and fighting, and learn how to get along with each other. The following dialogue occurred during the second session I had with them at the Community Counseling Service.

Case Analysis
VIEWING OF THE PROBLEM
Presenting Gallery:

Nothing popped up to fight about.

Argument starts if Dane comes over.

Did not tell the truth.

Gets pissed off when Dane drops off daughter.

Never knows what to expect.

VIEWING OF THE PROBLEM DIALOGUE

T2: The days that are okay…I am kind of curious… you know like what’s different about each of you? How do you know we’re in the time that’s okay?
TERRY: We’re just not arguing. There’s no stress. I mean there’s times when I don’t even like calling her cause I’ll be just sitting there, I’ll be like man what’s she gonna be like this time.
T1: So you guys aren’t arguing and you’re not stressed so what are you doing instead on those days that you’re okay?
JANE: We’re getting along.
TERRY: Yeah, just getting along and being able to talk and not have any frustrations…
T1: And how do you guys do that… not have any frustrations and get along, even if it’s just for that day or for two or three days. How do you guys do that?
TERRY: (shrugs his shoulders)
T1: Do you have any idea Jane?
JANE: Well, I mean it’s just … (Terry interrupts)
TERRY: The only way I can put it is that just something petty usually didn’t pop up that irritated one of us. That’s basically the bottom line. Because either I’ll be drinking or I’ll wanna go out fishing or I wanna go to a buddy’s house she’ll get pissed. She’ll take somebody to the Via bus stop or to work or her daughter will be coming to visit and you know that Dane guy that she slept with…well that’s her boyfriend you know so I DON’T LIKE HIM COMIN OVER there, that will start an argument…
JANE: But he doesn’t come over to my house to come inside or talk to me he just drops her off.
TERRY: I don’t give a SHIT!
JANE: But that’s too bad.
T2: That’s your daughter’s boyfriend… Dane?
JANE: Yes, they weren’t at the time, but they are now.
T2: Oh, okay.
TERRY: You see that’s the whole thing that when Dane finally told her because she was living with Dane and then all the sudden she comes home from work and Dane tells her “Hey, I’m sleeping with your daughter.” You know, then she (points to Jane) bails out of there and comes back to live with me, but hasn’t still told me the truth yet.
T2: Right.
TERRY: You know that’s part of the issue I have with that.
T2: I think that’s something we can get back to, but Anthony just reminded me of something (turns to Anthony) so I’LL LET YOU…
T1: Yeah, yeah. Remember last week umm… when our supervisor came in and we had made agreement about leaving the past and it’s more helpful to stay in the present…
TERRY: Right, right. You guys still don’t know the whole situation on that. You guys think he was just there and he’s gone. He’s not fuckin’ gone!
T1: Okay (nods his head).
JANE: He does come to my house to drop off my daughter, but he does not come in my house.
TERRY: That’s not the point.
JANE: I don’t go out to talk to him.
TERRY: That’s not the point.
JANE: Well, I’m going to continue to see my daughter.
T2: Uh hum… does your daughter live with you?
JANE: No, she lives with him.
TERRY: No, she lives with him.
T2: Okay, okay. But he’s dropping her off to see you?
JANE: Yeah.
T2: Uh hum.
JANE: For her to see me.
T2: Right.
TERRY: And that kind of shit will start me being upset. It just pisses me off. (DIALOGUE FROM PAGES 2-4)
TERRY: And you know I MEAN I DON’T WANT TO THROW IT AWAY, BUT I’m not going to sit here and fight. She’s the one who broke up with me and I said that was fine.
T2: Um hum.
TERRY: You know, I mean I’m tired of all this arguing. I’m tired of fighting. You know that one week I had off and we weren’t really together arguing and fighting. You know I really didn’t drink that whole week. I drank a little bit, but I didn’t drink much. It seems like as soon as I got back with you I started drinking again because I never know what the fuck to expect from you. (DIALOGUE FROM PAGES 9-10)
Comments for Presenting Gallery: This section of the dialogue was placed into the presenting gallery in order to show how the couple views their problem of arguing and fighting with one another. Terry perceives that much of the fighting revolves around situations with Dane (the man that Jane cheated on him with), which includes him coming by Jane’ house and dropping off her daughter. However, Jane does not see this as a problem because there is no contact with Dane and this allows her time to visit with her daughter. Terry also cites that arguments stem from Jane not revealing the true reason for her coming back to live with him and because he never knows what to expect from her. Finally, the couple indirectly views that the fighting is out of their control because the only time they do get along is when something irritating does not “pop up.”
DOING OF THE PROBLEM
Presenting Gallery:

Went drinking.

