297) The 2008 Conference on Solution-focused Practices

November 15, 2008

Preface: Since last Saturday I've been too busy to post: Solution-focused Brief Therapy (SFBT) Workshop for Austin School District's Social Workers on Monday; SFBT Crisis Intervention training and Cultural Competency TA for LifeWorks on Tuesday; co-facilitating the STAR Provider meeting and a facilitating a short workshop on SF Conversations with Youth at the PEI Statewide Conference on Wednesday; and ending up the week with participating on a panel discussion on EBP's and SFBT on Thursday and a presenting a short workshop on Crisis Intervention with SFBT on Friday! This is a much busier week (preparing for and delivering 7 things) than I usually plan for myself now that I am on dialysis... yet all these things just came together in the same week... and I basically had to do them all and do my best to make them useful to the participants.

Even though I had all these activities going on, I was absolutely thrilled to be able to attend
(and present at) at my first Conference on Solution-Focused Practices!* This is the 6th Edition of this conference and I was able to attend because it is in Austin and sponsored by the UT School of Social Work and produced by the SFBTA and Liz's office of Professional Development (making Lizzie a bit crazy for the last week). This year the conference had a real international flavor, bringing folks from England, the Netherlands, Denmark, Canada, Japan, and New Mexico! Let me tell you, I was really extremely nervous to be around all the folks who have written the books and carried on with Insoo and Steve's work and I must've worked over fifty times how I was gonna present my usual 6-hour Empowering Youth & Families in Crisis workshop** in 1 and half hours to this audience of high-powered, famous exemplars of SFBT!

Mostly I was worried in my head about presenting a defined theory of behavior as being connected to the a-theoretical, social constructionist paradigm we call the solution-focused process. I fretted that these
mighty epitomes of SFBT might argue against the idea that I am suggesting connecting this practice approach to a formalist psychological theory and they might actually refute my ideas as nonsensical and counterintuitive. Although this nagging thought had germinated early on and I had constructed my multi-framing of the material carefully, I became more concerned (like fixated) after sitting in Bob Bertolino's*** philosophically oriented workshop on SolutioNation: Next Generation of SFBT.

So, I review my copied materials, the way they are described in the program, and decide to (1) frame the theory part as "a sympathetic metaphor for externalizing the problem", and (2) present the material inside the frame (box) of describing how we teach [using a
(3) SF process] counselors in community-based youth and family STAR programs to utilize SFBT in working with clients in crisis. Since my participants usually have the belief that knowing more 'facts' about crisis helps them work with folks, we give them the Slaikeu theory and then dovetail it with SFBT. This frame leads to (4) sampling some of the exercises we use (ala adult education) and giving a brief overview of the important elements of crisis that lend themselves to SFBT: coping, re-establishing equilibrium, and listening to the client's story and their beliefs about how change happens.

Well, that is all fine and dandy, and within a few minutes in my workshop I realize that the participants, in describing their "challenges" in using SFBT with Crisis, are bringing up specific client situations, like "suicide", "homelessness", and such... indicating to me that they really want more of the type of presentation I do with counselors! So, here I am juggling telling the story of our educating practitioners, describing the link between crisis theory and SFBT practice, and teaching some about crisis, while sticking in the participant activity I wanted to do... and rushing through it all in 1.75 hours!

While processing it in the empty and hushed room afterwards I write: "too scattered, frenetic. One woman wanted to case staff a homeless suicidal person and I didn't want to go there. Reviewed important stuff about crisis - coping, restoring equilibrium, starting with what client wants, etc. Laura Judd was helpful playing Vanna. Was great having Millie (one of the original state monitors of the STAR program) there for historical anchor. I'm glad it is over... and now... I wonder where the bar is?"

Shayna and I head out to the fields for her early soccer game, while Liz heads up to the conference. Shayna's Kick Kats beat the Bobcats 2 to 1 in an interesting windfest... the winds are from the north at about 35 mph and bring a 40 degree chill across the field and we have the wind at our back! We can score from midfield... and of course, given nature's boost, the girls all try to dribble in to 5 feet to shoot. No score. Second half we score into the wind twice and the other cats actually use the wind to score one. Shayna plays best I've seen this season! We go for breakfast tacos and I take her home and zoom over to catch the second workshop at the conference.

Sit in on Joel Simon's**** workshop, When the Client Doesn't Follow the Script, and am knocked out by it! The information is good, his humor and facilitation okay, the videos fairly well produced. What is fabulous is the process he uses to bring everyone into the conversation and his non-threateningly directed activities that utilize modeling AND practice in a way that is PERFECT from my perspective! I write on my evaluation, and tell him personally that I intend to take this lock, stock, and barrel and use it in my trainings. He replies, "just give me the credit" and I promise to do so. For me, this is the highlight of the whole thing, workshop wise.

After this workshop there is an hour and a half break until the final plenary: Liz and I drift downstairs to the leather-couched computer/TV room to relax watch the Longhorns play Kansas on the largest TV I have ever seen (probably 50 feet wide, it seems). Millie from Seguin comes in so we spend time catching up with her.

