Matching Facilitation Strategy to Client Needs

Matching the facilitation style to the client's needs should take into account the stage of change for the individual, family, or group. It also takes into account the behavior or action words that the client generates in the session. If there are not specific actions to engage with, we often initiate an activity to begin the process. Not only does this connection develop a solid therapeutic relationship, it also assists with creating meaningful themes or metaphors for the therapeutic process.

The process should also take into account language. An attempt to use the same language and verbal intent that is being expressed by clients in the presentation of the activity. In the literature, this is referred to as tailoring derived from the Ericksonian perspective.

Matching an intervention to mirror your client's ecological position is extremely powerful. For example, the choice of an activity that is difficult to master and often results in a client feeling "stuck" would be a very dynamic choice for an adolescent struggling with school and verbalizing that he or she feels "stuck" in the situation.

The goal is to use all of the above information to frame the seven generations of facilitation. These generations are described in the literature, which identifies when they were introduced to the field, not that one approach is superior to another (Bacon, 1987; Gass, 1985, 1991; Priest & Gass, 1993, 1995; Itin, 1995, 1998).

The Seven Facilitation Strategies 

In best practices, it is understood that there are multiple approaches to facilitating client learning and that one approach is not a best practice. Best practice in enhancing of learning is understanding the multiple facilitation strategies and applying these appropriately to the given clients, context, and therapeutic goal. It is imperative that a practitioner has a full understanding of the various approaches and an understanding of why one approach would be used or applied over another. These approaches must be viewed as tools and just as any craftsman or artist must have multiple tools to avoid the perennial "I have a hammer so it must be a nail" phenomenon; so must the adventure therapist. The following are brief descriptions of the seven generations.

1st Generation: Letting the Experience Speak for Itself

Involves simply doing the activity or experience with minimal introduction except for the logistics or safety information. The emphasis in the use of this generation is doing and self-reflection.

2nd Generation: Speaking for the Experience

The activity is introduced in a similar manner to the first generation, but it is debriefed differently. The practitioner tells the participants what they have or should have learned from the activity. Essentially, the facilitator is providing feedback to the client. It is about directed attention to a specific issue.

3rd Generation: Debriefing the Experience

Generally, the activity is introduced in much the same way as the first two generations, but the activity is consciously processed afterward. The attention is on conscious or guided reflection upon the activity.

4th Generation: Frontloading the Experience (Direct)

In this generation, the practitioner may tell or guide participants before the experience on how what they want the client to focus on in the activity. It is about guided attention before the activity.

5th Generation: Framing the Experience (Metaphor)

The activity is introduced isomorphically (mirroring) the client's previous experience with opportunities for the client to make changes toward achievement of the treatment goals. The more isomorphic the experience, the less debriefing will be necessary. Practitioners seek metaphors that match the client's experience. This generation is about guided unconscious attention before the activity. The use of metaphor is ultimately about exploring unconscious resources to help clients find alternative paths to make changes in previously established patterns.

6th Generation: Frontloading the Experience (Indirect/Paradoxical)

The experience is introduced in such a way that the actual intent of the practitioner is unclear. Common techniques in this approach include predicting client behavior that may not be consistent with their goal. For example, stating to the client "I suspect that when things get hard, you will sit down and give up." Another common technique is the prescription of a symptom, such as when someone has a tendency to be negative, the practitioner may request that the person be negative for a certain period of time. These approaches often create a therapeutic double bind, in that if the client sits down, they have done what the practitioner predicted and if they don't, they have likely worked toward their goal. This generation is ultimately about indirectly guiding the unconscious process.

7th Generation: Flagging the Experience

In this generation, the facilitator uses elements of hypnotic language to help participants mark a path for the unconscious mind to provide resources for the resolution of an issue or address a goal. Participants are naturally absorbed in activities; hypnotic language helps clients use this natural absorption to access the untapped resources of the unconscious mind. It takes advantage of the natural trance state that often develops when dealing with height can be useful in helping clients find the internal resources to continue to move in a rock climb or high element.