Screamed at him.

Disagreed on homework.

Bailed out on plans.





DOING OF THE PROBLEM DIALOGUE

T1: So what’s gotten better since last week?
JANE: Well, I think it was ok at first, but then it kind of went bad towards the end of the week.
T1: Okay, can you describe what you mean? Or it was okay at first…
JANE: Yeah, I think things were okay for the first three or four days and then umm… Friday we went to my son’s game and I got a little upset with him that day and I did kind of let him know that I was upset with him because we already had plans to go to my son’s football game and he went to this body shop where he does work sometimes and was drinking. And I was a little upset because I thought…anyways, we handled that situation okay. I mean he let me say what I had to say and then he responded, but we didn’t make a big ole deal about it, but then I think… (Terry interrupts her)
TERRY: Well… (he laughs)
JANE: Well, I guess there is another side (laughing too).
TERRY: You were sitting there screaming at me at the shop and you’re saying that it is not a big deal. You’re just kind of candy coatin’ that. You’re sitting there telling me what you did bringing up all that old shit again. (DIALOGUE FROM PAGE 1)
T1: How was the homework that we gave you?
TERRY: We got confused on it because I thought what you guys said was when we start getting into like…not an argument but into something and then what we found how we handled it best. SHE SAYS THAT ANYTIME THAT we’re happy with anything to write it down. So I didn’t do any of it cuz I was like well…
JANE: I DID.
TERRY: I know you did. (DIALOGUE FROM PAGE 5)
TERRY: Well, we were gonna see each other that evening and then that fell through and it happened again later on in the week.
JANE: Well see my… (Terry interrupts)
TERRY: And then that’s when I got pissed off it was like you know what… you, you sit here and you tell me one thing and you don’t even know what’s happening in your own damn house and the shit we make plans for, you bail out on them you know and then that leaves me stuck.
T2: So ya’ll had plans the night…
TERRY: Just to see each other.
T2: Uh hum.
TERRY: Just to see each other to sit there and park maybe an hour and talk and see each other and she because she didn’t want to hurt her daughter’s feelings or whatever the case maybe, didn’t want to take the small amount of time to come down and see me. So then I talked to her and I’m telling her well you know what how about I come I come down there and you know you got your friends down there, you got your kids down there, you know your friends invited and said, “Let’s hang out in the front yard and talk.” We could hang out there.
T2: Uh hum.
TERRY: We laugh and we joke about it about this little issue with Dane about she doesn’t want me to blow up when I get there and whenever he gets there and everything… that, that’s fine you know I can handle that. You know for right now I’ll be all right and then she turns around and then she’s like “Oh, well I’m gonna go” and this and that. And basically I stayed fucking there. It was like you know I thought I was gonna go hang out with you but you decided to change your mind. You know… (DIALOGUE FROM PAGES 6-7)
Comments for Presenting Gallery: The reason I grouped this dialogue into the presenting gallery was to demonstrate how the clients act out their problem of arguing and fighting. Jane expressed that she was upset at Terry because he was supposed to go to her son’s football game, but went drinking instead. Although Jane believed that this situation was handled, Terry did not like how she “screamed” at him. Furthermore, the doing of the problem was exhibited through the clients’ disagreement on how to do the homework from the previous session. Moreover, Terry got “pissed off” when Jane did not stick to her original plan of hanging out with him. Overall, this frame under the presenting gallery helps to illustrate and understand what behaviors and actions the couple takes before, during, and after they have a fight.
PROBLEM/NOT PROBLEM
Presenting Gallery:

Unfaithfulness.

Aggressive.

Dane is still around.

No more fights in front of kids.

Tired of arguing.

