The Miracle Question

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The Miracle Question

Many clients come to counseling looking for a miracle.
Solution Focused Therapy.

Solution Focused Therapy emerged in the 1980's as an branch of the systems therapies. A married couple from Milwaukee, Steve de Shazer and Insoo Kim Berg are credited with the name and basic practice of SFT. The theory focuses not on the past, but on what the client wants to achieve today. By making conscious all the ways the client is creating their ideal future and encouraging forward progress, clinicians point clients toward their goals rather than the problems that drove them to counseling.

The Miracle Question fits perfectly with this model. Imagining an ideal future and connecting it to the present immediately actualizes the work. Clients are challenged to look past their obstacles and hopelessness and focus on the possibilities.

1. When to use the Miracle Question?

The Miracle Question is a goal setting question that is useful when a client simply does not know what a preferred future would look like. It can be used with individuals to set the course for counselling, with couples, to clarify what each person needs from each other and with families, who too often see one person as the culprit. By using the Miracle Question and asking each person what a better life would look like, the system sees perhaps for the first time, what others need from each other.

2. What does it look like?

"Suppose tonight, while you slept, a miracle occurred. When you awake tomorrow, what would be some of the things you would notice that would tell you life had suddenly gotten better?"

The counselor stays with the question even if the client describes an "impossible" solution, such as a deceased person being alive, and acknowledges that wish and then asks "how would that make a difference in your life?" Then as the client describes that he/she might feel as if they have their companion back, again, the counselor asks "how would that make a difference?" With that, the client may say, "I would have someone to confide in and support me." From there, the counselor would ask the client to think of others in the client's life who could begin to be a confidant in a very small manner.

3. How does it help the client?

It catapults the client from a problem saturated context into a visionary context where he/she has a moment of freedom, to step out of the problem story and into a story where they are more problem free. But, more importantly, it helps the counselor to know exactly what the client wants from counseling...and this is what makes Solution Focused Therapy so efficient and brief.

The Empty Chair

Counseling with furniture
Gestalt counselling

The term gestalt refers to a whole that is greater than the sum of its parts. Gestalt counseling, formulated by Fritz Perls (1893-1970) is based on the idea of a whole being as connected with their environment, loved ones and memories. Counseling works toward creating full awareness of the here and now, both within the client and between client and counselor. The empty chair is one of many interactive techniques used to help engage the client's feelings, thoughts and behaviors.

The empty chair has had quite a tongue-lashing over the years. Clients have given a piece of their mind to innumerable spouses, bosses, best friends and dead relatives thanks to this simple tool. But the chair is none the worse for wear, and millions of people have a greater understanding of feelings and communication as a result.

1. When to use the empty chair technique?

The empty chair technique is characteristic of some styles of gestalt counseling. It is often effective at facilitating clients' integration of different aspects or "disowned parts" of their personality in order to further counseling insight. It is one of a variety of interventions that help people move from talking about something towards the fullness of immediate, present experience - sensation, affect,...
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