January 26, 2023

Miracles in coaching

As a participant was just asking about the way the “miracle process” works in Solution Focused coaching, I thought I’d share my reflections on the MQ as it is lovingly abbreviated in Solution Focus. The traditional miracle question goes like this:

• Suppose after this call you do whatever you are going to do today and some time later you get tired, do the things you do to finish the day, and prepare for and then go to bed …  and you fall fast asleep …

• And while you are sleeping, a miracle happens ….

• And the miracle is that all the issues that we have been talking  about are resolved, just like that ….

• But since you are sleeping, you can’t know that this miracle happened …

• So, what will be the first thing tomorrow morning that will alert you: “Wow, there must have been a miracle …”

• What might you begin to do then ….

• Who else will notice that there has been a miracle for you?

• What will they notice about you?

• How will they respond? How will you respond to their response…

It is an invitation to the client to a rich description of a preferred future. What makes the description “rich” is the details of the answers. When the client describes how they might notice, what others might notice, how the others would respond and how they would respond in turn, clients fill the story with more and more details. Gale Miller and Mark McKergow phrase it like this for Solution Focused Brief Therapy (Miller G & McKergow M (2012), From Wittgenstein, Complexity, and Narrative Emergence: Discourse and Solution-Focused Brief Therapy (in A. Lock and T. Strong, eds Discursive Perspectives in Therapeutic Practice. (Oxford: Oxford University Press) pp 163-183):

"Solution-focused brief therapy interactions are designed to facilitate change by assisting clients in clarifying how they would like their lives to be different, inviting new descriptions of what is possible in clients’ lives, and by identifying resources that clients might use in changing their lives. There is a sense, then, in which change is talked into being’ (Heritage 1984a) in solution-focused brief therapy interactions.  This is not to say that change is an illusion or fiction that is unrelated to the practical events and relationships of clients’ lives.  It is, rather, to say that solution-focused brief therapy interactions provide clients with resources for seeing and acting on possibilities for change that are already, to some degree, present in their lives.   Change in solution-focused brief therapy is a co-construction involving clients, therapists and others’ in clients’ lives.  Put differently, change happens in social interactions occurring within therapy sessions and in clients’ nontherapy lives.  It is a social construction because change involves formulating and applying new orientations to self, others, and the future."      

When asked a miracle question, the client describes a different world in observable behavior (who does what). This helps them to recognize these behaviors already happening in the real world. And a follow-on question to the miracle question is often the question about signs of this miracle already happening. When clients are able to see “the miracle” already happening, their confidence rises, they know what to look out for and most often also what they would like to do more of. The world in which they might have been stuck before turns into a world of many more possibilities.

As clients are filling their mental video of the day after the miracle with their memories, they are creating a “prospective memory”. The mental technique of visualizing a story as if you were a part of it, is well known in many religious traditions, for example in some Roman Catholic meditations, you imagine biblical scenes as if you were present in them (e.g. “being Joseph” or “the donkey”… sorry, kidding). It makes these texts come alive and helps believers strengthen the experience of their faith. Instead of a sacred text, people answering the miracle question are responding to their own “text” of a description, a mental video of their preferred future. They are filling their descriptions with memories of interactions that they have had (only in their preferred form) – this way, the preferred future comes alive – the client now has a “memory” of it. Whenever something happens that is “like the miracle” it almost becomes a “deja-vu”, something, the client has seen before.

If you would like to try out the miracle question, learn about our classes or just hang around with likeminded coaches, why not come to one of our free coaching meetups and exchanges?

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