Solution-focused therapy, also known as solution-based therapy or solution-focused brief therapy, entered mainstream psychotherapy practices in the 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.
What Is Solution-Focused Brief Therapy?
When we experience a life challenge, it can take a long time to pinpoint the cause of the problem and devise a solution. That’s where solution-focused brief therapy with a therapist or therapy center may help. When an individual or group of people attend solution-focused therapy sessions, the experience is usually brief.
Solution-focused therapy centers on the idea of honing in on solutions rather than problems. With previous solutions, a therapist may have spend many hours processing concerns with clients, managing trauma, and talking about the possible origins of the problem. After learning solution focused therapy, the therapist tends to spend far less time talking about the problem to promote efficient, mentally healthy solutions to a client's life experiences and problems. This is the reason why solution-focused brief therapy may be effective for families who are experiencing a major trial in their relationships with one another.
In 2011, Oxford University Press published a handbook called Solution-Based Therapy: Evidence Based Practice that both analyzes research and offers interventions on this psychiatric treatment. It includes meta analyses of treatment of the SFBT approach on various mental health conditions such as major depressive disorder and substance abuse disorders, as well as offering an illustrated guide of therapeutic approaches for the SFBT practitioner.
SF therapists have discovered over the years that clients can experience highs and lows with their problems and life events. They may go a year without the recurrence of a certain concern, but then they may deal with it for weeks on end. With solution-focused therapy, a therapist aims to help the client with tangible resolutions via a variety of questioning techniques.
Principles Of Solution-Focused Treatment
Solutions-focused therapy tends to use several principles to generate solutions for clients:
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.
Clients have their own strengths and skills to solve their problems.
Focusing on the past is not as relevant.
This type of therapy is more short-term.
Benefits Of Solution-Centered Therapy
With solution-focused therapy, a client may quickly learn to move away from negative thinking patterns and feel empowered to solve their problems with behavioral changes. When the present problem arises, they may already know how to solve it from the first session.
It Can Help You Set Goals
You may likely have overall goals and objectives before sitting down during a solution-focused therapy session. However, your sessions may help you formulate specific goals for your main concern. For example, if you are finding that you can't speak your mind during staff meetings at your job, the therapist may ask you why you feel that way, using scaling and other techniques. Then, you can set goals to find a solution to the problem. These goals might include getting over your fear of speaking in public, being more assertive in getting your points across, and using tips on how to appear more confident in your job position.
You Can Focus On Your Strengths
While many people do not go to therapy to be told what they are good at, this type of therapy often discusses the client’s strengths for change. Solution-focused therapy is usually based on a complimentary system in which the therapist listens to the client and answers with indirect praises. These may include general-interest questions, such as "How did you manage that?", in a friendly tone. The goal here is usually to help the client build confidence and remind them that even though they feel anxious about a particular problem, there are many positive things they can do and they have already overcome many other obstacles. This focus on their capacity to overcome problems in the past may help them tap into their natural problem-solving abilities.
It's A Short-Term And Cost-Effective Type Of Therapy
Because of its goal oriented nature, the therapeutic process of SBT works often by jumping right in to focus on the here and now, you are likely not going to spend sessions talking about your history and digging into old wounds and traumas if it is not necessary. Some people who seek therapy need longer-term therapy to revisit old traumas. Solution-based therapy 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 type of therapy are going through a specific challenge or a major life transition that doesn’t necessarily require long-term therapy.
Solution-Based Therapy Techniques
SFTB therapists often use scaling methods during solution-based therapy sessions to ensure that the clients put value on their experiences, thoughts, and emotions. Scaling tends to be a more logical approach to therapy, using numbers to quantify emotions and feelings attached to a client’s situation. Using numbers can help clients feel calmer during a therapy session. They may be more prone to talk about what is bothering them, which can be a quicker approach to therapy. When therapists utilize scaling, they aim to help their clients create feelings of control and confidence.
An individual experiencing stress or other related symptoms may think their concerns about daily obligations are overwhelming, overshadowing their happiness with negativity and doubt. Scaling can help people recognize that their problems are something they can manage, either on their own or with help. They may feel more hopeful and confident that their current situation will pass. Hope-inspiring stories can also help alleviate such difficulty with many clients. Scaling exercises may lead to increased critical thinking, helping clients to look outside their point of view and see the big picture, thinking objectively about their own lives and situations.
During the first session, therapists often break down the steps of scaling to more manageable chunks of information. This can reduce the burden and overwhelming feelings associated with handling information overload.
During scaling, a therapist may ask a patient:
"On a scale of 1 to 10, how 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 aim to identify a cause and how to help a client change. They give the client flexibility to make their own decisions. Some people are more visual, so drawing a staircase or showing a photo with the numbers may help them visualize how they feel about the number.
Problem-Focused Therapy's Coping And Exception Questions
In addition to scaling methods, therapists also tend to use coping and exception questions while helping clients learn 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 experienced this problem, what advice would you give them?
Exception questions also are sometimes used to highlight when a person does not experience 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 occur?
Solution-Based Therapy Helps You Achieve Your Goals
The Mysterious Clue Of Solution-Oriented Therapy
This question format is designed to allow the client to create a detailed description of a future tailored to their life. The miracle question can be helpful when a client does not know what they want in the future. An SFBT therapist could say, "A genie grants you three wishes. What would you wish for that would make your life better?"
Alternatively, they might state, "You fall into a deep sleep, and when you wake up the next morning, a miracle has made your life better. What has changed?"
This goal directed miracle question allows the client to step outside the box and create their desired future—with freedom and a focused approach from the therapist.
