solution-focused questions for therapy and coaching

101 Solution-Focused Questions for Therapy and Coaching

Solution-focused therapy and coaching use carefully crafted questions to promote self-reflection, awareness, and change.

This guide contains 101 unique questions that inspire clarity and action across various areas, such as personal growth, relationships, career planning, and mental health.

These questions empower individuals to find their own solutions and chart their unique paths toward fulfillment.

Problem-Free Talk Question

These questions shift focus from problems to strengths and identify solutions in a client’s life.

  • What are some things you enjoy doing in your spare time?
  • Can you share a recent event that made you happy?
  • What is one aspect of your life where you’re feeling content?

Strength-Based Questions

Strength-based questions empower individuals to achieve their goals by uncovering personal strengths and resources.

  • What skills or abilities are you most proud of?
  • Can you tell me about a time when you used your strengths to overcome a challenge?
  • What is something positive others say about you?

Positive Reinforcement Questions

These questions acknowledge and reinforce the client’s strengths, successes, and positive efforts.

  • Can you share a recent action or behavior you’re proud of and why it made you feel good about yourself?
  • What positive changes have you noticed in yourself when you engage in this behavior?
  • How can we celebrate these positive behaviors to encourage more of them in the future?

Future Perfect Questions

Future Perfect Questions promote positivity, motivation, and direction by envisioning the future where goals are achieved.

  • Can you describe what your ideal future looks like?
  • What would that look like if everything were going perfectly in your life?
  • What steps could you take to move closer to this perfect future?

Miracle Questions

The Miracle Question is a therapy technique that encourages envisioning an ideal future where problems do not exist, fostering creativity, hope, and clear goals.
Suppose a miracle happens overnight, and when you wake up, your problem is solved.

  • What would be the first thing you notice?
  • What other changes would you notice after the miracle?
  • How would your daily routine change after the miracle?

Learn more about
How to Use the Miracle Question

Scaling Questions

Scaling questions help clients measure their progress by assessing their feelings, situations, or goals on a spectrum in therapy and coaching.

  • On a scale of 1-10, how would you rate your current situation?
  • How confident are you in your ability to reach your goals on a scale from 1-10?
  • What would it take for you to move one step up on that scale?

Scaling Follow-Up Questions

After clients rate their progress, follow-up questions explore what has contributed to their current rating.

  • What specific actions or changes have contributed to your current ranking?
  • Can you share an example of your progress since our last session that reflects your current rating?
  • What small steps could you take that might help you move up one point on the scale?

Counter Finding Questions

Counter-finding questions allow for recognizing potential solutions based on the future perfect or how previous challenges were handled.

  • Can you recall a time when you faced a similar challenge and found a way to handle it effectively? What strategies did you use then?
  • Are there any instances in the past where you’ve been resilient in the face of adversity? What helped you stay strong?
  • What are some of the positive behaviors or habits you’ve developed that have helped you manage your current situation?

Exception Questions

Exception Questions uncover moments when the problem didn’t occur, providing insights for overcoming challenges.

  • Can you think of a time when the problem was not as intense or was absent?
  • What was different about that time?
  • What strengths or resources helped during that time?

Coping Questions

Coping Questions recognize resilience and develop strategies for handling difficulties.

  • How have you managed to keep going despite the challenges?
  • What strategies have you found helpful in dealing with your situation?
  • How have you been taking care of yourself during this difficult time?

Reframing Questions

Reframing questions helps clients view their situation differently, potentially transforming barriers into opportunities.

  • How can we view this problem in a different light?
  • What positive aspects can we find in this situation?
  • How can we turn this challenge into an opportunity?

Externalization Questions

Externalization is a therapy and coaching technique that separates clients from their issues.

  • If you could give a name to your problem, what would it be?
  • How would things change if the problem were outside of you instead of being a part of you?
  • What would it look like to have control over the problem rather than it having control over you?

Goal Setting and Action Planning Questions

Goal Setting and Action Planning questions involve creating SMART goals and a step-by-step plan to achieve them.

  • What are some concrete goals you would like to work towards?
  • What steps can you take this week to move closer to your goals?
  • How will you know when you’ve achieved your goal?

EARS Questions

EARS means Empathy, Ask, Reflect, and Summarize. It is used to understand, probe, mirror, and encapsulate the conversation’s key points.

  • How are you feeling about your situation currently?
  • What are some things you would like me to know about your experience?
  • What I’m hearing is …, is that correct?
  • So, to summarize, …, does that capture everything?

EARS Questions for Follow-Up Sessions

EARS is also used to track progress and changes since the previous session.

