Understanding Focus Therapy

Medically reviewed by Julie Dodson, MA
Updated April 29, 2024by BetterHelp Editorial Team

There are many connotations, expectations, and stigmas associated with therapy. Many may view treatment as synonymous with talk therapy or a deep delve into the past. However, not all approaches to therapy require these techniques. For example, physical therapy has become a popular form of treatment that reduces pain, improves physical functioning, increases strength and flexibility, and addresses physical impairments.

In much the same way, focus therapy, also called solution-focused brief therapy (SFBT), is a type of psychotherapy that focuses more on present and future needs rather than evaluating what may have led to symptoms or concerns. How to focus is not a complex question to answer. Continue reading to learn more about focus therapy.

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What to expect in focus-based therapy sessions

Focus-based therapy emphasizes your present thoughts and feelings over past experiences like family dynamics or childhood experiences. It might allow you to feel more involved in the therapeutic process as you are empowered to identify the actions that support you and those that hinder you. This therapy modality may also give you the tools to make decisions about changing your current thought patterns and behavioral processes. 

In a focus-based therapy session, you might be asked about your reasons for attending counseling and any current emotions, urges, or thoughts. This type of therapy tends tobe spread over a short period, around five to eight sessions. Other therapists who practice psychoanalysis or behavioral talk therapy may have more time to review your background, personal history, and long-term concerns. Five to eight treatment sessions might only provide time to focus on current concerns and how your thoughts and beliefs might impact them. 

Respectful treatment

Focus therapy is often centered on treating an individual's current situation and possible solutions with dignity and respect. It can rely on a therapist who honors the individual's overall sense of reality in each moment, its implications, and what solution may work best. People using this type of therapy may feel more empowered and centered during the short duration of treatment for these reasons, whether they elect to continue therapy after their sessions with a solution-focused brief therapy practitioner.

With this therapy, you may not have to discuss distressing memories or topics you left behind. Your therapist can be a sounding board to let you talk and explain what's currently going on in your life and how it's impacting you. Rather than giving you advice, they may acknowledge your contributions and guide you in creating the solutions you feel are most beneficial.

iStock/Kobus Louw

The goal to understand

Therapists can be trained to listen, respond appropriately, and address concerns from their patients with consideration and respect. Talk therapy can feel less solution-based than some people might hope. For this reason, SFBT may be ideal for someone who craves guidance with specific problems rather than addressing ongoing concerns by deeply diving into personal history, family dynamics, and trauma.

If you are experiencing trauma, support is available. Please see our Get Help Now page for more resources.

A focus-based counselor's primary goal in focus-oriented therapy may be to listen while you work toward an inner understanding. You can determine what you want most and what you need to bring to your therapist to reach those goals. The short format of this type of therapy aids in its hyper-focus on solutions.

Full engagement in the present 

In focus-based therapy, you should learn to live more in the present moment and consider it on a deeper level while it's happening as well as,after the fact. When you recognize the significance of your situation, you may better judge the most effective solutions for you. 

SFBT can offer practical and readily implementable steps to address any concerns you might bring to the table. Using the techniques you develop, you may find yourself better equipped to address your concerns or issues as they arise rather than reacting to them.

Over time, the practices you learn in SFBT could help you make decisions and come to conclusions you might not have arrived at in the past. Developing tools and techniques during therapy to effectively engage with and address the concerns you bring to your therapist during sessions can be advantageous over the long term. 

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Action-based solutions 

As you discuss the concerns bringing you the most distress, your therapist may get in touch with their own sense of a situation. They may guide the conversation so you can find the answers you seek within yourself.

In focus therapy, you might see yourself as the therapist and your therapist as an emotional springboard, helping to guide you in the right direction but letting you come to conclusions on your own. They may let you discuss what you crave most to help you feel better about your life.

In this form of therapy, you can develop and implement various steps and gauge whether the steps are working or if you need to make changes. Because you're in control, you may use the sessions as encouragement and make changes outside of therapy when you feel confident. 

Signs of progression you may see in focus therapy 

When you identify the following steps during your sessions and believe that you have control over your future, you may feel a sense of comfort, confidence, and relief. Developing the tools needed to address your concerns might improve your physical health and well-being and boost your self-esteem and confidence. That confidence may continue to improve when you implement the strategies you've developed during your sessions.

SFBT therapists often believe that most humans have an innate desire to feel happy and healthy physically and mentally. With the help of a focused therapist, you may begin to develop tailored tools and techniques to address the unique circumstances of your life and make a difference in your well-being. 

Counseling options to consider

Successfully implementing changes and learning healthier habits and practices can take time, and you may attend a few sessions of SFBT before feeling more confident in your abilities. Still, the techniques provided may help you make long-term changes and improve your quality of life through self-empowerment. You can find an SFBT therapist in your area or attend this type of therapy online. 

Online counseling services can benefit those looking to create actionable solutions to challenges now. You don't have to worry about the frustration of finding a qualified therapist or calling multiple offices for an open appointment slot. Online therapy may allow matching with a therapist 24 to 48 hours after you sign up. Additionally, you can choose the therapy method with which you feel most comfortable, whether it's video, phone, or live chat therapy. 

Studies show that online therapy is effective for many types of treatment, including cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) and emotion-focused therapy (EFT), which are designed to be short-term, like focus-based therapy. In the study, participants felt as satisfied with their experience as they did with in-person treatment. Additionally, online therapy was more cost-effective. 

If you're still wondering if counseling is right for you or are interested in learning more about solution-focused therapy, reach out to a mental health professional through a platform like BetterHelp. Through the platform, you may find a therapist specializing in focus therapy through the 30,000+ providers available. 


Focus therapy may be worth considering if you value finding solutions to problems in the present and feel less concerned with delving into your past. This type of therapy allows client control alongside the compassionate guidance of a trained, licensed therapist. If you're ready to start, consider reaching out to a provider for further insight and support.  

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