Using solution focused brief therapy to support secondary aged pupils facing exclusion from school
This study was set in a mainstream secondary school, where a group of Year 7 pupils who had already experienced repeated exclusions were faced with the prospect of the cycle continuing. The researcher, who was also the educational psychologist for the school, used solution focused brief therapy (SFBT) in preference to previously unsuccessful methods of intervention in individual sessions with eight pupils over a period of one term. Employing a qualitative research methodology, based on an action research framework, the practitioner researcher had three main aims - to support the pupils' continued attendance and at the same time evaluate the impact of intervention; to simultaneously develop a flexible model of SFBT that was responsive to pupil need from an initial model based on a review of current literature; to consider the compatibility of this approach with the school context. The key findings, in relation to outcome, were much improved ratings by seven out of eight pupils of their perceived situations at the end of intervention, compared with their initial assessments; significant positive change over time in teacher comparative ratings of pupil behaviour; reductions in the numbers of exclusions and reported problem incidents. A flexible model, rather than one which is fixed and formulaic, proved to be critical to constructive collaborition, as was careful attention to the development of a blame-free therapeutic alliance. Major deviations from the initial model were the inclusion of detailed problem talk; the repeated revision of both problem and goal definition; the omission of the miracle question and the utilisation of the technique of 'externalisation' from Narrative Therapy. The rationale for these developments is discussed, along with some proposals as to underlying processes. Engagement with school systems proved to be less than satisfactory, although the revised individual model of intervention was not undermined by this. Nevertheless, some implications for compatibility of SFBT with school procedures are considered in the light of this finding, with suggestions for a number of possible applications of SFBT in relation to the everyday working practices of an educational psychologist.