• Facilitates a positive climate
• Alleviates fears of judgement and change
• Responsibility enhancers
• Encourage the client using an uplifting
• Jorge is passing in school, he has made much
progress in learning the English language, Jorge
is in good physical condition, he has many
friends in the neighborhood.
Normalizing the problem
• Alleviates fear of being the only one with the problem(s)
• Lets the client know that the therapist is aware of their
effort to change things.
• For Jorge’s case:
– All teenagers, at some time in their adolescence, have conflicts
with their parents/caregivers.
– All parents worry about their children; it’s a normal thing to
wonder what your kid is doing when out of your sight.
– There will always be people that do things that you don’t
necessarily agree with, and that’s okay. Stick to your values.
– Everyone experiences anxiety; sometimes it can seem
Examples of normalizing the
• “It’s ok that you and your Aunt and Uncle are sometimes fighting.
Every kid at some time will have a conflict with their parents.”
• “It is often a parent’s natural duty to be concerned with where their
child is at and what their child is doing. So, your Aunt and Uncle’s
worrying is just natural considering where you live with the gang
activity going on.”
• “And you know, that’s okay that you are not joining in the gang
activity. There will always be someone/something with which you
don’t agree, and that is okay.”
• “Life is hard sometimes, not knowing which way to go and what to
do, and so many other people experience anxiety. Sometimes life
seems so overwhelming. You are not alone in these episodes.”
• Make note of the times when the problem
is NOT happening.
• Find out how the spontaneous exceptions
are happening and what is different about
• Always focus on the positive.
Examples of exceptions:
• “Tell me Jorge, when are these panic attacks NOT
• “What are you doing when the attacks DON’T come?”
• Contextual differences: “What is different about these
• Specification (from client’s perspective): “What are you
doing differently?” and “How are you thinking
• Specification (from other’s perspective): “How are you
being perceived by others as acting differently?”
• In a positive representation
• In a process form
• In the here and now
• As specific as possible
– Behavioral changes
• Within the client’s control -> action can be started and
maintained by the client
– What the client can do, not others actions
• In the client’s language
• Set goals with the client, Jorge, as the expert (what Jorge would
like to see happen)
– “What would you like to see happen? What would you like to change,
• goals are small and attainable (make sure that it’s something that
Jorge can accomplish)
– “What will be the first sign that you are achieving your goal?”
• Behavioral and specific in content (be sure to get specific behaviors
that Jorge will do to change the situation)
– “What will you be doing when you have changed?”
• Presence of something, not absence of something (not the absence
of his panic attacks)
• Normalize setbacks (discuss with Jorge that these goals may be
• These are the wanted solutions to the problem,
if a miracle happened, i.e.
• Used when clients have difficulty coming up with
• Can be used as a check on how exceptions
compare to imagined solution.
Examples of hypotheticals:
• “If this was your last session, Jorge, and you
were walking out with the problem solved, what
would you be doing differently?”
• “If a miracle happened one night while you were
asleep, and you woke up in the morning with
your problem solved, what would be different?
How would you be acting differently? How would
your Aunt Celia and Uncle Paco perceive you as
• Or “If coming here was useful to you, what
would you be doing differently?”
Follow up with
“Ok, so tell me about some times when
this (the solution; exception;
hypothetical) is already happening a
little bit now.”
• Observe for positives What is Jorge doing
now that is good for his situation?
– “So, as you continue to do these things, will you think
that you are on track to solving your problem?”
• Do more of these positives
– “How would you keep doing the positives? How will
others know that you are keeping this going?”
• Find out how the spontaneous exceptions are
happening; make note of it
• If no exceptions do some small piece of the