  • Empathy: “I can see that you’ve been working hard since our last session. Can you tell me more about what feels different now compared to before?”
  • Ask: “What changes have you noticed in your behavior, thoughts, or feelings since our last meeting?”
  • Reflect: “So, you’ve mentioned that you’re feeling more confident and less anxious. That’s a significant step forward.”
  • Summarize: “From what you’ve shared, it sounds like you’ve made substantial progress since our last session, particularly in the areas of confidence and anxiety management. Is that a fair summary?”

14 Solution-Focused Techniques for Therapy and Coaching

Solution-Focused Questions for Conflict Resolution

Conflict resolution solution-focused questions facilitate dialogue, self-reflection, and problem-solving skills.

  • Can you describe the conflict from your perspective? What about from the other person’s perspective?
  • On a scale from 1-10, how would you rate the severity of this conflict? What factors contribute to this rating?
  • What have you tried so far to resolve this conflict? What was the result?
  • Can you recall a time when you resolved a similar conflict successfully? What strategies did you use then?
  • How would you like this conflict to be resolved? What does the ideal outcome look like to you?
  • What steps can you take to move towards your desired outcome?
  • How might your relationship with the other person change once the conflict is resolved?
  • Can you identify any strengths or resources you have that could be useful in resolving this conflict?

Solutions-Focused Questions for Managers to Use with Employees

These questions are designed to guide employees toward enhancing their performance and productivity.

  • Can you identify an area of your work where you’d like to improve? What specific steps can you take towards this improvement?
  • Can you share an instance where you felt particularly satisfied with your performance? What factors contributed to this success?
  • What professional milestones would you like to achieve in the next six months?
  • What specific actions can you take this week to advance toward these milestones?
  • How can I assist in facilitating your progress towards these goals?
  • Can you think of a piece of feedback you recently received? How has it influenced your work?
  • Can you recall a challenging situation at work? What did you learn from that experience? How can you apply these learnings to future situations?

Health-Focused Questions

These questions are tailored to help clients explore their health-related concerns, promoting a healthier lifestyle and improved well-being.

  • What activities or practices have you found beneficial to your health? How might you incorporate more of these into your daily routine?
  • Can you recall a time when you felt at your healthiest? What were you doing differently then?
  • What would it be if you could make one immediate change to improve your health?
  • What short-term and long-term goals do you have for your health? How might you begin working towards these goals?
  • Can you identify any resources or support systems that have been or could help improve your health?
  • What strategies have you used in the past to successfully introduce a new health habit or eliminate an old one?
  • How might you celebrate your health successes and milestones in a way that encourages continued progress?

Solution-Focused Questions for Children

Solution-focused questions help children express their feelings and thoughts. The following questions are designed to be easily understood by children.

  • If your day was an animal, what animal would it be and why?
  • Can you tell a story about a time when you felt really happy?
  • If a magic wand could solve your problem, what would be different?
  • Can you think of a time when you solved a big problem? What did you do?
  • If you could ask any superhero for help, who would you ask and why?
  • What do you like the most about yourself?
  • Can you tell me about someone you look up to? What makes them special?
  • What is one thing you do really well?
  • Can you draw or describe how you imagine your future self? What do you see?
  • If you could have any superpower to help you with your problem, what would it be, and how would you use it?
  • Can you think of a time when something was hard, but you managed to do it? What was helpful for you then?
  • If a friend faced the same problem, what advice would you give them? How could you apply that advice to your own situation?

Remember, while working with children, creating a safe and comfortable environment where they can express themselves freely is essential. Encouraging creative responses like drawing or storytelling can make the process more engaging for younger children.

Solution-Focused Questions for Couples

These questions foster understanding, connection, and communication within the relationship.

  • Can you share a moment when you felt particularly connected as a couple? What were you doing or talking about?
  • How do you show appreciation and love for each other in your daily life?
  • If your relationship were a dance, what type of dance would it be and why?
  • Can both of you identify a common goal or dream for the future? What can you do to work towards that goal together?
  • Can you recall a time when you successfully navigated a conflict as a couple? What strategies did you use?

Solution-Focused Questions for Families

These questions aim to promote family cohesion, communication, and mutual understanding.

  • Can each family member share something they appreciate about the family?
  • Can you recall a time when the family worked together to solve a problem? What strategies did you use?
  • If your family were a team, what would be your team name and why?
  • How do you celebrate achievements or milestones as a family?
  • Each family member, please share a quality that you admire in another family member.
  • Remember, these questions are not meant to highlight deficits but rather to facilitate discussions about strengths and resources within the relationship or family.