PROBLEM/NOT PROBLEM DIALOGUE

TERRY: Right, right. You guys still don’t know the whole situation on that. You guys think he was just there and he’s gone. He’s not fuckin’ gone!
T1: Okay (nods his head).
JANE: He does come to my house to drop off my daughter, but he does not come in my house.
TERRY: That’s not the point.
JANE: I don’t go out to talk to him.
TERRY: That’s not the point.
JANE: Well, I’m going to continue to see my daughter.
T2: Uh hum… does your daughter live with you?
JANE: No, she lives with him.
TERRY: No, she lives with him.
T2: Okay, okay. But he’s dropping her off to see you?
JANE: Yeah.
T2: Uh hum.
JANE: For her to see me.
T2: Right.
TERRY: And that kind of shit will start me being upset. It just pisses me off.
T1: Uh hum.
TERRY: Fucker still around. (DIALOGUE FROM PAGES 3-4)
T2: Were you uncomfortable with him coming and hanging out with ya’ll outside or?
TERRY: And…
JANE: Knowing that Dane was going to come by and pick up Heather yes I was because this is not the first time he’s says that he wanted to kill the guy and I don’t want anymore yelling and screaming and threatening and fighting going on in front of my kids anymore or me I mean I don’t like that and…
TERRY: But you yourself said that day that you didn’t take it seriously you know you were all right with it and then you still turned around and told me I couldn’t come down there.
JANE: No, that’s not exactly how it all happened but that’s all he wants to say or see or whatever.
TERRY: You know…okay. (DIALOGUE FROM PAGES 7-8)
TERRY: And you know I MEAN I DON’T WANT TO THROW IT AWAY, BUT I’m not going to sit here and fight. She’s the one who broke up with me and I said that was fine.
T2: Um hum.
TERRY: You know, I mean I’m tired of all this arguing. I’m tired of fighting. You know that one week I had off and we weren’t really together arguing and fighting. You know I really didn’t drink that whole week. I drank a little bit, but I didn’t drink much. It seems like as soon as I got back with you I started drinking again because I never know what the fuck to expect from you. (DIALOGUE FROM PAGE 10)
Comments for Presenting Gallery: Although the subject of unfaithfulness and aggressive behaviors were not directly stated in the dialogue, these problems were displayed through Terry’s discomfort with Dane still being around and Jane wanting to protect her children from Terry’s threats of shooting Dane. All of these issues factor into their arguments with one another. Nonetheless, the couple recognizes that arguing is a problem because Terry is tired of it and Jane does not want her kids to witness anymore fights.
INTERACTIONS
Presenting Gallery:

Things okay à she blows up à they fight and argue à then make up (cycle repeats)

INTERACTIONS DIALOGUE

T2: I’m kind of curious; you mentioned the first few days were okay so how was that… How were the first few days different?
T1: Is that different in general, like have you guys been able to get along… (Terry interrupts)
TERRY: She thinks I’m just like that. Like I’ll be okay for a few days then I will slide back into it, then I will be ok for a few days. And what I think it is she’s ok with it for a little while then it becomes too much for her and then she gets pissy about it and then after awhile we’ll have a fight, we’ll argue, then we’ll make up. Then she’s okay again for a few more days. Then she’ll get tired of my shit again and then she’ll blow up, she’ll get angry she’ll fight argue then make up and its okay again for a few days. (DIALOGUE FROM PAGES 1-2)
Comments for Presenting Gallery: In this part of the conversation, the therapists are looking to elicit exceptions and strengths in the couple by asking them what is different on the days they are getting along and how they manage to do that. However, the clients show that they are not ready to move from the presenting gallery to the resource gallery when Terry offers his interpretation of their cycle of interaction within the problem.
SOLUTIONS/EXCEPTIONS

Resource Gallery:

Things were okay.

Didn’t make big deal.

Talked with no frustrations.

Chose not to have an argument.

Good mood.

No identity.

