Putting Principles into Practice: Asking Useful Questions
All questions are leading questions. (Hoyt & Berg, 1998, p. 209) The Nobel physicist Isaac Isador Rabi said, “There are questions which illuminate, and there are those that destroy. [We should] ask the first kind.” Therapists who have cultivated an appreciation of the efficacy of questions understand that to question is to wield a powerful linguistic blade. It is necessary to ensure that the blade is used to reveal strength and beauty rather than to carve away these same qualities. (McGee, DelVento, & Bavelas, 2005, p. 381)
Solution-focused questions function as a “tap on the shoulder” (Berg & de Shazer, 1994) in therapeutic conversations about suicide. They draw suffering people’s attention to more positive or constructive aspects of their lives and experiences. Often these aspects have been ignored-“untapped”—in preoccupation with the sources and details of pain and perturbation.