Focus on strengths and solution-talk to figure out your goals.   There are exceptions to every problem.  Every individual is unique, so too is every solution.

These are the assumptions of a solution-focused approach which I practice whether it is in my work at GoalFriends, or when I was treating patients full-time.  I feel compelled to share about this in light of World Mental Health Day since this year’s theme centers on youth, a population I am passionate about.  I embrace the solution-focused perspective because it is goal-oriented and emphasizes resilience, strengths, and skills to empower one toward positive change in her life.  Perhaps, you can understand why I believe so strongly in the GoalFriends vision and our transformative tribe because this aligns so perfectly!

Therapy calling.

Many of you know that I’m a licensed psychotherapist, but perhaps you don’t know that it was a calling I received after I had gone through business school and was working in marketing.  It came to me at 2 am one morning after years of feeling dissatisfied with a business career and wanting to do more and make a powerful impact with people.  Raising four young children, attending grad school (again), plus a clinical internship was grueling.  However, I thrived each step of the way because I knew this was what I was meant to do, and I was good at it, specifically in treating adolescents ages 12-18.  My therapy work centered on solution-focused techniques which I strive to practice daily in my work at GoalFriends.  I identify with the model because it is goal-oriented, pro-active, and teaches us to always look at life with the glass half full.  Being a therapist is actually what led me to GoalFriends since that’s how I met Ambassador Dr. Shannon Scholl who told me about it in the first place!  The rest, as you know, is history.

What does it mean to be solution-focused?

Magnify your strengths and skills.

It’s about mobilizing your own resources and doing MORE of what is already working in your life. This technique is so effective, especially in dealing with today’s youth because they tend to focus on the negative parts of their lives and their peers.  It’s in our nature to overlook or minimize and discount the positive changes in our lives.  The art of being solution-focused is to discover whatever you are ALREADY doing that’s been working for you and utilize this very thing as a SOLUTION to resolving the issue at hand.  Basically, “if it isn’t broke, don’t fix it.”

Find exceptions to the problem.

Ask yourself strategic and targeted questions to identify the exceptions to the problems you’re struggling with.  Some key questions include, “how would things look differently if all my problems were solved?”  “When was the last time I felt I had a better day?  Or, “how did I learn to deal with that situation?”  The answers to these questions can then be turned into long-term and short-term goals.  Again, being solution-focused explores the times when the problem doesn’t appear to be present.  Then, whatever that is, do more of it as often as possible because it has already proven effective.

Every individual is unique and so is every solution.

We tend to get stuck seeing one side of a problem, even though there are different views to a problem, believe it or not.  This means there are different solutions as well.  This concept is particularly important since there cannot be only “one way” to do something because everyone is different.  In a solution-focused approach, there is no “my way or the highway.”  Also, this perspective assumes that we are the EXPERTS in our own lives and are perfectly capable to facilitate change when we need to.

World Mental Health Day.

I’m sharing all this in honor of World Mental Health Day.  The purpose of this day is to change stigma and raise mental health awareness. I’m especially glad this year’s theme is to help young people build mental resilience to cope with today’s world, especially in prevention and awareness.  Currently, there’s also a powerful movement in this field for parity which is treating behavioral health (mental health and substance use) the SAME as physical health and illnesses.

I believe being solution-focused INSTILLS HOPE, teaching us to find value in ourselves.  This approach builds on our strengths and skills, enhances positive emotion, and allows us to understand that we have ALL the necessary resources to act on our own behalf.  GoalFriends, let’s be solution-focused and not problem-focused, the latter is easier than the former, so it takes practice!  This is about constantly bringing your B.R.A.G. to the forefront so you can transform into the best version of yourself.

By: Jeanie Y. Chang, LMFT, CCTP – GoalFriend since 2017

Chief Operating Officer, GoalFriends