SOLUTIONS/EXCEPTIONS DIALOGUE

T1: So what’s gotten better since last week?
JANE: Well, I think it was ok at first, but then it kind of went bad towards the end of the week.
T1: Okay, can you describe what you mean? Or it was okay at first…
JANE: Yeah, I think things were okay for the first three or four days and then umm… Friday we went to my son’s game and I got a little upset with him that day and I did kind of let him know that I was upset with him because we already had plans to go to my son’s football game and he went to this body shop where he does work sometimes and was drinking. And I was a little upset because I thought…anyways, we handled that situation okay. I mean he let me say what I had to say and then he responded, but we didn’t make a big ole deal about it, but then I think… (DIALOGUE FROM PAGE 1)
T2: The days that are okay…I am kind of curious… you know like what’s different about each of you? How do you know we’re in the time that’s okay?
TERRY: We’re just not arguing. There’s no stress. I mean there’s times when I don’t even like calling her cause I’ll be just sitting there, I’ll be like man what’s she gonna be like this time.
T1: So you guys aren’t arguing and you’re not stressed so what are you doing instead on those days that you’re okay?
JANE: We’re getting along.
TERRY: Yeah, just getting along and being able to talk and not have any frustrations…
T1: And how do you guys do that… not have any frustrations and get along, even if it’s just for that day or for two or three days. How do you guys do that?
TERRY: (shrugs his shoulders)
T1: Do you have any idea Jane?
JANE: Well, I mean it’s just … (Terry interrupts)
TERRY: The only way I can put it is that just something petty usually didn’t pop up that irritated one of us. That’s basically the bottom line. (DIALOGUE FROM PAGE 2)
JANE: And then on 9-25-07 he told me I looked nice that day so I…the thing is the only thing I did was took a shower and put on a dress I didn’t have on any makeup or anything I just wore a dress and he told me he thought I look nice. And then I put on 9-27 that my oldest daughter had came over and spent the night and I put Terry I guess, and then I didn’t say anything but I just put that I guess that he felt kind of left out, but said he thought he maybe feeling a little selfish and chose not to have an argument. So I found something positive out of that too.
T1: Good. Okay.
JANE: You know cuz he…I guess that day he thought maybe it was just him feeling that way for whatever reasons he had, but he didn’t want to make a big to do about it. (DIALOGUE FROM PAGE 6)
T2: Yeah, that’s okay. What are some things you like about him?
JANE: Well, I LIKE IT WHEN HE’S IN A GOOD MOOD CUZ WE GET ALONG.
T2: How do you know he’s in a good mood?
T1: What’s he doing?
T2: Yeah, what do you see?
JANE: He’s not acting like this.
T2: What is he doing?
TERRY: See, I have no identity that’s when she gets along with me when I’m just what she expects to do exactly what she wants me to do.
T2: Is that what a good mood is to you?
JANE: No.
T2: What is it, tell us more about it.
JANE: Just when he’s happy and he wants to be happy and act happy. And it’s not always what I want to do. Half the time when we do something it’s what he wants to do. (DIALOGUE FROM PAGES 10-11)
Comments for Resource Gallery: In this dialogue, the therapists attempt to shift from the presenting gallery to the resource gallery by asking questions such as, “What’s gotten better since last week? What are you doing instead [of fighting]? What are some things you like about him?” and exploring the homework from the previous session. This type of questioning enabled the clients to describe several exception times when they were able to get along and not fight. These exception times include that things were okay for them during the first three or four days and they were able to handle a situation when they fought. Additionally, they spoke of being able to talk without having frustrations and noted a specific time when Terry chose not to have an argument. Furthermore, they were able to identify getting along when Terry is in a good mood and does not have an identity.
SUCCESSFUL/UNSUCCESSFUL SOLUTION ATTEMPTS
Resource Gallery:

Don’t argue. Just “eat it.”





SUCCESSFUL/UNSUCCESSFUL SOLUTION ATTEMPTS DIALOGUE

T2: So I’m curious, Terrance, how did you keep yourself from getting into an argument that time when you may have felt left out?
TERRY: I just keep my mouth shut and I just swallow it.
T2: And how are you able to do that?
TERRY: I just eat it. And then eventually it just comes out. It doesn’t do me any good, it doesn’t really ever do me any good.
T2: Um hum.
TERRY: So half the time I just don’t argue because it’s no win.
T2: Um hum.
TERRY: So I just eat it and, and when I get tired of enough shit I just let her have it. Cuz I can’t just talk to her about one thing.
T2: Um hum. Cuz ya’ll kind of bring up other things… (Jane nods)
TERRY: We both do. (DIALOGUE FROM PAGE 9)
Comments for Resource Gallery: The therapists in this section of the conversation try to strengthen the resource gallery by finding out how the couple has previously attempted to solve their problem of fighting, whether their attempts were successful or unsuccessful. This was done by asking Terry how he was able to prevent himself from getting into an argument. Terry expressed that the only thing that has worked in the past is keeping his “mouth shut” and “eating it” because he does not win when he argues anyway. His reply appears to be a successful solution attempt. However, Terry states that when his emotions build up from eating it, he becomes aggressive and will “let her have it,” which indicates that this technique is unsuccessful as well. This leads the therapists to search for the couple’s strengths in the next frame.
STRENGTHS
Resource Gallery:

Able to make up.

