What Is Solution Focused Therapy?

By Rachel Lustbader|Updated May 13, 2022
Solution focused therapy, also known as solution-based therapy or brief counseling, entered mainstream psychotherapy practices between 1970s and 1980s. What began as an aspect of systems therapies has morphed into its own counseling practice entirely, which has increasingly grown in popularity in modern times. Created by married therapists Steve de Shazer and Insoo Kim Berg, solutions-based counseling focuses on now, or being in the present moment. It generally takes less time to see success in this form of counseling than in others. If you're interested in learning more about this kind of therapy, whether it happen through online therapy services or in-person, read on.

Solution Focused Therapy

Solution-Based Therapy Helps You Achieve Your Goals

What Is Solution Focused Therapy?

When we have an issue, it can take a long time to pinpoint the cause of the issue and get better. That is where solution-focused therapy can help. When an individual or group of people attend solution-focused therapy sessions, the experience is usually very brief. Solution-focused therapy is centered on the idea of honing in on solutions rather than problems. During other methods, a therapist may spend many hours processing with clients and talking about the problem and possible origins of the problem. Solution-based therapy spends far less time talking about the problem to promote efficient, mentally healthy solutions to a client's problems.

During studies and therapists' practices, it has been discovered that clients may experience highs and lows about their problems. They may go a year without the recurrence of a certain issue, but then, they may deal with it for weeks on end. That is where resolution-focused therapy comes in, helping the client with tangible resolutions.

Resolution-Based Counseling

Solutions-focused therapy deals with a variety of principles to generate solutions for those who need them. The source of a client's problems is clearly defined during a solutions-based therapy session; furthermore, successes are just as emphasized.
For example, solutions-based therapy centers on the following:
  • Change will always happen; it's inevitable. Clients are asked to embrace change and want it.

  • Clients have the power to create their own goals and feel more confident.

  • Each client has his or her strengths and skills to solve their problems.

  • Focusing on the past is not as relevant.

  • This type of therapy is more short-term.

Resolution-Based Counseling Benefits

Many individuals with anxiety, depression, ADHD, PTSD, and other mental health disorders and life issues have all thought, "I will never find a solution to my problem. I will always be miserable and will never be happy." They sit on the opposite end of a therapist, psychiatrist, or psychologist with skepticism in their minds and sinking feeling in their hearts. They may agonize over small details and catastrophize larger details. With a solution-focused therapist, the client can quickly learn to move away from this thinking pattern and start to feel empowered to solve their problems.

It Helps You Set Goals

You likely have goals and objectives before sitting down during a resolution-based therapy session; however, these sessions help you formulate goals about your issue. For example, if you are finding that you can't speak your mind during staff meetings at your job, the therapist will ask you why you feel that way, using scaling and other techniques. Then, you can set goals to accommodate a resolution to the issue, which could be: getting over your fear of speaking in public, being more assertive in getting your points across, and tips on how to appear more confident in your job position.

You Will Focus On Your Strengths

While many people do not go to therapy to be told what they are good at, this type of therapy discusses strengths about change and how you can better balance your strengths to leverage the situation. Resolution-based therapy is based on a complimentary system, where the therapists listen to the client and care about the answers. General-interest questions, such as "How did you manage that?", in a complimentary, friendly tone. The goal here is for the client to build confidence and remind the client that just because they feel anxious about the particular problem, there are many things they are good at and have already overcome many other obstacles. This will help the client tap into their natural problem-solving abilities.

It's Short-Term And Cost-Effective

Since the goal is to jump right in and focus on the here and now, you are not going to spend sessions talking about your history and digging into old wounds and traumas if it is not necessary. Some people need longer-term therapy and need to revisit old traumas. This is not meant to discount the value in recovering from past events. But it is not necessary for everyone. Many people who benefit from this therapy are going through a specific issue or a major life change or transition.

Resolution-Based Counseling Techniques

Scaling Methods

Therapists use scaling methods doing resolution-based therapy sessions with their clients. This ensures that the clients are putting a value on their experiences, thoughts, emotions, and more. Scaling is a more logical approach to therapy, using numbers to quantify emotions and feelings. In turn, using numbers can help you feel calmer during a therapy session. You will be more prone to talk about what is bothering you, which is a quicker approach. When therapists utilize scaling, they help their clients create feelings of control and confidence.

The individual experiencing stress and other related symptoms may think the issues are overwhelming, overshadowing their happiness with negativity and doubt. Scaling makes it seem real like it is something they can manage - either on their own or with help. They feel more hopeful and confident their current situation will pass. Scaling exercises will cause critical thinking. Clients will be able to see outside their narrow forms of vision and see the big picture, thinking objectively about their own lives and situations.

During sessions, therapists break down the steps of scaling to more manageable chunks of information. This lessens the burden and overwhelming feelings associated with handling information overload.

During scaling, a therapist may ask a patient:

"On a scale of one to 10, how do you anxious do you feel about your upcoming presentation?"
"You said you are a 6 on the scale. What makes you not a 5 or a 7?"
These questions identify a cause and how to change. They give you the flexibility you need to make your own decisions. Some people are more visual, so drawing a staircase or showing a photo with the numbers may help you visualize how you feel about the number.

Coping and Exception In Resolution-Based Counseling

In addition to scaling methods, therapists also use coping and exception questions during their techniques in solution focused therapy. Examples of coping questions are:

  • What motivates you during times of stress?
  • How do you usually cope with this situation?
  • How do you solve this problem?
  • If someone else would experience this issue, what advice would you give him or her?
  • Exception questions also are used to highlight when a person does not deal with the problem in question, due to various changes:
  • What has changed since our last session?
  • When does the problem not occur?
  • How do you feel when the problem does not occur?
  • Are you doing anything differently when the problem doesn't happen?

The Miracle Question Of Resolution-Based Counseling

This question format allows you to create your future, tailored to your life. The miracle question is helpful when a client does not know what he or she wants in the future. What does a better life look like? A therapist could ask, "A genie grants you three wishes. What would you wish for that made your life better?" or "You fall into a deep sleep, and when you wake up the next morning, a miracle has made your life better. What has changed?" The miracle question allows you to step outside of the box and create your visionary path - with freedom and a more focused approach from your therapist. He or she will know how to help you and will make sure it's brief and to the point.

Solution-Based Therapy Helps You Achieve Your Goals
These methods are also used for resolution-based family therapy. To create resolutions for the entire family, a therapist will remind the family of their previous successes but will dwell more on the present and future. This will garner hope as the family gains resources and other tools needed to progress toward their joined goal.

Accepting that each family is different, is vital, and there is not a strict guideline on how a family should act, think, etc. For children, when a therapist acts as if the child is the expert of his or her own life, then the child is more prone to be receptive to therapy. Visual representations, including diagrams, coloring sheets, and worksheets also give children a clear way to understand the goals and objectives lined out in front of them.

Resolution-Based Counseling Conclusion

If you have an issue you can't seem to solve, you may consider consulting a resolutions-based therapist near you. If you're willing to change and want to focus more on the present and future, then this type of therapy could be for you. Creating your own goals and framing your future will aid you as you prepare to find resolutions and build upon internal and external changes. You can also try online therapy. BetterHelp offers a secure platform where you can be matched with a licensed, qualified therapist and get started today! All you need to get started is an internet connection and a smartphone, tablet, or computer.

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