Sharing and building Solution Focused practice in organisations

My mother in law has been diagnosed with dementia. I am seeking views as to whether An SF approach to help her out  would be appropriate to assist her.

Any views would be appreciated

Owen Charnley

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Hi Owen,

The SFA can be very helpful. I work with Admiral nurses and many of these specialist nurses (known as Admiral nurses) use a solution focused approach to working with the family - including the person with dementia. I use a SFA in supervising many of them. Thinking of the issue as a systemic one seems to be really beneficial. 

Not every area has Admiral nurses, but you can find out if yours does from Dementia UK, and they have a national telephone helpline too.

Another approach which you and your mother-in-law might like is explained in the book 'Contented Dementia' by Oliver James. This is really helpful in understanding how the loss of memory affects us and how carers and family members can adapt. Not asking questions, for instance, especially about what the person remembers, can ease things considerably.

Hope this is helpful - all good wishes,


Hi Carole

I thank you very much with that information.

 We have spoken before. rob ably last July or august. I live in the Manchester area and I know there are Admiral Nurses in Manchester. I will be able to contact them through my Mother- in law's Active Case Manager.

Once again thank you for your help

Owen Charnley.

Hello Owen

Just come across this. Agree with Carole - Admiral Nurses are very into Solution Focused working though they are more there for carers. If your mother-in-law is content I'd leave well alone but if she is distressed in any way or behaving in a way that makes the caring of her difficult I think a little bit of SFBT can work wonders. Dementia, like many other ailments, can be exacerbated by our response to it - a bad back made worse because we tend to tense up to protect it and so develop other associated pains. Loss of memory causes confusion which adds to the problem and the associated distress absorbs resources that could be used more productively. SFBT seems, when it works, to help the person regain some calm and sense of agency which in turn leads to a fuller use of the resources that are still available including the memory which has been lost through confusion rather than the disease. It can be a bit of a struggle to open the dialogue which might (but not necessarily) focus more on past achievements that future a very straightforward way either through a 'miracle' description of a day with memory followed by a scale detailing as much as possible what is already working and/or an "At your best" when the carer copes how he or she would like to cope and a scale. In both the interactional component to the description is key.

People, including professionals, often come up with lists of reasons why those with dementia can't use talking therapies (eg they'll forget what they said). This hasn't been my experience (which precedes SFBT) - I once wrote a book about this work Whose Life which is available from and details a host of amazing stories about older people and the families and professionals who do their best to help them live well until they die.

Good wishes


Whose Life is The Book about old people and SF. So full of hope and ways to look at the situations. Whose Life has meant the world to me in my job with the old ones. Thank You.


Thank you Catharina, it was the book I most loved writing! Chris

Owen. Although it is not SF, when I did my Mind Mapping qualification with Tony Buzan, one of the topics of conversation was how useful Mind Maps were for people with early stage dementia. They put them round the house to provide instruction 9e.g. to control the TV).

I hope this might be useful for you.

Warm regards

John Brooker





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