Best hopes – whatever that means: working with young adolescents in solution-focused brief therapy. (2020)
Type of ContentTheses / Dissertations
Degree NameMaster of Counselling
PublisherUniversity of Canterbury
AuthorsGriffiths, Judeshow all
Young adolescents are experiencing high rates of mental health issues worldwide (World Health Organization, 2019). In Aotearoa New Zealand, counselling in a school setting is available to support the young adolescents who may need it. In counselling, it is considered useful for the counsellor to help the client establish the client’s goals for therapy, what it is they want from being there (Childers, 1987; Jones-Smith, 2012). To date, there have been few studies that investigate establishing goals when the client is a young adolescent. This qualitative research explores how young adolescents in an Aotearoa New Zealand intermediate school responded to the use of a particular solution-focused brief therapy (SFBT) goal-setting technique.
SFBT is a collaborative, future-focused approach that encourages people’s agency in counselling so that they can recognise their own authority of their experiences. In SFBT, goal-setting is considered to play an important role in helping clients identify what it is they would like different in their life. This process often begins with “What are your Best Hopes from being here?”. In this research, I investigate how goals are co-constructed with young adolescents in counselling using the Best Hopes question. I also explore how asking the Best Hopes question might be useful to young adolescent clients, and how I, as a SFBT counsellor, could ask young adolescent clients the Best Hopes question in a way that would be helpful to them.
The goal-setting conversations in three counselling sessions of four young adolescent students (all aged 11 years) were recorded, transcribed and, together with my professional notes and my own reflexive journal, examined using thematic analysis. Data were coded and four themes were generated: (1) When all goes well - responses to a Best Hopes question when expectations of therapy are the same; (2) When expectations differ – responses to a Best Hopes question when expectations of therapy are different; (3) Different perspectives can help; and (4) The client is the expert. The key findings include: that goals are co-constructed with young adolescents within a collaborative and a therapeutic relationship; that using SFBT skills, assumptions and techniques when goal-setting with young adolescents in counselling can be helpful in creating a shared understanding between the client and the counsellor of the young adolescent client’s expectations for therapy; and that SFBT assumptions (such as, taking a not-knowing stance and regarding the young adolescent client as expert of their life experiences when goal-setting) help young adolescents reflect on what they would like different in their life and encourage ongoing engagement in positive and hopeful conversations.
This study extends the limited existing research on asking young adolescent clients about their Best Hopes. Overall, this study highlights the usefulness of taking a solution-focused stance when goal- setting with young adolescents using the Best Hopes question. It also demonstrates the value of practice-based research for counselling practitioners and offers suggestions for counsellors who are using the solution-focused approach with young adolescents.