Stopped himself from shooting.

More involved with kids.

Complimented her.

Care for one another and time invested.

Sweet woman and caring.

STRENGTHS DIALOGUE

T2: I’m kind of curious; you mentioned the first few days were okay so how was that… How were the first few days different?
T1: Is that different in general, like have you guys been able to get along… (Terry interrupts)
TERRY: She thinks I’m just like that. Like I’ll be okay for a few days then I will slide back into it, then I will be ok for a few days. And what I think it is she’s ok with it for a little while then it becomes too much for her and then she gets pissy about it and then after awhile we’ll have a fight, we’ll argue, then we’ll make up. Then she’s okay again for a few more days. Then she’ll get tired of my shit again and then she’ll blow up, she’ll get angry she’ll fight argue then make up and its okay again for a few days. (DIALOGUE FROM PAGES 1-2)
TERRY: Fucker still around.
T2: How would you rather it be handled? Like how?
TERRY: I’d like to shoot him is what I’d really personally like to do!
T1: How would you realistically like to handle it?
T2: Yeah.
TERRY: That’s pretty realistic!
T2: So what’s keeping you from doing that?
TERRY: I don’t want to go back to prison.
T2: Okay so that’s not an option then?
TERRY: Well…
T2: Not one you’re willing to do?
TERRY: Yet. (DIALOGUE FROM PAGES 4-5)
T2: I was kind of about umm… noticing the times when you guys were communicating or on the right track to communicating…
T1: The way you wanted.
T2: So (turning to Jane) can you share with us what you found?
T1: (looking at Terrance) And even though you didn’t do it you can still think back upon this past week.
JANE: I wrote down that on 9-24 that he had called and I was getting ready to put the girls to bed, my two younger ones…
T2: Um hum.
JANE: And he wanted to talk to them to say goodnight and I love you. To me that was a good thing. I felt good when he was like “Oh, can I talk to them?” and I was like “sure” I mean I love that. I want him to be a part of their lives.
T2: Um hum.
JANE: And then on 9-25-07 he told me I looked nice that day so I…the thing is the only thing I did was took a shower and put on a dress I didn’t have on any makeup or anything I just wore a dress and he told me he thought I look nice. (DIALOGUE FROM PAGES 5-6)
T2: So what’s kind of keeping you guys together and keeping you guys coming here?
TERRY: I’ve got no freakin’ clue.
T2: There has to be something as far as investing your time in coming in to see us. There’s got to be something you want to hold onto…
T1: If you had a clue what would it be?
TERRY: Well, we do care about each other quite a bit if not love each other. I don’t know this is a scary kind of love if this is love. But there’s a lot of time invested in this we’ve got almost six years.
T1: Um hum.
T2: That is a long time to stay together. (DIALOGUE FROM PAGE 9)
T2: So what are some things you like about Jane?
TERRY: She’s a sweet woman, she is caring, but…I don’t want to get onto the “but” thing… (DIALOGUE FROM PAGE 10)
Comments for Resource Gallery: Within this frame, I assembled all of the clients’ statements which provided evidence of their individual strengths and their strengths as a couple. The therapists’ questioning assisted the couple in identifying strengths such as being able to make up from arguments, care for one another, and recognize how much time they have invested in their relationship. Individually, Terry was able to reason that shooting Dane would have legal consequences. Also, Jane believes that Terry’s strengths are complimenting her on her appearance and wanting to be more involved with her children by talking with them on the phone at night. Lastly, Terry states that being a sweet and caring woman are Jane’ greatest strengths. The rationale behind eliciting these strengths is to help the couple switch from problem talk to solution talk so that they can recognize what is going right in their relationship.
GOAL
Therapeutic Gallery:
Better communication.

More trust.

No more fights in front of kids

Tired of arguing.

