The miracle of the miracle question : how a novice counsellor uses the solution-focused miracle question with secondary school students.
Degree GrantorUniversity of Canterbury
Degree NameMaster of Counselling
This is a study of the use of the therapeutic counselling technique known as the Miracle Question. The miracle question is a central tenet of the solution-focused brief therapy (SFBT) counselling modality. Solution-focused brief therapy is a future-facing counselling approach that is based on the philosophy and principles of social constructionism. As proponents of a post-modern epistemology social constructionism argues subjective reality is constructed when people communicate and that this happens on a continuous basis (Tuffin, 2005). As the name implies, SFBT has a focus on what the client would like to have more of occurring in his or her life rather than a focus on an analysis of the problems that brought them to therapy.
It was the centrality of the miracle question to SFBT that underpinned my original aim and research rationale. The aim of this study was to explore students’ experiences of, and responses to, the miracle question in counselling in a co-educational secondary school. This was facilitated by exploring how I, as counsellor, and my student client worked together to co-construct a preferred future for the student client.
All the schools’ senior students were e-mailed an invitation to participate in a recorded one-off counselling interview that would entail the asking of the miracle question. The students would be able to talk about anything that they thought would be useful to discuss. One-off counselling sessions were subsequently recorded with twelve students. Four of these recordings satisfied research and data parameters. The segments of each of these four sessions that contained the miracle question sequence were then transcribed and analysed from an interpretive perspective using a qualitative research methodology. Conversation analysis techniques were used to explore how the miracle question works to enable the co-construction of a client’s preferred future.
Through the lens of conversation analysis the richness of the data became sharply focused and I was able to recognise different constructive patterns of language created within the conversation between counsellor and client. For example, future focused and problem free language patterns emerged that sometimes also included descriptions of historical problem free instances. These patterns enabled the client to create new ways of thinking for themselves that privileged a reality without the troubling issue or problem that was bought to counselling. The key finding in my research was that asking the miracle question can be modelled as a three part process of co-construction, de-construction and co-(re)construction. Although the therapeutic usefulness of co-constructive and de-constructive language is well supported in the academic literature, the conceptualisation of the miracle question as a three part process is new.