Solution-Talk for Students
Weiterbildung / 12. November 2014
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Leiter Executive Education
Armin Nilles ist Leiter des Executive Education der Frankfurt School.


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We aim to support Frankfurt School students to act responsibly and to achieve first-class analytical skills as well as cutting-edge practical and conceptual knowledge. Throughout their university studies, they are  accompanied by numerous members of Frankfurt School staff in order to receive the best knowledge and qualifications for their future entry to the business world. One offering included in this diverse set of support services is solution-focused counseling designed to encourage the personal development of our students – especially in cases when challenges appear as problems. It aims to shift „problem-talks“ into „solution-talks“. As the name suggests, it is about being brief and focusing on solutions, rather than on problems.  The pioneers of the Solution Focused Brief Therapy (SFBT) discovered that problems do not happen all the time – something I’m sure everybody would agree on. But in challenging times it can happen that the knowledge of how to solve problems – proved in many, many past situations – seems nowhere to be found: to the person involved, the problem appears to be permanent and everlasting. Who or what could help in these sorts of situations to achvieve change and a solution that works? Solution-focused counseling helps Frankfurt School students to think clearly and act in a healthy and positive way. In face-to-face interaction each student works out her/his own pathway towards a suitable solution. S/he is invited to rethink and answer questions like these:

  • How would your best friend suggest you might better solve this problem?
  • What is different for you during those times?
  • What could be your strengths in regard to your problem?
  • How can you demonstrate and apply your strengths more consistently?

By asking these kinds of questions we invite the student to shift and re-focus her/his perspective towards a more helpful, pro-active attitude. The following example of a solution-talk session is meant to illustrate the way we work. (The following illustration is based on a real case. All items which could point out a named person are elliminated or heavyly transformed). Two office chairs, business concept Once there was a young female student who complained she felt absolutly worthless; all her motivation seemed to have disappeared and she did not know why she should continue her studies.  She also mentioned her academic background, and I noticed that she was a highly successfully student with remarkable degrees. „Yes“ – she agreed – „but for what are they good for?“ I started by asking her to rate her energy level on a scale of one to ten.  „Nearly empty,“  she responded, „perhaps two to three.“ Then I invitated her to recall a situation in her life which was a little bit better – may be a five or six. At first glance she was astonished, wondering why I would ask such a thing. But then a smile appeared on her face.  „Ahh,“ I said, „maybe you would like to tell me a little bit about that situation – what was different then compared to now?“ I also asked her to change her position and to sit on any other empty chair of her choice in that room. I was very interested and asked her to tell me more.  She remembered a situation she was an 8-year-old girl. Her parents got divorced during that time and she had asked her parents if she could attend a soccer camp many times. In the end, her mother agreed and the student explained how she felt uneasy joining this soccer camp at first. After some training sessions she really enjoyed playing. More and more, she was accepted by the boys in the camp because she played quite well; that realization was a secret joy, too. Her body language became more alive as she spoke to me.  I asked if she could recall another stage of her life that was even better – perhaps a seven, maybe an eight on that ten-point scale? As she agreed I asked her to move to another empty chair in that room, and she described her a situation when she was 13 years old. At that age she loved sports in school and she was recognized as the fastest runner in school. The boys respected her even though they lost all running competions to her. She enjoyed her engergy so much, her discipline and her will to improve herself. Besides all of this she also became aware that searching for and finding new pathways in her life was what gave her energy back.  I encouraged her to allow to herself to pause and enjoy this joyful state for a while. A big smile of pure pleasure illuminated her previously immobile face.  I asked her: „Beeing aware of all of this – what would be your advice at level 8 to this young woman at level 2-to-3, who came in for that solution talk?“ From this stage she encouaraged herself not to blame herself. She recalled something she experienced in this joyfull soccer training: to do your best, to colloborate, and finally to celebrate results as a team. And step by step, very carefully, she discovered what she was missing and what had to be done next. The solution-focussed counselling is not a miracle. It is rooted in the certainity that the client already has the capability to act in a successful way. Competencies are an inseparable part of his/her individual personality – because of this, s/he is often not consciously aware of them. Unfortunately, when a situation appears to be a severe problem, the person has limited or no access to this knowledge. This is what can be shifted! Solution-focussed counselling was invented two years ago at Frankfurt School. And the positive feedback from our students encourages us to proceed. It is free of charge to them and – of course – the talks are strictly confidential in order to provide sessions with a trusting environment. For more information, get in touch.

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