GOAL DIALOGUE
T2: Were you uncomfortable with him coming and hanging out with ya’ll outside or?
TERRY: And…
JANE: Knowing that Dane was going to come by and pick up Heather yes I was because this is not the first time he’s says that he wanted to kill the guy and I don’t want anymore yelling and screaming and threatening and fighting going on in front of my kids anymore or me I mean I don’t like that and… (DIALOGUE FROM PAGE 7)
TERRY: And you know I MEAN I DON’T WANT TO THROW IT AWAY, BUT I’m not going to sit here and fight. She’s the one who broke up with me and I said that was fine.
T2: Um hum.
TERRY: You know, I mean I’m tired of all this arguing. I’m tired of fighting. You know that one week I had off and we weren’t really together arguing and fighting. You know I really didn’t drink that whole week. I drank a little bit, but I didn’t drink much. It seems like as soon as I got back with you I started drinking again because I never know what the fuck to expect from you. (DIALOGUE FROM PAGE 10)
Comments for Therapeutic Gallery: Even though better communication and more trust were not stated in this dialogue, I added these topics within the goal frame in the therapeutic gallery because these were the clients’ stated goal on the intake form. Jane’ goal of better communication meant that Terry could talk to her without yelling or cursing. Terry’s goal was to have more trust in Jane so that he knew she would not cheat on him again. Within this dialogue, the couple explicitly states that their main goal is to stop the fighting and arguing between them, especially while in front of her children.
FRAMES & REFRAMES

Therapeutic Gallery:

Time not good reason to stay in relationship.

Reduce fighting, then no communication.

Fighting is how they communicate.

Go with the fighting.

Not done fighting, still a lot of hurt there.

FRAMES & REFRAMES DIALOGUE

T2: I want to say that I just want to be real transparent with ya’ll. The reason I wanted to take the break so early in the session is because… well, I don’t know how Anthony was feeling, but I felt like I was just at a loss on how I could be helpful to the both of you.
T1: I did feel that way.
T2: I mean no matter what we’ve done in here, both of your voices have still been raised and past issues are constantly being brought back up. My hope of taking the break early was that the team could give us some ideas and…they weren’t really helpful. Something you guys said that was keeping you together was your time of six years with one another, and one of the team members back there said, “Well, is time really a good reason to stay together?” (looks at Anthony)
T1: One of the other things the team mentioned is that we’re kind of afraid to help you guys reduce the fighting because if we do that, then you guys wouldn’t communicate at all.
JANE: Well, I think we would still communicate…
T1: Yes, but fighting is a form of communication and it seems to help you guys express yourselves to one another. Fighting is what you guys are good at… I mean you guys even argued about the homework.
TERRY and JANE: (simultaneously) We didn’t argue about the homework!
TERRY: We were just a little confused about it.
T1: Okay. Well, because fighting seems to be how you guys communicate with one another, we were thinking that what we need for you to do is NOT to fight less, but to fight more. (Both laugh) (DIALOGUE FROM PAGES 11-12)
SUPERVISOR: Hi, my name’s Bernadette. I’m with the team. Some of the thinking behind suggesting this assignment is that we need to gather more information about how you guys fight. We’ve been trying to go against the fighting and it hasn’t worked so let’s try and go with the fighting. The other thing is that you guys have been constantly bringing up all these past issues so we don’t think you’re done fighting yet because there’s still a lot of hurt there. (DIALOGUE FROM PAGE 13)
Comments for Therapeutic Gallery: In this section of the dialogue, the therapists attempt to offer the clients a different perspective on their problem of fighting through the use of reframing. We reframed their arguments as an asset in their relationship in that it allows them to express their hurt feelings and communicate with one another. We strategically utilized this technique in order to set up the rationale for the homework assignment, which was given in the following dialogue of the therapeutic gallery.
INTERVENTION/HOMEWORK
Therapeutic Gallery:

Prescribe the problem – schedule the fights.

Homework must have guidelines.

