A Thought Shifting Question: What are the Possibilities?


“What are the possibilities?” This is a simple question, yet it is a powerful one.   This is something I ask myself routinely in my own life.   I also find this useful both as a counselor and clinical supervisor. It packs with it, the possibilities of creative problem solving, hope building and a grounding calm. It is not a genius or new idea. It is a simple strategy and yet it can be such a thought shifter

Think about this for a moment.  What is something that is a problem for you right now? Consider asking yourself what the “positive” possibilities are with this. Do you feel any shift in your thinking? I have found that just asking the question assists with how one thinks about it, as new solutions are sought.

I will never forget a conversation I had with a young counselor many years ago. He was struggling to find his way as a professional. I was his clinical supervisor at the time. He had not shown up for a group that he was supposed to help facilitate. It was a problem as he was depended on for this. When we sat down to talk, he had all kinds of excuses (e.g., I had another obligation, it was after business hours when I knew I could not come so I could not reach anyone, etc., ).   I found myself asking gently, “What are the other possibilities” after each explanation. It was like an unraveling occurred for him. As we explored deeper, he began to come up with other possible choices. He shared, “I guess I could have called you.” Or he could have called the other facilitator. He also shared that he could have called the office and left a message. Or he could have cancelled the other obligation. In this instance, he began to learn to think in a new way about problem solving and personal responsibility.

I have sat with people in the deepest places of pain, loss, disappointment or shame. It is a very sacred space for me.   When one is in this place, it is common for people to be afraid and with this to make assumptions or play a guessing game about what might happen with a problematic situation. It is also a struggle to find the light and the hope amidst difficulty. I have found possibility seeking to be helpful with some of these situations, offering alternatives or exploring positive outcomes. I am not always doing this directly with a question, but perhaps with the direction of my inquiry. In doing so, both creative problem solving strategies and a calm acceptance can occur. For example, a beautiful middle aged woman was mourning her husband’s loss. He had died months earlier after a battle with cancer.   We were talking about her concerns with aging and health issues for herself, in a very existential kind of way. She shared that with living alone now, she was afraid about something happening to her and not having anyone be there if it did. She wanted to get a security system to feel safe at home.  As we explored her fear further, there was a sense of feeling very alone that came with this. We examined what were the other possibilities for feeling safe. She left our meeting with this on her mind. She later told me that she still intended to get a security system and what she also discovered was the possibility of creating other ways to decrease her fear and not feel so alone. She began to organize her neighbors for a neighborhood watch, to get to know them and to reach out to others as well. She began to create a sense of community within her neighborhood. The calmer and more powerful state that came with these new solutions was evident. She had more of a sense that she was not alone in all of this and that she had support close to her. I was inspired with how she found other possibilities in a way that was empowering for her and included others to surround her through her grief.

With all of this said, I felt called to share this simple way of exploring what else is possible when life seems difficult. I hope that you will find this to be of assistance in supporting others as well. So, what are the possibilities in this moment?



About Suzanne

My name is Suzanne Apelskog, MS, LPC, LMHC. I started this page out of a lifelong quest for learning on numerous levels. I offer numerous services, including story and inspiration for everyone, online counseling services for age 18 and over, clinical supervision, training and products for counselors and training and consultation services for business and leadership.

Speak Your Mind