MFTs in Austin

Learning Solution Focussed Brief Therapy at AAMFT Conference

As a first time AAMFT conference attendee and volunteer, I am staying RAW (Relaxed, Aware, Willing). Thursday, September 3rd, JW Marriott Hotel, Grand Ballroom Salon 7, SFBT for the day with Elliott Connie. I am reminded of the Kierkegaard quote: “Life can only be understood backwards; but it must be lived forwards.” It was no accident that my first AAMFT conference was launched by spending eight hours with Elliott Connie and his research partner Adam Froerer. It’s not like I am a devotee of Solution Focussed Brief Therapy…but I could be. Not because it holds the commitment to working with strengths and solutions rather than pathology and deconstructing the problem…but it could be. I heard later, in my last hour of the conference that early proponent of SFBT, Bill O’Hanlon was quoted as saying he is a “pathological optimist”, turns out, I’m with Bill. Wearing my Kierkegaard lenses, I  understand that my conference experience was shaped by an SFBT orientation, ever optimistic am I.

There were about fifty participants in the room and I was immediately at ease when a fabulous red head turned around to me with outreached hand and said, “Hi Darlin’ I’m Roz, who are you?” My first official conference buddy was a Texas drawlin’, octogenarian, sex therapist, things just kept getting better in Austin…if that was even possible. Then I met Elliott Connie.

Solution Focussed Inspiration

Elliott was decidedly casual and his research partner, Adam was decidedly not.A beautiful partnership of the good cop, bad cop variety. Elliott presented warm, funny, utterly engaging stories from his life and work in the world of SFBT, and Adam buttressed the stories with his evidence based research findings.As I was soon to understand, without evidence, no amount of passion, solution or optimism will hold sway with AAMFT.

What is the content? What is the process and context? How do I feel? What did I take away from this session? These are questions that seem connected to how a session with a client may be synthesized, no? Over the course of eight hours, not once did I look at my watch and in fact, when it was time to wrap up our session, I was hungry for more. I left Elliott and Adam’s session with forty pages of notes and a Power Point presentation. As I write this entry a week after the fact, I am struck by the fact that it is not those forty pages or the Power Point that come to mind but a powerful recollection of a story told of Elliott’s first trip to London: of his wandering the streets for a day; of being completely and utterly lost not knowing what the name of his hotel was; and of a Cab driver calmly asking him questions  to determine where their destination was.  I understand that until one knows where one is headed, there is no point in even putting the key in the ignition. And that is where the solution focussed session begins, with a clear, articulate and mutual understanding of where we are headed.

Connections to a Community

Of course I returned to my notes where i find myself moved by the myriad gems of wisdom that were so vividly and generously shared by Elliot and Adam. Stories were framed in theory, theory was demonstrated in video sessions, video sessions were relived in the workshop as we were encouraged to practice what we were learning. Not only was I a learner in a rich, well designed environment – I felt like I was a part of a community; connected to something alive and thriving. Aren’t we all hungry for connection? to be part of something greater than ourselves?

So yes, my first session of my first AAMFT conference was a resounding success. I acquired a great deal of knowledge and more to the point, I experienced the power of connecting; being a part of a shared experience; the power of co-created goals;  the power of “learning someone’s language that we may change their heart”;  the power of the belief that “people will always rise to the beliefs of the people around them.” Day One of AAMFT 2015 and the bar was set, how could I be anything but optimistic for what was in store for the next three days?