Solution-Focused Brief Therapy

Solution-focused brief therapy (SFBT) is goal oriented, targeting the desired outcome of therapy as a solution rather than focusing on the symptoms or issues that brought someone to therapy. This technique emphasizes present and future circumstances and desires over past experiences. The therapist encourages the client to imagine the future that he or she wants and then the therapist and client collaborate on a series of steps to achieve that goal. This form of therapy involves developing a vision of one’s future, and then determining what skills, resources, and abilities a person already possesses that can be enhanced in order to attain the desired outcome. SFBT was developed by Steve de Shazer, Insoo Kim Berg, and their team at the Brief Family Therapy Family Center in Milwaukee, Wisconsin in the early 1980s.

How Does Solution Focused Brief Therapy Work?

Solution-focused brief therapy contends that people are equipped with the skills to create change in their lives, though they may need help in refining and identifying those skills. Similarly, SFBT recognizes that people already know, on some level, what change is needed in their lives, and SFBT practitioners help clients to clarify their goals. In particular, the therapist will help the client to identify a time in life when the present problem was either less detrimental or more manageable, and evaluate what factors were different or what solutions may have been present at that time.

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SFBT practitioners empathize with the struggles of their clients and guide clients to see what is working for them, to continue those practices that work, and to acknowledge and celebrate their successes. They also encourage clients to experiment with new approaches to problems. SFBT aims to help people find tools they can employ right away to manage symptoms and face challenges. This type of therapy can be used in individual therapy and with families and couples.

Techniques Used in SFBT

In solution-focused brief therapy, counselors ask specific types of question to guide the session. Coping questions, for example, help demonstrate to clients their resiliency and the number of ways in which they are capable of coping with challenges in their lives. An example might be, “How do you manage in the face of such difficulty to fulfill your daily obligations?” This can help a person to see his or her skill in coping with adversity.

Miracle questions help people envision a future in which the problem is absent. In essence, this line of questioning allows people to explain how their lives would look different if the problem did not exist, and this helps them to identify small, practical steps they can take immediately toward change. For example, the client might describe a feeling of ease with family members if the present problem were absent, and this serves as a reminder that these kind so behavioral changes are possible.

Scaling questions use a scale from 0–10 to assess present circumstances, progress, or how one is viewed by others. These kinds of questions are often used when there is insufficient time to explore the miracle question and to gain insight into the hopefulness, motivation, and confidence of clients. In addition, people who have difficulty verbalizing their experiences find this approach less challenging.



Last updated: 07-02-2015

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