Ambiguities of ‘doing what works’: how professionals make sense of applying solution-focused support for people with intellectual disabilities

Anne Marie Lohuis*, Hubrecht A. van Vuuren, Anneke Sools, Ernst Bohlmeijer

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

2 Citations (Scopus)
200 Downloads (Pure)


Objectives: Solution-focused support (SFS) is an upcoming approach to support people with intellectual disabilities (ID). However, while research shows that clients appreciate this approach, insight into professionals’ experiences and their application of SFS is lacking. This article describes a qualitative study aimed at understanding how professionals make sense of learning and applying SFS, specifically, Cauffman’s Solution Cube. Methods: Logbook files in which professionals reported their experiences with SFS for a full year were qualitatively analyzed in two steps: (1) identification of how professionals assigned successful and unsuccessful applications of SFS, and reflected on what worked and dilemmas arising during this application process, (2) identification of patterns over time in how professionals learned how to deal with the encountered dilemmas. Results: The main dilemma experienced by professionals concerns ‘doing what works’ in conjunction with other dimensions of the Solution Cube. Three overall patterns were identified to address how professionals made sense of learning how to apply SFS over time and deal with ambiguities of ‘doing what works’ in practice: (1) a focus on caring, (2) a focus on empowering, and (3) a focus on balancing between the two. Conclusions: Understanding how professionals deal with SFS over time enables researchers to identify different ways professionals learn SFS, along with the ambiguities they experience about the approach and unintended applications. Implications for implementing SFS and learning facilitators that might help promote a balance between caring and empowerment, specifically for people with ID, are provided.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)170-183
Number of pages14
JournalInternational journal of developmental disabilities
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 3 Jul 2017


  • Intellectual disabilities
  • Professional learning
  • Solution-focused support
  • Staff training


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