Solution Focused Brief Therapy

Solution-Focused Brief Therapy (SFBT), also called Solution-Focused Therapy (SFT) was developed by Steve de Shazer (1940-2005), and Insoo Kim Berg (1934-2007) in collaboration with their colleagues at the Milwaukee Brief Family Therapy Center beginning in the late 1970s. As the name suggests, SFBT is future-focused, goal-directed, and focuses on solutions, rather than on the problems that brought clients to seek therapy.

Solution-Focused Brief Therapy (SFBT) is a short-term goal-focused evidence-based therapeutic approach which helps clients change by constructing solutions rather than dwelling on problems. In the most basic sense, SFBT is a hope friendly, positive emotion eliciting, future-oriented vehicle for formulating, motivating, achieving, and sustaining desired behavioral change.

Solution-Focused practitioners develop solutions by first generating a detailed description of how the client’s life will be different when the problem is gone or their situation improved to a degree satisfactory to the client. Therapist and client then carefully search through the client’s life experience and behavioral repertoire to discover the necessary resources needed to co-construct a practical and sustainable solution that the client can readily implement. Typically this process involves identifying and exploring previous “exceptions,” e.g. times when the client has successfully coped with or addressed previous difficulties and challenges. In an inherently respectful and practical interview process, SF therapists and their clients consistently collaborate in identifying goals reflective of clients’ best hopes and developing satisfying solutions.

The practicality of the SFBT approach may stem in part from the fact that it was developed inductively in an inner-city outpatient mental health service setting in which clients were accepted without previous screening. The developers of SFBT spent countless hours observing therapy sessions over the course several years, carefully noting any sorts of questions, statements or behaviors on the part of the therapist that led to positive therapeutic outcome. Questions, statements, and activities associated with clients reporting progress were subsequently preserved and incorporated into the SFBT approach.

Solution Focused Brief Therapy (SFBT) helps couples shift from talking about problems to talking about solution, to identify resources, and to build on successful past solutions to problems. With SFBT couples will get help to articulate attainable goals and identify exceptions to when the problem occurs. As the couple is relating his/her story, their strengths are pointed out and complimented and the ways in which the couple has made difficult and positive choices in spite of the problem. 

Solution-Focused Brief Therapy utilizes several techniques to engage clients in solution-oriented conversations in order to reorient couples toward solutions, goals and the future. In this model, the treatment is limited to finding solutions to a current, specified problem, and treatment ends when the problem has been satisfactorily resolved.

Solution-focused brief therapy is an evidenced-based psychotherapy approach. There have been close to 150 randomized clinical control studies with different control populations in different clinical settings in multiple countries, almost all showing positive benefit of SFBT. There have also been eight meta-analyses on a range of outcome studies with an overall effect size ranging from small to large, for child, adolescent, and adult populations, for presenting problems such as depression, stress, anxiety, behavioral problems, parenting, and psychosocial and interpersonal problems (Kim et al, 2010; 2019). Click Here for more about the research in SFBT.

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