Solution-Focused Brief Therapy

What Is Solution-Focused Brief Therapy?

Unlike traditional forms of therapy that take time to analyze problems, pathology and past life events, Solution-Focused Brief Therapy (SFBT) concentrates on finding solutions in the present time and exploring one’s hope for the future to find quicker resolution of one’s problems. This method takes the approach that you know what you need to do to improve your own life and, with the appropriate coaching and questioning, are capable of finding the best solutions.

When It's Used

SFBT can stand alone as a therapeutic intervention, or it can be used along with other therapy styles and treatments. It is used to treat people of all ages and a variety of issues, including child behavioral problems, family dysfunction, domestic or child abuse, addiction, and relationship problems. Though not a cure for psychiatric disorders such as depression or schizophrenia, SFBT may help improve quality of life for those who suffer from these conditions.

What to Expect

Goal-setting is at the foundation of SFBT; one of the first steps is to identify and clarify your goals. The therapist will begin by questioning what you hope to get out of working with the therapist and how, specifically, your life would change when steps were taken to resolve problems. By answering these types of questions, you can begin to identify solutions and come up with a plan for change. One of the key questions the therapist asks is called the miracle question: “If a miracle occurred while you were asleep tonight, what changes would you notice in your life tomorrow?” This opens up your mind to creative thinking and, again, to setting goals and developing a clear plan that will lead to life-changing solutions.

How It Works

SFBT was developed by Milwaukee psychotherapists Steve De Shazer and Insoo Kim Berg in the late 1970s, early 1980s out of an interest in paying more attention to what people want and what works best for the individual, in contrast to more traditional psychotherapies that presume to know what works for different types of problems. One of the original beliefs of SFBT therapists was that the solution to a problem is found in the “exceptions,” or those times when one is free of the problem or taking steps to manage the problem. Working from the theory that all individuals are at least somewhat motivated to find solutions, SFBT begins with what the individual is currently doing to initiate behavioral and lifestyle changes. The therapist uses interventions such as specific questioning techniques, 0-10 scales, empathy and compliments that help a person to recognize one’s own virtues, like courage and strength, that have recently gotten the person through hard times and are likely to work well in the future. Individuals learn to focus on what they can do, rather than what they can’t, which allows them to find solutions and make positive changes more quickly

What to Look for in a Solution-Focused Brief Therapist

SFBT techniques can be incorporated into other forms of counseling and therapy. Look for a licensed, experienced counselor, social worker, psychotherapist or other mental health professional with training in SFBT. In addition to finding someone with the appropriate educational background, experience and positive approach, look for a therapist with whom you feel comfortable discussing personal issues.

Sources

Iveson C. Solution-focused brief therapy. Advances in Psychiatric Treatment. 2002;8(2):149-157

Lee MY. Solution-focused brief therapy.  Encyclopedia of Social Work: Clinical and Direct Practice. Published Online September 2013.

Solution-Focused Brief Therapy Association