Are you feeling stuck, and in need of a positive change? A therapy that you might be interested in exploring to help you do just that is Solution-Focused Brief Therapy (SFBT). Rather than focusing on the problem, SFBT focuses instead on solutions. SFBT is a strengths-based therapeutic approach, emphasizing the resources that people possess and how these can be applied to a positive change process (Bond, Woods, Humphrey, Symes, & Green, 2013). Goal oriented and client-focused, SFBT is utilized with precisely constructed questions. SFBT is generally brief, in that therapy is intended to produce change as quickly as possible.
Developed by married couple Steve de Shazer and Insoo Kim Berg, SFBT is influenced by several theories of therapy such as social constructivism, systems theory, narrative therapy, and the notion of personal constructs. The focus is on finding exceptions to the problem, which holds the key to what clients can do to identify solutions. The assumption is that the client already possesses solutions, and the therapist utilizes solution-focused questions to illuminate these solutions. Below is a helpful comparison between a problem-focused and a solution-focused approach (O’Connell, 2012):
- How can I help you?
- Could you tell me about your problem?
- Is the problem a symptom of an underlying issue?
- Can you tell me more about the problem?
- How are we to understand the problem in light of the past?
- What defence mechanisms are operating?
- How many sessions will we need?
- How will you know that coming here today has been helpful?
- What would you like to change?
- Can we dig deeper to discover solutions?
- Can we discover exceptions to the problem?
- What will the future look like without the problem?
- How can we use the skills and strengths of the client?
- Have we achieved enough to end?
Commonly used techniques in SFBT are the miracle question and scaling questions. The miracle question focuses on what the client’s life would look like when the problem is no longer there, therefore forcing him or her to become focused on the solution, rather than the problem. An example of the miracle questions is:
Suppose tonight, while you are asleep, a miracle happens and this problem is solved. You didn’t know the miracle happened because you were asleep. What will be happening the next day and how will you know that the problem is solved? (de Shazer, 1991)
Scaling questions help the client identify where he or she feels they are currently in their progress towards accomplishing or reaching their current goals. Follow up questions help clarify the path towards reaching those goals. An example of a scaling question would be:
On a scale of 0 to 10, where ‘0’ is the worst things have ever been and ‘10’ represents the miracle occurring, where would you say you are today? How did you get from ‘0’ to the number you are at now? What will need to be different to get from your number to ‘10’? (de Shazer, 1991).
SFBT has been shown to be effective in use with individuals, children, and families, exhibiting a wide range of presenting concerns. If you think an approach focusing on solutions would benefit you or your family, give us a call and we can get you started!
Bond, C., Woods, K., Humphrey, N., Symes, W., & Green, L. (2013). Practioner review: The effectiveness of solution focused brief therapy with children and families: A systematic and critical evaluation of the literature from 1990 – 2010. Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, 54(7), 707 – 723.
de Shazer, S. (1991). Putting difference to work. New York: Norton.
O’Connell, B. 2012. Solution-focused therapy. Los Angeles, CA: SAGE.