Passion Discovery Questions

These questions are designed to help clients uncover their passion and interests, potentially guiding their personal and professional development.

  • Can you recall a moment when you felt incredibly alive and engaged? What were you doing at that time?
  • Is there an activity or task you love so much that you lose track of time when doing it?
  • If you had all the resources (time, money, connections) necessary, what would you love to learn or master?
  • Imagine you have a week off with no obligations whatsoever. How would you spend your time?
  • Are there any topics or subjects you can’t stop reading or learning about?
  • Have you ever felt a strong sense of satisfaction or accomplishment from completing a task or project? What about that task or project made you feel that way?
  • What would you love to do if fears or barriers were not an issue?

Remember, the objective of these questions is not to put pressure on finding a definitive answer but to spark exploration and self-discovery.

Trauma-Informed Questions

These questions are designed to assist clients who have experienced traumatic events. They focus on resilience, coping mechanisms, and personal growth while avoiding triggers or re-traumatization.

  • Can you remember a time when you felt safe and secure despite the difficult circumstances around you? What helped create that sense of safety?
  • Without going into the details of the event, can you share any coping strategies or resources that have been helpful for you during difficult times?
  • Do you do certain things that help you feel grounded when you start feeling overwhelmed?
  • Can you think of a time when you felt empowered or regained a sense of control in your life? What contributed to that experience?
  • What small steps could you take to make your environment feel safer or more comfortable?
  • Can you identify any personal strengths or qualities that have helped you through difficult times in the past?
  • Looking towards the future, what are some goals or dreams you have? How can you begin taking steps toward achieving them?

Remember, it is crucial to approach these questions with sensitivity and respect, ensuring the client feels safe and heard. Always be prepared to adjust or forgo certain questions if they cause discomfort.

Crisis Situation Questions

These questions are designed to assist clients in navigating crises. They focus on identifying resources, implementing coping strategies, and fostering resilience in the face of adversity.

  • Can you think of a time in the past when you faced a difficult situation and came out of it? What strategies did you use then that could be applied to this situation?
  • In moments of calm within the crisis, what do you notice helps to bring about that calmness?
  • What are some immediate actions we could take to alleviate the most pressing issues in this crisis?
  • Who are the people in your life who can support you during this crisis? What specific forms of support can they offer?
  • Are there any helpful resources or tools you’ve found in past crises that you could utilize now?
  • Despite the crisis, are there any positive aspects of your life that you can lean on for strength or comfort?
  • Looking beyond the crisis, can you envision a future where you have successfully navigated this situation? What does that look like?

It’s essential to approach these questions with empathy and understanding. Always be ready to modify the line of questioning if it seems to result in distress or discomfort.

Solution-Focused Cognitive Restructuring Questions

These questions are tailored to assist clients undergoing cognitive therapy. They identify and challenge irrational thought patterns, foster self-awareness, and promote cognitive restructuring.

  • Can you think of a recent situation where your thoughts affected your feelings? What was the thought, and how did it make you feel?
  • Are there any recurring thoughts that seem to bring you down? How can we test the validity of these thoughts?
  • When you experience a negative thought, are there alternative, more positive interpretations of the situation that you might be overlooking?
  • Can you identify a situation where you successfully replaced a negative thought with a more constructive one? How did that make you feel?
  • Could you describe a time when you broke a cycle of negative thinking? What strategies did you use for that?
  • How can we use your strengths and resources to help alter unhelpful thought patterns?
  • Looking forward, can you think of a situation that might trigger negative thinking, and how could you respond differently to it?

Approach these questions with compassion and understanding, creating a safe environment for clients to explore their thoughts and feelings. Modify the line of questioning if it appears to cause distress or discomfort.

Solution-Focused Questions for Stress Management

These questions are designed to assist clients dealing with stress. They aim to identify stressors, develop coping mechanisms, and foster resilience and relaxation techniques.

  • Can you identify specific situations or triggers that often result in feelings of stress for you?
  • How does stress manifest physically, emotionally, and cognitively for you?
  • Can you recall a time when you successfully managed stress? What strategies did you use?
  • What activities or practices do you find relaxing or soothing when you’re feeling stressed?
  • What positive changes could you make in your daily routine to help manage stress?
  • Who are the supportive people in your life that you can lean on when you’re feeling stressed?
  • Looking forward, what small steps could you start taking today to better manage stress in the long term?

Take Home Message

Solution-focused questions aid in various approaches, such as cognitive therapy, stress management, and crisis management. They help identify strengths, foster resilience, challenge negative thoughts, and encourage proactive coping. Therapists must approach questions empathetically, prioritizing client comfort and mental wellbeing.

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