These methods can also be used for solution-based marital and family therapy. To create solutions for the entire family through a family process, a solution-focused therapist may remind the family of their previous successes but dwell more on the present and future. This may garner hope as the family gains resources and other tools needed to progress toward their joint goal.
Accepting that each family is different and that there is not a strict guideline on how a family should think and act can be a key element of marital and family therapy. For children, when SFBT practitioners act as if the child were the expert in their own life, then the child may be more receptive to therapy. Visual representations, including diagrams, coloring sheets, and worksheets, can also give children a clear way to understand the goals and objectives lined out in front of them.
Trying Solution-Focused Therapy Online
If you’re interested in trying solution-focused therapy but feel hesitant to go to a therapist’s office, you might try online therapy, which outcome research shows to be just as effective as in-person therapy. With an online therapy service like BetterHelp, you can try solution-focused therapy from home or anywhere with an internet connection. You can connect with a therapist via phone or video chat at a time that works for you. Also, if you’re interested in solution-focused family therapy, this may be more convenient for your family if you have busy schedules.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Below are some of the most frequently asked questions about solution focused brief therapy (SFBT) and the effectiveness of solution-focused therapy.
What Is Solution-Focused Brief Therapy Used For?
Solution-focused brief therapy (SFBT) is often used to focus on a person’s present and future circumstances, rather than past experiences, which distinguishes it from other forms of therapy. SFBT is a goal-oriented type of therapy that often differs from other types of therapy that are more people focused, such as cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT). SFBT tends to emphasize finding solutions by focusing on the present and future.
What Are The Key Concepts Of Solution-Focused Brief (SFBT) Therapy?
Solution-focused brief therapy (SFBT) aims to offer a therapy solution and problem-solving guidance to clients looking for quick resources to meet a specific goal. With a therapist, the client may work through key concepts of SFBT like the “miracle question,” charting, brainstorming, and other techniques.
How Does SFBT Work?
The principles behind solution-focused brief therapy are as follows: change is constant and certain, emphasize what is possible, clients must want to change, clients are the expert in goal setting and therapy, and clients already have the resources and strength to find solutions for their problems. SFBT is a form of short-term therapy that is an evidence-based practice where focused practitioners help clients understand positive psychology through a recognition of the benefits of goal setting.
Is Solution-Focused Brief Therapy Effective?
Research shows strong evidence that solution-focused brief therapy (SFBT) is effective at treating both behavioral problems and psychological conditions. Solution-focused practitioners tend to take a different approach to behavioral therapy by focusing on scaling questions and coping questions. These are usually built into a forward-looking mindset that focuses on the future goals a person wishes to attain through a solution-focused approach and are backed by research showing the effectiveness of solution-focused brief therapy.
How Long Is Solution-Focused Brief Therapy?
A solution-focused brief therapy session tends to last around 45 minutes and rarely extends past eight sessions. Unlike other types of therapy, this is a short-term therapy that is meant to help patients find solutions to a specific question or questions.
What Is A Coping Question?
Coping questions in SFBT are structured to help clients shift their focus away from problem elements and more toward what they are doing to overcome a painful or stressful situation. This method is used to help clients in a treatment center or therapy practice, regardless of what type of therapy is being used. Coping questions are evidence-based methods of redirecting a client’s focus and finding solutions to problems. Many different types of therapy use coping questions to help people tackle challenging situations.
How Does Person-Centered Therapy Work?
In person-centered therapy, a client tends to do most of the talking and the therapist tries to guide their words in an attempt to understand their feelings or thoughts. As opposed to goal-centered therapy, such as solution-focused brief therapy, client-centered therapy allows a client to work through most of their problems verbally and head on in most cases with specific problem-solving approaches. If you have questions about these types of therapy, you might ask a therapist what approach might work best for your specific concerns.
What Are The Five Types Of Coping Strategies?
The main five types of coping strategies are meditation, journaling, reframing, cognitive distortions, and positive thinking or positive psychology. Traditional forms of evidence-based therapy often use these coping strategies in their treatment models through constructive collaboration. Modern psychology often emphasizes the thoughts and emotions people experience, and coping strategies can help a person focus on positive thoughts and goals.
What Is The Concept Of Solution-Focused Brief Therapy?
Solution-focused brief therapy came into popular practice in the 1970s and 1980s and was founded by Steve de Shazer and Insoo Kim Berg at the Brief Family Therapy Center in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Although there are a variety of therapy techniques, solution-focused therapy can help people navigate any mental health challenges they might be experiencing. Through scaling questions and a range of training exercises, couples and individuals have found motivation again while going through a diverse array of mental health and relationship challenges.
Who Would Benefit From Solution-Focused Brief Therapy?
Solution-focused therapy can be a healthy way for anyone to talk through their life challenges under the guidance of a licensed therapist. Some examples of what you might discuss with your therapist could be relationship problems, low self-esteem, and day-to-day concerns that might come up for you. Solution-focused therapy may help you find tangible solutions and feel more confident coming up with your own solutions.
When Would You Use Solution-Focused Therapy?
Solution-focused therapy would generally be used as a short-term treatment to help people achieve specific goals. This type of therapy tends to use scaling questions to help people identify and rate their problems on an actual scale. It may serve as an effective supplemental therapy to other therapeutic modalities, such as family therapy or substance use disorder, depending on the severity of someone’s use.
Solution-focused therapy can be empowering as it can encourage you to embrace change, in addition to equipping you to solve your own problems with the guidance of a licensed therapist. You may find that your beliefs and behaviors improve with solution-focused brief therapy.
How long does solution based therapy last?
What are the three types of clients in solution-focused therapy?
What is the difference between CBT and SFT?
What type of therapy is SFT?
What is SFT in mental health?
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