What if there is no change?

Going beyond Symbolic Modelling Lite
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Following on from yesterday’s blog on ‘stochastic tinkering’, how likely is it that the client will need to go beyond Symbolic Modelling Lite?

Less likely than you might think. Rarely will they need to go beyond the second ‘stage’, and even rarer beyond the third. If we assume the 80:20 rule of Pareto applies then:



This means:

1 in 5 clients will need to go on to the second stage,
1 in 25 will go onto the third,
1 in 125 onto the fourth,
1 in 625 will get no help.


Of course these are silly made-up figures but you get my point. And it depends on the context/client populations. Generally, coaching clients have relatively less severe disabling patterns so find it much easier to generate creative outcomes. People with chronic mental difficulties are more likely to be constrained and for them changing will be a much bigger risk.

Marian Way raised the lovely question;  “How do I know whether a change has made a difference – and what should I do if it doesn’t?” And went on to provide her own answer:

Whenever a change occurs, you cannot tell at first whether it will make a difference – and so begin to mature it. When asking about effects (over space and time), either the change will ripple out and the rest of the landscape will be changed and the change will ‘hold’ or a problem will occur. This might be a minor one within the changed landscape that can be addressed and maturing can continue or it may seem like the changed landscape has collapsed.


If that happens, where to go next in the model will be dependent on what has happened so far. Maybe the outcome landscape is not sufficiently developed, maybe there are more necessary conditions, maybe it will be appropriate to go live at that time or maybe the ‘collapse’ is an indicator that a bind is present and so that is the next place to go.

I think Marian is spot on. As well as collapsing, a common effect is for the contagion to grind to a halt in an impasse or some other form of bind.

My thought about what to do when this happens is to revert to the default with something like “And given …. and …. and …. what would you/symbol like to have happen now?”

Interestingly this has the multiple effect of inviting the client (a) to notice a pattern, and/or (b) to ‘go live’, and/or (c) to specify more necessary conditions, and/or (d) in reaction, for the binding pattern to more clearly manifest.

You see why I like this question so much!

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