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Therapy Skills: I Wish Lists

I wish lists are useful for several reasons:

  1. When a client is at a vague stage where they don’t seem to know what to do or where to go or even what their goals are.
  2. If you wish to explore a territory where a little imagination is in order e.g. solution path construction
  3. You want the client to open up a little because they are too closed
  4. They encourage divergent or ‘right brained thinking’ when clients often are reluctant to explore other possibilities or are too problem focussed or convergent
  5. The encourage the use of your language skills to explore semantics that are hidden underneath the clients issues


Give the client the following instructions

  1. I wish lists are to help you come up with ideas, it’s a brainstorming technique.
  2. We pick a broad topic (or even none at all) and you keep your mind open and just say whatever ‘you wish.’
  3. Try to be open to way out ideas because they encourage your mind to loosen up.
  4. Don’t judge yourself or consider something ‘unwishable’ because it seems impractical, often ‘whacky ideas’ lead to other ideas that you wouldn’t have thought of normally.
  5. Don’t presume that because one idea sounds similar to a previous one that it wont lead to new angles on things, just say it and I will write it up
  6. Sometimes ideas might come to me that seem relevant and I will ‘hitchhike’ or piggyback off of your ideas. Ultimately you will choose the ideas you don’t have to take on mine.

Converging or focussing

Now once the list has been compiled (encourage the client to come up with more than five ideas preferably ten.)

  1. Draw a cube and get the client to choose the major themes emerging. This should be explained as choosing folders akin to the computer analogy, or groups (factors) of things that go together
  2. Write these up on your rough cube drawing faces of course there will be three major themes or even less
  3. Get client to gather the patterns between the faces together and see what emerges as a priority or even sequence for them, you may suggest patterns from your knowledge of them this is a ‘corner three skill area’

Focus this now as the goal of future therapy