In my consulting and coaching practice the truth of what is troubling someone is often not the first response they give. So, I use the “top down” inquiry method.
It goes something like this:
Nell (N) asks, “What seems to be troubling you”?
The patient/client (p/c) states: “I know I will never be married.”
N: “Well, if you didn‘t marry, what would that mean? Why would that be bad?”
P/C: “I would be alone” “No one wants to be alone.”
N: “And if you were alone – what would that mean? Why would that be bad?”
P/C: “I would be lonely and sad” “I would probably get depressed.”
N: “And if you did become sad and lonely – even depressed – what would that mean?”
P/C: “Well, I would get old and die – alone.”
We had reached the end of the top down and discovered the real problem – the fear of death and dying alone.
The session could have taken off with each of the p/c’s answers, helping her find rational solutions to each. But the top down approach provided a complete picture of what was troubling this lady. Try this with yourself. When you run out of responses to “What would that mean?” and “Why would that be bad?”, you will uncover your sincere thoughts.