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Describing a preferred outcome

Video Type: In Practice

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Maria is a 24-year-old, second-generation Argentinian woman living in Canada who came out as a lesbian last year. Her parents are devout Catholics and opposed to homosexuality, and she feels they have not fully absorbed her sexual orientation—they see it as a “phase.” She feels they are very gradually adjusting, but is concerned that announcing the plan to move in with her partner Lisa would disturb the current peaceful equilibrium in their relationship. Maria is getting pressure from Lisa, but is concerned that moving in would be extremely upsetting to her parents, and she is stuck as to how to go forward. In this exchange which followed the one featured in the Problem definition excerpt in this chapter, Maria has begun to richly describe the experience of "being stuck." The problem is gradually being defined by she and Alex. But her preferred outcome is less clear. Alex here seeks a richer description of how things would look in the absence of the problem. What are some questions he uses to accomplish this? What are some of the new words and phrases Maria uses to depict her preferred outcome? What aspects of this practice might you have done similarly/differently? Problems and preferences are flip sides of a coin in many respects; but to have a clear picture of a client's preferred outcome (where they'd like to end up when counselling has been successful) is more than simply identifying an “absence”—that is, the absence of the problem. In other words, it's just as important to evoke thick description of preferred outcomes as it is to do this around problems. Alex seeks this here, using some of the same questions to seek thick description of Maria's preferred outcome as he did in joining her in defining the problem.

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