The journal article, “Miracles, Dreams, and Empowerment: A Brief Therapy Practice Note,” describes empowerment in clients in clinical practice at the individual level. Since many people go to therapy feeling powerless, therapy should focus mainly on empowering the clients. In this research, the clients all feel that they are powerless in some parts of their lives. They believe that forces outside themselves have more to do with their success in achieving their goals, than their own actions do. The clinician tries to help the client discover the solutions to their problem within themselves. Those who feel empowered are those who have an internal locus of control, in other words, having resources and power. This is where the theory of personal agency comes in. People who believe they can accomplish their goals with the skills they possess have a high personal agency. Therefore, those with a low personal agency believe that something external, like a miracle, has more to do with accomplishing their goals. In an empowerment-based therapy, the clinician must relate to the client in a certain way. He/She treats the client as being able to make his/her own decisions, and he/she forms a good relationship with the client. The clinician’s use of questions is also important in this process.
Empowerment-based practice is tied with solution-focused therapy. Something used quite often in this practice is called “the miracle question.” The clinician asks his/her client this question, allowing them to visualize their future, and realize that their lives can change. The miracle question is as follows: “Suppose that after our meeting, you go home and go to bed. While you are sleeping, a miracle happens and the problem that brought you here is suddenly solved. Because you were sleeping, you don’t know that a miracle happened, but when you wake up tomorrow morning, you will be different. How will you know a miracle has happened? What will be the first small sign that tells you that the problem is resolved?” (Berg & Miller, 1992)
According to this question, the change in a client is from something external, such as a miracle. The client did not generate the change. Items from Rotter’s Internal-External Locus of Control Scale indicated an external locus of control from the miracle question. Some items from the scale are: “I have often found that what is going to happen will happen”; “Most people can’t realize the extent to which their lives are controlled by accidental happenings”; “Many of the unhappy things in peoples lives are partly due to bad luck.” When one refers to things happening in their lives as a result of luck, or accidents, they are somewhat saying it was a miracle. Therefore, they are stating that the source was external, without any effort from them.
In this experiment, the researchers thought the miracle question might be inconsistent with empowerment. So they moderated the miracle question, and came up with the “dream question.” “Suppose that tonight while you are sleeping you have a dream. In this dream you discover the answers you need to solve the problem that you are concerned about right now. When you wake up, you may or may not remember your dream, but you do notice you are different. As you go about starting your day, how will you know that you discovered or developed the skills necessary to solve your problem? What will be the first small bit of evidence that you did this?” The researcher follows this question with a few other questions and tasks, as he/she would do following the miracle question.
The dream question bears the message that solutions to one’s problems may be discovered within themselves. Items from Rotter’s Internal-External Locus of Control Scale indicated an internal locus of control from the dream question. “Becoming a success is a matter of hard work; luck has little or nothing to do with it”; “What happens to me is my own doing”; “In my case, getting what I want has little or nothing to do with luck.” As a result of the dream question, the clients can find the solutions within themselves, providing them with greater sense of personal power.
With the dream question as well as the miracle question, the researchers found that most