“Stay present.” “One day at a time.” “Be here now.” “Focus on today, tomorrow will take are of itself” When these phrases are used to comfort, they may help shift someone’s mood for a moment or two. But more often than not, they don’t inform or instruct. Future focused methods use clients’ desired future (and often the past) to inform them about what to do next.
Here’s an example: “What’s the next step you’ll take to get the interview for the job you say you want?” If the response is “I have no idea,” your next question can be “Can you remember a recent time when you had no idea about what to do, and then somehow came up with something?” This encourages them to look at their past strengths to consider what to do right now.
Start slow. Solution focused interventions do not come easy when clients are expressing their genuine suffering. Use all your basic skills of reflecting, paraphrasing, empathizing and labeling feelings. Then, give yourself the task of adding one future focused comment or question in each session.
This week, use one future focused intervention. The easiest is “What do you plan on doing right after you leave this office?” Follow it up with “What are you looking forward to when (or after) you do that.” It may not be a deep therapeutic question, but it’s a way of steering your client toward what’s up next.