Officially licensed to make the future more equal and thriving!

Celebrations at Helsingin Psykoterapiainstituutti in Vallila, Helsinki, on 11th June 2024 as my wonderful colleagues and I graduated. Photo: Sanna Fäldt.

A year-and-a-half-long work ended when our intensive solution-focused brief therapy class Lyte-Int2 graduated from Helsingin Psykoterapiainstituutti in June. My studies have been one of the most mentally demanding and enriching experiences of my life, and thanks go especially to my practice clients! In therapy work, you encounter the whole spectrum of life. To be able to receive it professionally, you need to embark on a journey of unique personal growth and be prepared to process your shadows with brutal honesty. At the same time, client work has strengthened my belief in the amazing resilience of the human species: we have incredible abilities to survive and flourish, as long as we are heard and get to process our challenges.

In my opinion, HPI’s training is the most extensive brief therapy training in Finland regarding credits and scope of content and is the most multifaceted. Our methods, which I have printed out and stacked in a big folder, never cease to amaze me with their simple but genius approach to human challenges. The basic building blocks of the solution-focused orientation, i.e. client-centeredness and focus on resources and strengths combined with a positive coaching approach and concrete visualization of the desired change, go well with many therapeutical frameworks: humanistic, cognitive, and positive psychology as well as Gestalt therapy.

For me, the most memorable event was the two-day suicide prevention seminar by British solution-focused therapist and coach John Henden with personal experience on the subject. John’s key message was that you can and should talk about suicidal thoughts by, for example, asking the client directly if they are suicidal and talking through the plans they have about ending their life. This is where the therapist’s personal life experience comes in handy: the client should be able to speak freely without having to support a startled therapist. Henden’s approach is extremely empathetic, supportive, and covertly oriented towards a more positive future: The therapist pays attention to language and formulates sentences in such a way that suicidality is only a stage in the client’s life and better times are to come. As part of the solution-focused mindset, the individual is seen as belonging to a network of human relationships, and the therapist’s task is to encourage an exploration of different people’s perspectives on the client’s suicidal intentions and challenges. This can be one way to open up the client’s mind to think of alternative ways to deal with their problems than suicide.

Towards the end of our studies, HPI director Arja Pihlaja gave a sleep-related training that dazzled us all. By combining Gestalt therapy and focusing on strengths and the future, Freud could be forgotten. Great insights were gained from the dream world, about the dreamer’s daytime challenges and their abilities to solve them. My dreaming hasn’t been the same since Arja’s training and I can’t wait to have crazy dreams to analyze!

Page one of two from my diploma – the content of my training is indeed multifaceted and extensive!

The most important thing for me in the philosophy of HPI’s solution-focused brief therapy is client-centeredness and the idea that the client not only knows best how to help themselves but also is the boss in their process. In my opinion, this is the key to dismantling harmful power relations in therapy especially in connection to marginalized groups in therapy settings. According to the principles of BRIEF, a renowned solution-focused brief therapy and coaching center in London, the therapist should view themselves as sitting in a dark auditorium with their eyes directed at the client basking in the limelight. The therapist must remember their place one step behind the client and be proud of the smallest possible role in the client’s progress. The client is fully capable of doing the work themselves, as long as the therapist asks the right questions and creates a supportive atmosphere.

HPI’s teachings are very close to today’s coaching principles. In the fairly homogenous Finnish working life, a solution-focused approach to creating a more inclusive work culture is, in my opinion, unbeatable. This spring, I gained practical experience in the application of solution-focused methods at the Research Council of Finland, financing high-quality Finnish scientific research. As part of my day job as a Science Adviser, I was involved in crafting the first Safer Space Principles in the Research Council’s history. I also had the pleasure of planning and implementing a training event related to the topic together with my colleagues HR expert and work counselor Krista Nuutinen and coordinator Ia Hyttinen. A draft of the principles was opened for comments and was, thus, a collaborative effort. At the event, we practiced how the principles can be lived out in real interaction situations using the Nonviolent communication model. A more inclusive working life that takes into account the diversity of humanity is indeed possible and learning new things can be a self-compassionate process!

After my vacation, I head into autumn feeling grateful: it is a privilege to be able to do my part to create services that serve all kinds of customers, with both majority and minority backgrounds, safely and efficiently. If you need help with processing your life situation or identity, or if you need coaching in managing diversity in your organization or inclusive service design, feel free to contact me!

Brief therapy appointments (on Fridays in August 2024):
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