T: I am going to ask you a rather strange question . . . that requires some imagination on your part . . . do you have good imagination?
C: I think so, I will try my best.
T: Good. The strange question is this; After we talk, you go home (go back to work), and you still have lots of work to do yet for the rest of today (list usual tasks here). And it is time to go to bed . . . and everybody in your household are sound asleep and the house is very quiet . . . and in the middle of the night, there is a miracle and the problem that brought you to talk to me about is all solved . But because this happens when you are sleeping, you have no idea that there was a miracle and the problem is solved . . . so when you are slowly coming out of your sound sleep . . .what would be the first small sign that will make you wonder . . .there must’ve been a miracle . . .the problem is all gone! How would you discover this?
C: I suppose I will feel like getting up and facing the day, instead of wanting to cover my head under the blanket and just hide there.
T: Suppose you do, get up and face the day, what would be the small thing you would do that you didn’t do this morning?
C: I suppose I will say good morning to my kids in a cheerful voice, instead of screaming at them like I do now.
T: What would your children do in response to your cheerful “good morning?”
C: They will be surprised at first to hear me talk to them in a cheerful voice, and then they will calm down, be relaxed. God, it’s been a long time that happened.
T: So, what would you do then that you did not do this morning?
C: I will crack a joke and put them in a better mood.
The miracle question is an intervention created by the solution focused folks and is sponsored, today, by the letters DBT and ACT. Solution Focused therapy is based, in part, on the premise that folks usually have demonstrated capacity to solve their problems and that their current inability to solve a problem is temporal. Solution focused therapy avoids the big picture questions and focuses on the parts of the big picture that, for one reason or another, get in the way of functioning and mood improvement right now- it’s a nice compliment to acceptance based work.
Answers to the miracle question usually take the form of statements that are easily translated into bite-sized objectives that are realistic and manageable, making it ideal for folks who are experiencing acute symptoms. These objectives work to instill hope which increases motivation that can, in turn, lead to change. The changes are incremental but they create a feedback loop that incentivizes more positive change. Over time these small changes lead to a landscape that looks different and is more conducive to good mental health. One of the best parts of the intervention is that it is something most folks can do for themselves with minimal risk.
The dialogue above and more information about Solution Focused Therapy can be found here.