A solution focused approach to young people’s social, emotional and mental health

Pupil Aspire - Capture the pupil, family and teacher voice

One of the most perplexing things I continue to grapple with in my 20 year career as an educational psychologist is how little consideration we give to the child or young person’s (CYP) voice when faced with a variety of needs, in particular when faced with social emotional mental health needs (SEMH).

  • Solution focused language
  • A person centred approach
  • Use of a strengths based structured conversation
  • Seeking of collaborative outcomes
  • Use of a formative assessment capturing insightful information

Solution Focused approaches have consistently been shown to result in positive outcomes through changing constructs around the ‘problem’ from negative to positive and developing resilience and self-efficacy. By focusing on what has gone right, rather than on what has gone wrong, Pupil Aspire supports a process of change building on the positives and in response to the views of the pupil as well as the family and school practitioners or peers. Using a simple shared scale the guided structured conversation walks the pupil through a process to ascertain ‘what it looks like now’, ‘desired outcomes or preferred future’, ‘steps to reach the preferred future’ and ‘changes that will support movement up the scale towards the ‘preferred future’.

The solution focused language requires positive answers and sets the tone for the tool’s approach, unlocking insights for pupils and the adults supporting them that can have a profound impact on the effectiveness of future interventions. Interventions that have been co-constructed with the pupil in relation to what they consider to be the fundamental elements influencing their current SEMH. The person centred approach informs the desired outcomes and intervention planning.

The psychological basis of Solution Focused approaches stems from the ideas of theorists such as Carl Rogers (Person-centred Psychotherapy), George Kelly (Personal Construct Theory) and Lev Vygotsky (Social Constructionism). Steve de Shazer and Insoo Kim Berg are viewed as the principal definers of Solution Focused Brief Therapy on which the fundamental elements of Pupil Aspire are based.

The tool also offers provision mapping capabilities (including cost and progress tracking) but I’ll save that for another blog. Needless to say, all this makes Pupil Aspire a powerful tool that the holistic practitioner will be reluctant to part with once hooked on getting better outcomes for children & young people’s SEMH the solution focused way!