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On the difference between SFT and MT & CBT

At the 2009 EBTA conference in Helsinki Janet Bavelas, Harry Korman and Peter de Jong presented their micro analysis research on the different ways in which Motivational, Cognitive Behavioral and Solution Focused Brief therapists co-construct the therapeutic reality.

N.B. As their results have - to my knowledge - not yet been published I have to rely on my notes to tell you the results of their study.

A micro analysis is a detailed examination of observable communication sequences between client and therapist. Their focus was directed to the formulation of the therapist, i.e. the comments, remarks, reformulations, the therapist adds to what the client is saying in order to construct a useful dialogue. They identify formulations as echoing, summarizing, paraphrasing, reflecting, mirroring, ...

They make a distinction between formulations that
1. preserve the clients words (literally or deictically)
2. delete (overlooks) words or phrases of the client
3. rephrase what the client said in altered form
3. add to what the client said

Here are their findings of comaring Berg and Korman (SFT) vs Meichenbaum, Lichtenberg (both CBT) and Miller (MT):

% words preserved exactly: SFT 46% > CBT/MT 23%
% words preserved deictically SFT 11% > CBT/MT 6%
(Together : SFT 57% > CBT/MT 29% !)
% words preserved in altered form SFT 36% < CBT/MT 33%
(about the same)
% words added SFT 10% < CBT/MT 35% (!)

These results show a significant difference between SFT and CBT in the way the therapist co-construct the therapeutic reality.

So, what seems to be "very similar" in the comparison of both therapeutic approaches, appears to be quite different when we take a closer look. That is why it is important not only to compare the theories or what is written about SF and CBT, but also to study what is actually happening in the therapeutical conversation. "Remain at the surface!"

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Comment by Katalin Hankovszky on March 3, 2010 at 21:45
Hi guys
I think the brevity yes. (brevity = being brief, or?) Since when using clients words less ‘repairing of understanding’ is needed, or? Hearing his on formulations, or just deictic ‘it’s or ‘this’s, client makes the useful misunderstanding that me as a practitioner ‘understood’ the matter.
Comment by Anton Stellamans on March 2, 2010 at 17:34
Hi Paul, interesting questions, thank you for stimulating my learning process! This is what we intend to encourage on our Sol Summer Retreat, this summer. So glad you'll be there!

I am not really sure if we are able to say that SF is better than MT or CBT. I really don't know if the difference in constructing therapeutic conversations has an impact on the results. It seems to me to be so difficult to prove a statement like that. What's better? What do we measure? What are the dependent and independent variables? ... I am not a psychologist (and don't care to become one).

The research that Harry, Janet and Peter conducted makes a difference in my learning of SF. Over the years I got very familiar with all the steps, techniques, questions and tools we use in a sf conversation. Yet this micro analysis helps me to re-discover what is actually happening in a SF conversation. It provides me with a new set of glasses.

"The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes." Marcel Proust

It also helps me to become more minimalistic, using the words and the images of the client and refraining myself from interpreting. And it also helps me in discovering new ways of teaching SF coaching.
Comment by Paul Z Jackson on March 2, 2010 at 9:32
Thanks Anton - so what are the impacts of these differences? Is there something to link differences in practice with differences in results? Might we plausibly propose that the brevity of SF has something to do with the 'respect' for clients' words and accuracy of linguistic practice - so there is a more 'direct' communication going on, for example?

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