Insoo Kim Berg (1934-2007)

Insoo Kim Berg was a renowned Korean-American lecturer, author, and therapist. The primary co-founder of solution-focused brief therapy (SFBT), she also made significant contributions to the fields of family therapy, counseling, coaching, social work, and research.

Early Life

Berg was born in Korea on July 25, 1934. Encouraged by her relatives to become a pharmacist in order to support her family’s business in the manufacture of medicinal drugs, she attended Ewha Woman’s University in Seoul, where she majored in pharmacy studies.

Seeking to both further her studies and obtain independence from her family, Berg traveled to the United States in 1957 and enrolled at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. There, she completed her Bachelor of Science (BS), social work (MSSW), and Master of Science degrees and began working as a technician at the medical school, investigating stomach cancer in an animal lab.

Her growing interest in social work and desire to maintain her newfound independence moved her to shift her focus to psychotherapy. She divided her post-graduate studies between the following institutions: the Family Institute of Chicago, the Menninger Foundation, and finally the Palo Alto Mental Research Institute (MRI), where she was supervised by John Weakland.

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After completing her training in psychotherapy, Berg began to work for Milwaukee Family Services. As her experience and expertise grew, she provided consultation services to mental health centers, substance dependency centers, foster homes, social service centers, human service centers, homeless shelters, correction departments, coaching organizations, shelters for victims of domestic violence, family service programs, schools, universities, and a number of other institutions. 

Berg had one daughter, Sarah, with her first husband, Charles H. Berg. She first met her second husband, Steve de Shazer—with whom she later co-founded SFBT—during her time at MRI. She died on January 10, 2007 in Milwaukee. 

Professional Life 

Berg earned worldwide recognition for her work as a therapist and consultant. In 1978 she co-founded the Brief Family Therapy Center in Milwaukee with her husband and served as its executive director. She worked on the editorial boards of a variety of mental health publications such as the Family Psychology and Counseling series, the Journal of Marital and Family Therapy, Family Process, and Families in Society

Berg was an active member of several organizations, including the Wisconsin Association for Marriage and Family Therapy, the European Brief Therapy Association, and the National Association of Social Workers. She also worked as a supervisor for the American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy. 

After founding and establishing the SFBT approach, she trained therapists all over the world in the method, holding frequent seminars and training sessions in the United States, Canada, Europe, Asia, and South America. Berg also served as a keynote speaker at many international conferences.

She was also a prolific writer and published a number of books in addition to her many articles on SFBT.

Contribution to Psychology

Berg co-founded and pioneered the practice of solution-focused brief therapy (SFBT). She recognized that, when people first seek help, a lot of time, energy and other resources are often spent with examining and thinking about the issues they are seeking treatment for while they continue to be affected by these concerns. SFBT attempts to address this issue by offering short therapy sessions in which the therapist aims to help the person seeking treatment develop solutions instead of focusing exclusively on the challenges being experienced.  

The approach places emphasis on the present and future rather than the past, helping people focus on the positive things they accomplish when their issues are less severe. The therapist helps individuals become aware of these successes and explore ways to repeat them, often helping them develop a greater sense of hope in the process. This treatment modality focuses on realistic solutions that are designed to help those in therapy achieve a reasonable level of relief as quickly as possible.

Notable Publications

References:

  1. Solution-Focused Brief Therapy Association. (n.d.). Insoo Kim Berg. Retrieved from http://www.sfbta.org/bftc/insoo_kim_burg.html
  2. Yalom, V. & Rubin, B. (2003). Insoo Kim Berg on brief solution-focused therapy. Retrieved from https://www.psychotherapy.net/interview/insoo-kim-berg

Last Update: 04-27-2016

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