Solution Focus Coaching

Where does Solution Focus Coaching come from? What is the overall approach and the Principles? Furthermore, what are the process and the steps in Solution Focus? How does Solution Focus change coachee’s viewing and doing? What are the main tools? Find out in this post!

Where does Solution Focus Coaching come from?

The Solution Focus approach concentrate on helping the coachee or the client to define a desired future state and to build a journey in both thinking and action to achieve it. Actually, it differs from other approaches as it does not start with a step of problem investigation and definition.

The rational for the Solution Focus approach is that, spending a lot of time and effort in defining the coachee’s problem, investigating the chain of cause and effect that led to it, is often a waste of time and energy. Indeed, knowing how a problem originates does not necessarily tell you how to solve it. Moreover, defining a causal explanation may restrain the coach and coachee into a frame of reference that limits potential solutions rather than reveals them.

In addition, Solution Focus is based on the belief that the coachee is capable of solving their problem. The coachee is considered to have all the resources to create the solution state.

What is the overall approach of Solution Focus Coaching?

Like many coaching method, Solution Focus emerged in therapy. It comes from the foundational work in brief therapy conducted in the 1960s by Gregory Bateson, John Wicklund and others at the Mental Research Institute in Palo Alto, California. Truly, the solution-focused approach that we use today was first shaped in the late 1970s and early 1980s by Steve de Shazer, Insoo Kim Berg and colleagues at the Brief Family Therapy Center, in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

And what are the Solution Focus Principles?

  1. Use of a positive approach and language
  2. Leverage coachee’s expertise: they are the expert in their own life
  3. Facilitate solution building not problem solving
  4. Focus on coachee’s resources: the coach helps them recognize and use existing resources
  5. Set clear, specific and personalized goals
  6. Support action-orientation as change takes place primarily outside of the coaching session
  7. Do what works and stop doing what does not work. In addition, if a solution is not working, then stop and try something different
  8. Move forward step by step as the path to solution is incremental
  9. Coach in a way that is attractive and engaging to the coachee
  10. Keep in mind that change can happen in a short period of time. Indeed, change is not about fixing the client, just finding and implementing a solution to a given problem

What is the process for Solution Focus Coaching?

The process is quite simple with the following steps:

Process for Solution Focus Coaching: Goal, Action plan, then iterate with Act, Monitor, Evaluate, Change what does not work and do more of what works.
  • First, define the coachee’s Goal
  • Second, set the Action plan
  • Then iterate with:
    • Act
    • Monitor the actions
    • Evaluate the results
    • Change what does not work and do more of what works

How does Solution Focus change coachee’s viewing and doing?

Principles of Changing the viewing

Changing the viewing is at the core of Solution Focus Coaching. Undoubtedly, Coachees, when they are focused on the problem or on all the reasons why the problem is hard to overcome, are not looking in the direction of the solution, the resources and steps required to reach the solution.

As a matter of fact, we know from experience and research that what you focus on, magnifies. In addition, when we focus our attention, two psychological processes activate: sensitization and amplification.

  • First, sensitization that refers to the process when we learn to become more sensitive to a particular stimulus. For example:
    • Many parents become sensitized to the cry of their own child
    • You might start to pay attention to a particular model of car when we are thinking about buying one.
  • Second, amplification that refers to the perceptual impact of what we spot. In other words, as we pay attention to a particular stimulus, it seems to get bigger and have more impact. Common examples include trying to get asleep and listening to a clock clicking or a dog bark. The more we pay attention to the sound the louder it gets.

As a consequence, changing the viewing shifts the perceptual sensitization and amplification from problem to solution. Surely, the more we get used to focusing on solutions, the more options we notice and the more visible they become.

Once the solution state has been clearly described and goals for coaching have been defined, the concern is to gather and exploit the resources required to achieve the desired goals. Therefore, the coaching task at this point is to assist the coachee in identifying resources that can be brought to reach the goals.

Tools for Changing the viewing

The Miracle Question

In the “Miracle Question” for instance the coach asks: “Imagine that when you wake up tomorrow the problem has magically disappeared and the solution is present. What is the first thing that you’d notice that will tell you that the solution is there?”

This “Miracle Question” comes from the world of Metaphor that is another key tool in coaching. Check my other post on how to use metaphor in coaching.


Scaling is perhaps one of the most commonly used tool in Solution Focus. It can be applied to:

  • First, evaluate where the coachee currently perceives themselves to be in comparison to their goal: “On a scale of 1 to 10 with ten representing the complete solution, and one representing the problem at its worst, where would you say you are now?”
  • Second, clarify blurry goals: “What does a 9 look like? How would you know you will reach at a 9?”
  • Third, measure progress made so far: “How come you are at a 5 now? What did you do to move that far?”
  • Finally, organize small steps to the goal: “What would be different if you were at a 5?”

Highlighting resources

In this technique, the coach listens for hidden and unrecognized resources. For instance in case of failure, the coach asks: “What did you learn from your experience?”


In this set of techniques the coach seeks to reframe the coachee’s statements in a way that creates options and focuses the coachee’s on their resources. For instance:

  • Highlighting exceptions when the coachee tends to be systematic about failure
  • Clarifying the goals that are not enough defined
  • Reformulate problems as solutions

Changing the doing

Changing the viewing is not enough. If the coaching conversation is valuable to know how we see the world, it must be turn into actions.

In addition to the experimental mindset that is a prerequisite in Solution Focus Coaching, here are some levers to trigger actions out of the coaching conversation:

  • Acknowledging options by transforming current problems into stepping stone to build a solution
  • Asking “how” questions instead of “why” questions
  • Multiplying coachee-centered options
  • Switch to action with small, specific, achievable steps

What’s next? Learn more about Coaching and discover Change Management

Read my other posts on coaching for instance on trust, feedback and active listening, on the GROW Model and the Powerful questions and on Change Management.

Do you want to learn more about Solution Focus Coaching? Here are some valuable references

2 thoughts on “Solution Focus Coaching”

  1. Hey there! I’m at work surfing around your blog from my
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