What is Solution Focused Therapy?
9th Mar 23
Solution Focused Brief Therapy (SFBT) is grounded in the idea that, with a little help and support, most people are capable of finding solutions to their problems. Therefore, the therapist’s role is to help them identify and amplify their strengths and resources in order to achieve their goals.
The therapy is usually brief, typically three to six sessions. It is highly collaborative and goal-oriented. The client is seen as the expert in their life, while the therapist brings their expertise about mental wellbeing and how to bring about positive change.
How quick is ‘brief’?
‘Brief’ in the title doesn’t mean that the process must necessarily be completed quickly. SFBT generally need fewer sessions because it is so effective. In any case, it is the client who decides when therapy should end, and most of my clients are satisfied after three to six sessions. Nevertheless, some prefer contact over a longer period, it’s their choice.
One of the key features of SFBT is that it focuses on the client’s desired outcomes. The therapist will ask the client to envision a future where their problem is no longer present, and then work collaboratively with them to identify the steps that they can take to get there.
This approach is based on the idea that by focusing on their desired future, the client can take small steps towards their goal. Each small improvement provides motivation to continue, and, as SFBT practitioners say “Small change leads to bigger change”.
Strengths and resources
Another key aspect of SFBT is its emphasis on the client’s strengths and resources, rather than focusing on their problems. So the therapist encourages the client to identify the strengths, skills, and resources that they can use to move past their problems. By doing this, the client is helped to build their self-esteem and confidence, and empowered to actively seek solutions to their problems.
SFBT is also highly collaborative, with the therapist and client working together to identify and achieve the client’s goals. The therapist will ask the client a series of questions to help them identify their goals and the steps that they can take to achieve them.
The questions are designed to be open-ended and non-judgmental, and they are focused on the client’s strengths, resources, and desired future.
This collaborative approach helps the client feel supported and empowered, and it helps them take an active role in their process of healing and growth.
When we are distressed or troubled by something, we often forget the brighter side of life, such as our successes, talents, skills, and the things we normally enjoy doing.
In the therapy room (or via Zoom) solution-focused conversations don’t dwell on the problem and instead elicit past successes and the resources the client naturally possesses but may have forgotten. Clients are often surprised to find that each session can be uplifting.
On the practitioner’s side, the goal is that each session should make a difference. It is a guiding idea that the client should leave the session feeling better than when they arrived.
Empowering and effective
One of the reasons why SFBT is so effective is that it is highly goal-oriented. By focusing on the client’s goals and desired future, the therapist helps the client to stay motivated and committed to making changes.
The therapy is also highly practical. Therapist and client work together to identify specific actions that the client can take to achieve their goals.
This focus on action and practical solutions helps clients to feel empowered and in control of their own lives, and it helps them to make positive changes more quickly.
Adaptable and equal
Another reason why SFBT is effective is that it is adaptable to the individual and their situation.
The therapy can address a wide range of problems, from anxiety and depression to relationship issues and addiction. But, mental health issues are not the only reason people seek therapy. Life challenges like work and career, finances, stress, and education are all common topics of discussion.
SFBT is commonly used also be used in a variety of settings, including individual, couples, and family therapy, as well as in education and the workplace.
Rather than using the term ‘therapy’, which could suggest a hierarchy between therapist and client, sessions are generally approached as a series of conversations between equals.
This naturalistic approach therapy is tailored to meet the specific needs of each client, and it can be adapted to fit different cultural, linguistic, and socio-economic settings.
Research continues to show just how effective SFBT can be. It is grounded in the client’s desired future, their strengths and resources, and their ability to find solutions to their problems.
It’s a highly collaborative approach to therapy because it is practical, and adaptable to different people and situations. Empowering clients to take an active role in their own healing process is strengths-based and rooted in positive psychology.
A short answer
In summary, SFBT is effective because it is based on a strengths-based and positive psychology approach. Rather than focusing on pathology and deficits, conversations highlight the client’s strengths, resources, and resilience.
Solution Focused conversations help clients to build their self-esteem and confidence, and to see their potential for growth and change. By fostering a positive outlook and a focus on the future, SFBT helps them to shift perspective so they can move “from problems to solutions”, and toward their goals.