The closing keynote, The Next Question, facilitated by Evan George and Chris Iveson***** is a continuation of their beginning keynote. In this continuation they start by having the whole conference audience split into pairs and share with each other what we have learned so far... then pick two others and share with them our sharings. I am sitting behind two women from the Austin Cancer Society (Kim and Sharon) and pick one of them. Stephen Langer*****, who was on the panel with me and Theresa on Thursday, is behind me so he come up a row to choose the other woman and complete our foursome.

Well... then Chris the Presenter calls my partner, Kim, up to be the "client" in this activity so we end up with a threesome, which works just fine. In this exercise, Chris interacts with Kim (the "client") and Evan instructs us to think up dialogic response questions to use next in Chris' conversation with Kim. Then we discuss our questions in our little group and hallucinate which directions the conversation might take if we ask our questions. Then Evan asks for a few of us to share our responses (like a reflecting team) and Chris selects one to carry on the conversation with Kim. This is another wonderful example of how to teach and consider SF questioning. It provides an opportunity to converse about various questions to use and to get others' views as well. Our threesome finds (in my view) that there is usually a two-person slant to our created questions; sometimes Stephen and Sharon agreeing, sometimes Sharon and me, etc. We find that we usually are thinking about cognitive (thought or meaning) or emotional (kinesthetic or feeling) slants in either a "jumping forward to solution" way or an "expanding the present" vein... it is very helpful to me to discuss these differences with our threesome. I always learn a lot in these kinds of activities and am happy as a lark when walking out for the break.

Unfortunately I have to go to dialysis right after the break... I finagle a copy of the Brits' book from Susan at the B
ook Woman stand and ask Chris and Evan to sign it and head out with a head full of ideas and thoughts and even some feelings(!). What a fabulous morning!

El Milagro: I arrive 15 minutes late after my agreed upon time (3 pm) because I just couldn't tear myself away from the conference before the 3 o'clock break. I am being directed to a chair by a smiling Amanda the Tech and I am smiling too, and she says something like, "you seem to be in a good mood..." to which I reply, "wonderful conference and Shayna winning her game this morning..." and describe the conference briefly [:)] while she sets up my machine, Connie the Nurse does my nursing eval and catches me up on the final UT-Kansas score (WE WON!), and James the Nurse takes my temp. I am set up, hooked up, and before I know it I am sitting back, thinking over my experiences of the last few days, reading my notes, and writing on this post.

I write in the stream of consciousness way of brain dumping --> very exciting conference! 1) Lots of ideas taking me back to the spirit of SFBT. 2) Lots of ideas about making my workshops more experiential and SF'd. 3) Lots of new people met, like
Sara, Laura, Stephen, Chris, Dvorah (discussed News of a Difference...Hans), Lance, Kim and Sharon, Jeff, and Monica. 4) Lots of old friends and acquaintances seen, like Millie, Susan, Peter, Frank, Yvonne, Keith, my students, Renee, and the folks from LifeWorks' residential services. Met Jeff Chang****** and describe briefly the idea I have for the chapter, writing about using spatial time line ideas with youth (with Leslie) and tell him we are getting together after the semester to begin work. Apprehension about my workshop and discussing it briefly with Lance Taylor******* and laugh to myself because now, a day later, it seems my brain knots about it were just my anxiety about considering myself a small fry jumping in the big pond with the big fish... yikes... that was scary! I get over my anxieties as I meet and converse with folks and receive some positive feedback from people in the workshop, including the woman who seemed to want the case staffing. We ate dinner together and she and her colleagues from Boulder were some fun... talking about visiting Allen Boots for boots and me telling them Cavender's is cheaper. Anyway, she also said that she did get some ideas out of my workshop and that she was just talking about a recent client she had that was homeless and suicidal and it was helpful to think about how he is coping in the present... in other words, what got him there to talk to her... so, that too made me feel better...

I am tired of writing and thinking... coming down from the rush-like hyper-kinetic energy I got from this conference... now I am hungry and tired and must see the sleepy-land spirits...

I wake up and watch Blade Runner, which wakes me up fairly well. Jason the Tech comes up to ask the name of this Harrison Ford movie and I tell him and he has never heard of it... ah youth's innocence! This is a great mindless way to end a perfect Saturday. I finish the movie, Amanda Ambrosia the Terrific Tech unhooks me and I move on into the chilly night with a quite low BP, which always makes me feel a bit dreamy and comfy on my drive home.
So it goes.

Notes: In at 76.9 and out at 74.6 kgs.
* 2008 Conference on Solution-Focused Practices, retrieved online from http://www.utexas.edu/ssw/ceu/sfbt/
*** Bob Bertolino
retrieved online 11/08 from http://www.bobbertolino.com/
Joel Simon retrieved online 11/08 from http://www.0to10.net/
*****Evan George & Chris Iveson retrieved online 11/08 from http://www.brieftherapy.org.uk/about_index.php
*****Stephen Langer
retrieved online 11/08 from
******Jeff Chang retrieved online 11/08 from http://www.paccc.ca/AGM/2008%20Workshop%20Speaker%20Jeff%20Change%20Biography.jsp

*******Lance Taylor retrieved online 11/08 from http://www.fittingsolutions.ca/

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