Hints Toward Possible Solutions

Let’s talk about Solution Focused Language Patterns in the Accidental Counsellor Training. There are four of them in the full online Accidental Counsellor Course. In this video  I want to cover the Exception Question- one of the four language patterns. One of my favourites by the way.

Here’s what we do with the Exception Question. The first thing we do is we frame the problem. Then, we identify “Exceptions” to the problem. When is a problem not actually happening or happening less? Remember when we talked about intensity, frequency and duration. So, when is that less intense? When is that less frequent? When does it happen when it doesn’t happened as long?


Then we want to find out and explore the difference. What’s actually going on then? This is the typical thing you guys would all notice. What is it? When does it occur? Where does it happen? How does it happen?

People think that getting a lot of detail from the client about the problem helps you find a solution, however I find getting stuck in the detail of the problem unhelpful. More important is to identify the pattern/s of the problem and looking for exceptions to those patterns.

What we want to do is help the client paint a picture of a solution or next best step. To illustrate, if they tell us, “This is the problem. This is when it happens”. Then you’ll ask, when does it not happen? When does it occur less often? When is the less intense or less frequent?



What was different about that time when it was less intense or when it didn’t happen? Where were you when this happened?

First identify the pattern of the problem. Then you identify exceptions to those patters. When does it not occur? When does it occur less often, less intense, less frequent? Then thirdly, you want to explore those differences. What was different about the time when it was less intense or when it didn’t happen? Where were you when this happened? Were you by yourself or were there people around? What’s different about when it was not there or not as intense? What else is better about those times?


It is also important to do scaling of questions or concerns. Some people would approach you say “I’m really upset about something.” Ask them if they can rate their feeling or concern from 0 to 10. I’ll ask them “Then, where are you?” And they say, “I’m on an 8” or  “I’m a 9”.

And I say, “Okay. Alright, well that’s really high. I can see that this really upsetting you.”

Then I say to them, “Okay, let me ask you this. You’re at a 9, are there times when it’s been an 8 or a 7?” Asking scaling questions enables you to identify exceptions.

The Exception Quesiton is one of 4 Solution Focused Questions we cover in the Online Accidental Counsellor Training

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