What Is Solution Focused Therapy?

Updated September 30, 2022by BetterHelp Editorial Team
Solution focused therapy, also known as solution-based therapy or brief counseling (solution focused brief therapy), 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, and when you may decide to seek therapy. 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 - to find answers to any miracle questions that might come up. During other methods, a therapist may spend many hours processing with clients managing trauma 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 life experiences and problems.

During studies and therapists' practices, it has been discovered that clients may experience highs and lows about their problems and life events. 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 with a variety of questioning techniques and therapy techniques. Another great resource is a therapy treatment manual, where you can look at the outcome research, therapy process, problem solving, and treatment modalities.

Resolution-Based Counseling

Solutions-focused therapy deals with a variety of principles to generate solutions for those who need them through a therapeutic process and SFBT practitioners. 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 detailed description while presenting problems without possible solutions. With a solution-focused therapist, the client can quickly learn to move away from this thinking pattern and it helps clients to feel empowered to solve their problems with behavioral changes, and when the present problem arises, they know how to solve problems from the first session.

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 through indirect compliments. 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, and hope inspiring stories can also help alleviate such difficulty with many clients.. 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 the first session, 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 while helping clients in learning 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 marital and family therapy. To create resolutions for the entire family through a family process, 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 is a key element of marital and family therapy. 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. All you need to get started is an internet connection and a smartphone, tablet, or computer.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs):

What is solution focused therapy used for?

Solution focused brief therapy (SFBT) is used to place a focus on a person’s present and future circumstances, rather than past experiences, which distinguishes it from other forms of therapy. Solution focused brief therapy (SFBT) is a goal-oriented type of therapy that places a focus on goal setting to bring about positive psychology. This can differ from other types of therapy that are more people focused, such as cognitive behavioral therapy. Solution focused brief therapy (SFBT) believes in finding solutions by being future oriented, with the exceptions being looking at the past as some traditional forms of therapy do.

What are the key concepts of solution focused therapy? How does SFBT work?

The main focus of solution focused brief therapy is: change is constant and certain, placing an emphasis on what is possible, clients must want to change, clients are the expert in goal setting and therapy, and that clients already have the resources and strength to find solutions for their problems. Solution focused brief therapy (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 psychology today and the benefits goal setting can have. 

Is Solution Focused Therapy Effective?

As of now, there seems to be strong evidence that solution focused brief therapy (SFBT) is evidence based and effective at treating both behavioral problems and psychological conditions. Solution focused practitioners take a different approach to behavioral therapy by focusing on scaling questions and coping questions. However, these are built into a forward-looking mindset that focuses on the future goals a person wishes to seek out through a solution focused approach. Psychology today is often believed to be only people-based, but a goal-based therapy such as this can be equally beneficial and potentially less costly. Solution focused brief therapy can be effective at treating a range of condition such as bipolar disorder and is still being researched in psychology today.

How long is solution focused therapy?

Typically, a solution focused brief therapy session lasts 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 in a shorter amount of time. The solution focused brief therapy association outlines the general treatment plan for those seeking positive psychology today using this method. If you believe this SFBT approach can help your situation, reach out to a therapist or doctor in your area at a treatment center to learn more.

What is a coping question?

Coping questions are structured to help a client shift their focus away from problem elements and more towards what a person is doing to overcome a painful or stressful situation. This method is used to help clients in a treatment center or therapy sessions, regardless of what type of based therapy is being used. In psychology today, coping questions are evidence based methods of redirecting a client’s focus and finding solutions to problems in odd areas. Many different types of therapy use coping questions effectively and are helpful ways for a person to tackle challenging situations.

How does person centered therapy work?

Person-centered types of therapy are where a client does most of the talking and a therapist tries to guide your words in an attempt to understand your feelings or thoughts. There are many evidence based forms of therapy, but person centered therapy is one of the oldest. As opposed to goal centered therapy such as solution focused brief therapy with a goal oriented nature, talking therapies allow a client to work through most of their problems verbally and head on in most cases with specific problem solving approaches. In psychology today, this is one of the most effective types of therapy used and a treatment center, social work center, or mental health professionals office likely uses a person based therapy approach. If you believe this may help, visit a therapy center near you to discuss all the evidence based therapy options available and to find a support group in your area.

What are the 5 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 will often use these coping strategies in their treatment models through constructive collaboration. In the encyclopedia of social work, those looking for the best hopes of treatment, whether through solution focused brief therapy or another type, should learn the best coping strategies for their case. This can be done through therapy or even finding a support group in your area. Psychology today places an emphasis on the thoughts and emotions people experience, and coping methods can help a person create positive psychology through focusing on positive things and being goal directed. Whether faced with a disorder, such as bipolar disorder, or other mental health challenges, a person can reframe their thinking and see so much success as to believe a miracle occurred. If you believe solution focused brief therapy or another type can help you, find a support group or therapist in your area today for a solution focused approach to psychiatric treatment and brief therapy.

What is the concept of Solution-Focused 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 you navigate any mental health problems you might be experiencing. Through scaling questions and a range of training, couples and individuals have found motivation again regardless of any other diagnosis or intervention. You can learn more through the Oxford University press, such as the overall therapeutic message, previous solutions, and the benefits of therapy evidence based.

Who would benefit from Solution-Focused Therapy? 

Solution focused therapy can be a healthy way to talk through your life experiences in a solution building structure. Some examples of what you might discuss with your therapist could relationship problems, low self esteem, and day to day issues that might come up for you. Solution-focused therapy can help a client find tangible resolutions and can help someone feel more confident and powerful coming up with their own solutions.

When would you use Solution-Focused Therapy?

In general, anyone can try out a solution focused approach to psychiatric treatment if it seems like the right fit through outcome research. This type of therapy uses scaling questions which can help a client identify and rate their problems on an actual scale through interventions, testing level of effectiveness based on content and a team. It can serve as an effective supplemental therapy to other therapies like family therapy or substance use disorder therapy depending on one's addiction severity. Solution-focused therapy can be very empowering as it should encourage you to embrace change and also equips you to solve your own problems. Research shows that through treatment, behaviors and belief systems can change with the help of psychology and practitioners. People recognize their progress through couples counseling, as well as solution focused (SF) therapists. This is an example of social work practice, and using meta analyses, SF therapists, and developed solution focused therapy techniques, the social work practice is put to work and developed with a strange question.

For Additional Help & Support With Your Concerns

The information on this page is not intended to be a substitution for diagnosis, treatment, or informed professional advice. You should not take any action or avoid taking any action without consulting with a qualified mental health professional. For more information, please read our terms of use.
Get the support you need from one of our therapistsGet Started