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Miracle Question

By Dr. Dawn-Elise Snipes Published 02/12/2007 | Women , Self Improvement , Relationships

A tool we use in brief therapy is often called the miracle question.  It goes something like this

If you woke up tomorrow and your problem was gone, what would be different?

Identify your problem(s):______________________________________________ 

Now, list all of the ways your life would be different if you did not have those problems.

Here is the kicker. In solution-focused therapy, instead of focusing on the problems now, we say Okay, if things were like you just described, your life would be a 10 on a scale of 1 to 10.  Right now your life is a 1.  What would it take for you to rate your life as a 2. List that now.  On yet another sheet of paper, what would it take for your life to be a 3.  List that now  This goes on all the way up to 10.  For each small improvement, there is some small change in the frequency, intensity or duration of the problem.  To make that happen you have to ask yourself, What is different when the problem is not occurring? 

Take for example relationship arguments or binge eating.  Right now, Sally argues with her partner and binge eats every day.  She wants to stop arguing and bingeing.  I would ask her to make a list of what she is doing and what is different when she is not arguing with him and when she is not bingeing (examples: walking the dog, cleaning, talking on the phone, reading at the library, taking a bath).  These are the things we want to increase.  Then I would ask her what it would look like if her situation improved from a 1 to a 2.  Maybe she would stop herself from getting engaged in all-night arguments and go do something not related to food.  We would look back over her list of how things are different when she is not arguing or bingeing and try to create those situations.  This would probably involve looking for things she is doing that provoke the arguments.  Maybe they argue more when her partner feels he is not getting enough attention.  She could ensure the time she does have to pay attention to him is quality time, uninterrupted by the phone, television etc.

It often takes some brainstorming, but by gradually increasing positive changes, the negative will slowly disappear.

Another way to use the miracle question is much more straightforward.

Where do I want to be 6 months or 5 years from now? 

From that description, you can formulate several short-term goals to get you there.