Solution Focused Brief Therapy Association

fostering the growth of solution focused practices

Yvonne Dolan's Article

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Insoo was very passionate about her work and did not seem to mind talking about BFTC over dinner even after spending one of her typical long days at the clinic. I remember on that first visit noting that she left the house an hour before any one else was up every morning except Sunday and spent an hour or more reviewing case session videos at BFTC before any one else arrived. Steve, too was an early riser, but not as early as Insoo. (It would be another 15 years before I would manage to be the first one up to make the coffee during a visit to their place or mine.)

Eve Lipchik was working closely with Insoo and Steve at that time, and I really enjoyed observing several of her sessions. She was (still is, no doubt) a brilliant clinician. I remember being very impressed by her intellect as well as by the very warm, gentle way she interacted with clients and colleagues and also the very precise way she had of using language during her sessions.

There was a lot of therapy going on at BFTC those days. Often 2 or more sessions were going on simultaneously, and there was one or more team members observing each session. For me, observing live sessions from behind the mirror at BFTC was a revelatory experience. I felt that I had finally “come home” to a therapeutic approach and culture that embodied my core beliefs about the nature of therapeutic change, the significance of demonstrating respect as well as empathy to both clients and colleagues, and the necessity of making the approach fit the client’s needs rather than vice versa.

I was quite taken aback however when on the second day of our visit, Insoo firmly told us that our observation period was over and we were now expected to be active team members. We both did our best, and apparently Steve and Insoo thought we did okay because they afterward invited us to come back to BFTC whenever we were able and also kindly offered to come and sit behind the mirror on the Brief Therapy team we were planning to start in Denver.

We subsequently returned home and started a team[1] based in large part on what we had learned that week at BFTC. Steve and Insoo often visited our team in Denver, and we became close. They visited several times a year and always spent at least one afternoon or evening with our team behind the mirror; the team subsequently became the Solution Group, and it continues to this day. [2] In a tradition that lasted right up until their respective deaths, Insoo, Steve, and I talked about the approach while taking daily walks, sharing a meal, and continued on while Steve and I helped each other cook, and while Insoo and I did the dishes. Steve and I exchanged many emails over the years, but the longer ones were usually about cooking rather than therapy.

Although Steve and Insoo refused to let us pay for their consultation, we did our best to reciprocate by sponsoring several workshops for them. These events along with visits to BFTC, and later assisting with their trainings at (since 1993) afforded me with a lot of invaluable “hands-on” training and ongoing experience in the evolution of Solution-Focused Brief Therapy.

The atmosphere at BFTC back in the 1980’s was very special; unlike anything I have witnessed any where else. In addition to Steve, Insoo, and Eve, I remember meeting other members of their “team” during this and other visits including Kate Kowalski, Michele Weiner-Davis, Wally Gingerich, Gale Miller, Elam Nunnally, Jim Kral, and much later, Larry Hopwood. Jane Peller and John Walters were also frequent visitors in later years. I had met Scott Miller in the early 1990’s just prior to his 3 years at BFTC.

As the years went by, more and more people came to BFTC from all over the world, and I met many wonderful colleagues there, some of whom include many of the others Founders of the SFBTA. In retrospect, I would say that every person I ever met at BFTC was highly intelligent and shared some common goals. People who came there typically were motivated to discover what questions or behaviors resulted in positive therapeutic changes, wanted to work in a precise yet respectful manner, and were passionately invested in learning to do therapy well. Perhaps this was why they were willing to do the hard work involved in learning a highly disciplined, subtle approach as SFBT. (Oddly, I never met anyone at BFTC who said that their primary goal was shortening the duration of therapy. Although very appealing to managed care companies, for most SF practitioners I have known, the brevity of treatment associated with the approach is typically viewed as an interesting effect of the approach but not as an end in itself. )