INTERVENTION/HOMEWORK DIALOGUE

T1: We just need to make the fighting a little bit healthier. So the team was thinking that we should have you schedule your fights for like four times a day with each fight being 30 minutes…so a total of 2 hours everyday.
T2: Yeah. Where do you guys fight normally? Is it in person usually?
JANE: It ranges all over actually. Sometimes it’s in person, sometimes it’s over the phone.
TERRY: Sometimes we fight in the car.
T1: Where have ya’ll never fought before?
TERRY: In church (reaches for Jane’ hand). We’ve never fought in church (both laugh again).
JANE: My only concern is that I do not want to fight in front of my children.
T1: Yeah, and that is one of the things the team talked about as well is that if we decide to do this there needs to be some guidelines. There would be no violence.
T2: And no fighting in front of the kids.
JANE: (Takes out red notebook to right down the homework assignment as well as the guidelines).
T2: So could you guys schedule your fights in the car so that they wouldn’t be in front of the kids?
TERRY: Well, you see. My concern is that…shit we can’t even find time to hang out with one another so how are we going to find the time to schedule our fights.
T2: We’ll why don’t we do it to where you guys fight however you can. If you can fight it in the car then do it there. If you can’t and fighting over the phone is the only option then Jane, you could stand out on the porch at your house when you’re fighting so that way the kids don’t hear it. Does that sound like you could do that?
JANE: Yeah.
(Knock on the door – Supervisor enters)
SUPERVISOR: Hi, my name’s Bernadette. I’m with the team. Some of the thinking behind suggesting this assignment is that we need to gather more information about how you guys fight. We’ve been trying to go against the fighting and it hasn’t worked so let’s try and go with the fighting. The other thing is that you guys have been constantly bringing up all these past issues so we don’t think you’re done fighting yet because there’s still a lot of hurt there.
TERRY: She’s not the only one that’s hurt here. I’m hurt too.
SUPERVISOR: Oh, I’m sorry I wasn’t implying that she was the only one that was hurt. I wasn’t trying to say that at all. I know both of you are very hurt from all this.
TERRY: Okay. Well, then my question is if we do schedule the fighting for 30 minutes, what happens if… well, you know sometimes the fighting is going to last longer than 30 minutes. What do we do then?
SUPERVISOR: (looks at the co-therapists) Well, what do you think, Anthony?
T1: I think we should stick to what we have.
SUPERVISOR: You’re right. If the 30 minutes is up, then time’s up. You gotta save it for the next 30 minute fight. Okay? And again, I wanted to reiterate the guidelines…
JANE: (reading from her notebook) No violence, no fighting in front of the kids. And you want us to fight for…
T1: Four times a day with each fight being 30 minutes.
SUPERVISOR: Okay. Well, I’m going to leave. I just wanted to help clarify the homework for you guys in that if you schedule the fights and you don’t fight then that’s great. We’ll explore how that happened next time, but if you guys do fight, then it’s not a total loss because it gives us more information on how you fight (Supervisor exits).
(Brief silence as Supervisor exits)
T2: So, does that sound doable?
TERRY: Yeah…well, I have another question. Can we put the four 30 minute fights back to back?
T1: Well, you could but then that would mean you could only fight just one time in that day.
TERRY: But we would have two hours in a row though, right?
T1: Well, however you guys want to do it. Whether you want to put it back to back or if you want to spread it out into four separate times…we’ll let you guys decide how to do it. Okay?
TERRY and JANE: (Both nod their heads).
T1: Well, let’s go out and schedule you an appointment for next week. (Everyone exits)
(DIALOGUE FROM PAGES 12-14)
Comments for Therapeutic Gallery: Throughout the resource gallery, the clients were reluctant to accept the strengths and exceptions that were elicited, as evidenced by their constant return to problem talk. The couple put forth great efforts into finding solutions to resolve the fighting. These same unsuccessful solution attempts were repeatedly used by the couple and even by the therapists during the session. According to solution-focused therapy, if a solution attempt is not working, then do something different. This solution-focused principle was the thinking behind prescribing the couple to schedule their fights so that it would change the context of the doing of their fighting. It must be noted that if the therapists did not properly reframe their fighting first, then the homework assignment would not have made sense to the couple and may even be viewed as inappropriate. Lastly, the therapists were aware that assigning this task could put the couple in danger due to past incidents of aggressive behaviors. We took precautions by making sure that there were guidelines for this homework such as no violence and no fighting in front of the kids.















Graphic Summary of Analysis

Presenting Gallery:


DOING OF THE PROBLEM:

-“He…was drinking.”

- “You were sitting there screaming at me…”

- Could not agree on the homework.

- “You bail out on them (plans).”



