What is a Miracle Question?
Miracle question technique is an intervention method used in the psychology literature and mainly in solution-focused brief therapy. This question is generally used in solution-focused brief therapy, and aims to answer what would be the best case scenario for the client when all of his problems are gone. Therefore, this question helps setting goals in the therapeutic process to make this best case scenario happen. It is an intervention method that helps clients reach hypothetical solutions to problems and dream the life they want to see after the therapy process.
In 1988, Steve de Shazer, a pioneer of the solution-focused brief therapy, started to conceptualize this intervention method and applies this question in his therapies.
Solution-Focused Brief Therapy
Solution-Focused Brief Therapy is a therapeutic approach developed by Steve de Shazer and Insoo Kim in 1980s. It is a future-focused and problem solving oriented approach.
Instead of delving into the past or finding the causes of the problems, SFBT focuses on finding solutions to current problems and correcting them. The aim of the therapy is to solve the problems the client is facing, and creating a peaceful mind. The client reaches self-awareness and self-acceptance through the therapeutic process. The focus of the SFBT is to create a change in problematic behavior. Because these behaviors are person and situation specific, the therapeutic process should be adapted for each individual uniquely to fit into the clients’ specific goals.
SFBT claims that the therapy process is a two-way street which requires both the therapist’s input and the client’s efforts. The therapist is not in a position to tell the clients what to do specifically in SFBT. Instead, the client is viewed as the expert of his life and should guide the therapist to identify what needs to be accomplished. Although the therapist is viewed as an expert in creating a context for a change in behavior, clients are the people who know their lives the best and therefore should contribute to the therapeutic approach.
The Miracle Question
In the SFBT process, the therapist asks this question:
“If a miracle happened overnight and this specific problem you have is solved, how would you know that it is solved? What would be different in your life?”
This miracle question requires the client to imagine a world where he does not have the problem that made him started the therapy process. This imagination exercise helps the client to be more hopeful, feel more confident and secure. Therapists who use the SFBT approach claim that there is more than viewing a problem, and it is doing the solution. Therefore, the question is about how we view the problems in our lives.
A good follow-up question to this miracle question to help focus more on the doing side of the problem would be:
“What would you do differently now that you don’t have this problem?
How the Miracle Question Helps in the Therapy Process
Miracle Question helps clients to be more open to future possibilities. Clients consider a life where they don’t dwell on this specific problem; and by imagining this world, they can start taking the steps required to reach it.
The question also helps the client by not being encouraged to look into the past and drown in regrets.
The miracle question might be very beneficial when used in family counselling and marriage counselling. The individual answers this question, stating his ideal life and the ideal world. However, a couple might have different ideas of this ideal world. Family members can have different expectations of the future. They might even hear the others’ ideal outcome for the first time. Therefore, the miracle question can lay out the differences and can give a shared basis to work on.
Insoo Kim also suggests using the miracle question technique with children, but also stresses the importance of making the question simpler. Questions below help children to conceptualize their wants and needs better.
“If there is a wand and with one flick, you can have whatever you want. You can be whoever you want. What would you do? Who would you be? What would you want to be changed?”
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