The Five W’s (who, why, what, when, and where) are generally used to gather objective information about a particular topic or situation. Though often utilized in the field of journalism, I find that these types of questions have significant therapeutic value in helping someone unpack or explore the implicit norms and expectations that have come to inform their relative existence. More often than not, I find that someone’s fixed ideas about how they are “supposed” to think, feel, or act is causing more distress than the thoughts, feelings, or actions that they are assigning as problematic. Using the Five W’s to explore socially constructed norms and expectations can highlight the idea that they were constructed in the first place and make space to deconstruct and change them to be more preferable for the individual.
Who says you that you shouldn’t be angry about________________________?
What is preventing you from having a conversation about ___________________?
When is the right time to be sad and emotional? When is it an inappropriate time to be sad and emotional?
Where is a safe and comfortable place to have that thought or emotion? Can you create a space like that anywhere else?
Why do you feel the need to change __________________