-

PROBLEM/NOT PROBLEM:

- She was unfaithful to him.

- He yells, curses, and is aggressive towards her.

-“He’s (Dane) not fuckin’ gone. Fucker is still around.”

-“…I don’t want anymore yelling and screaming…and fighting going on in front of my kids…I don’t like that…”

-“…I’m tired of all this arguing. I’m tired of fighting.”

VIEWING OF THE PROBLEM:

- “Something petty usually didn’t pop up…”

- “I don’t like him (Dane) comin’ over there, that will start an argument…”

- “…hasn’t still told me the truth yet.”

- “It (when Dane drops off Jane’ daughter) just pisses me off.”

-“I never know what the fuck to expect from you.”

INTERACTION:

- “We’ll have a fight, we’ll argue, then we’ll make up. Then she’s okay again for a few more days.”









































Resource Gallery:


SOLUTION/
EXCEPTIONS:

-“…things were okay for the first three or four days…”

-“…handled that situation…we didn’t make a big ole deal about it…”

-“…just getting along and being able to talk and not have any frustrations…”

-“…he thought he may be feeling a little selfish and chose not to have an argument.”

-“I like it when he’s in a good mood cuz we get along.”

-“I have no identity that’s when she gets along with me.”

SUCCESSFUL/
UNSUCCESSFUL SOLUTION ATTEMPTS:

-“…half the time I just don’t argue because it’s no win. So I just eat it…”

STRENGTHS:

-“…we’ll make up.”

-Prevents himself from shooting Dane because he does not “want to go back to prison.”

-“He wanted to talk to them to say goodnight and I love you.”

-“He thought I look nice.”

-“We do care about each other quite a bit. There’s a lot time invested in this…”

-“She’s a sweet woman, she is caring…”












































Therapeutic Gallery:



GOAL:

-She wants better communication (Goal from initial intake from).

-He wants more trust (Goal from initial intake form).

-“…I don’t want anymore…fighting in front of my kids.”

-“I’m tired of fighting.”

FRAMES & REFRAMES:

-“Well, is time really a good reason to stay together?”

-“…we’re kind of afraid to help you guys reduce the fighting because if we do that, then you guys wouldn’t communicate at all.”

-“...fighting seems to help you guys communicate with one another…”

- “…so let’s try and go with the fighting.”

- “…we don’t think you’re done fighting yet because there’s still a lot of hurt there.”

INTERVENTION/
HOMEWORK:

- Prescribe the problem – “schedule your fights for like four times a day with each fight being 30 minutes...”

  • Guidelines – no violence, no fighting in front of the kids, must stop fighting when time is up











































References

Berg, I. K., & Miller, S. D. (1995a). The miracle method: A radically new approach to problem
drinking. New York: Norton.
Berg, I. K., & Miller, S. D. (1995b). Working with the problem drinker. New York: Norton.
Berg, I. K., & Shafer, K. C. (2004). Working with mandated substance abusers: Language of solutions. In S. Straussner (Ed.), Clinical work with substance abusing clients (2nd ed., pp. 82-102). New York: Guilford Press.
Bertolino, B., & O’Hanlon, B. (2002). Collaborative, competency-based counseling and therapy.
Needham Heights, MA: Allyn & Bacon.
DeJong, P., & Berg, I. K. (2001). Co-constructing cooperation with mandated clients.
Social Work, 46, 361-374.
De Jong, P., & Berg, I. K. (2002). Interviewing for solutions (2nd Ed.). Pacific Grove, CA:

Brooks/Cole.

de Shazer, S. (1985). Keys to solution in brief therapy. New York: Norton.
de Shazer, S. (1988). Clues: Investigating solutions in brief therapy. New York: Norton.
de Shazer, S., Berg, I. K., Lipchick, E., Nunnally, E., Molnar, A., Gingerich, W., & Weiner-
Davis, M. (1986). Brief therapy: Focused solution development. Family Process, 25, 207-221.
Lipchik, E. (2002). Beyond technique in solution-focused therapy. New York: Guildford Press.
O’Hanlon, W. H., & Weiner-Davis, M. (1989). In search of solutions: A new direction in
psychotherapy. New York: Norton.
Walter, J. L., & Peller, J. E. (1992). Becoming solution-focused in brief therapy. New
York: Brunner/Mazel.