Solution-Focused Brief Therapy (SFBT) is a short-term, solution-based therapeutic approach to help clients focus on their present circumstances and their ability to use positive, future-focused motivations toward long-term, goal-directed, lasting behavioral changes. Rather than focusing on the difficulties in their lives that drove them to seek therapy, SFBT, with the guidance of a licensed therapist, encourages and incorporates healthy, positive psychological tools and mechanisms to develop a proactive plan and approach to create and implement self-driven motivation and solutions rather than becoming focused on their current problems. This approach to therapy provides a stimulating, emotive springboard towards sustained behavioral and challenge-driven changes in their point of view and coping mechanisms. SFBT presupposes an understanding and ability within the client to connect to their own keen instincts in order to formulate, concentrate upon, and achieve solutions in their present life, while exploring their hope and capability for facing difficulties in the future.
Unlike many other approaches to behavioral and psychotherapy, SFBT is less concerned with getting to the “why” related to challenges and behaviors and focuses more on the “how” of treating them. Through the use of thought-provoking and evocative questions and conversational interaction, the SFBT therapist will guide their client to imagine their desired future and outcomes. They then work collaboratively to create an action plan of incremental steps to achieve those goals, recognizing the strengths and successes the client has employed successfully so far in their journey.
The types and tenor of the questions used in SFBT are specific to guide the client toward a greater understanding of their abilities with coping and resiliency. These questions elicit the client’s focus on their motivations and mechanisms toward creative problem-solving. One of the foundational questions asked in SFBT is called the “Miracle Question”. This question or type of question is future-based, and constructed to allow the client to focus on what is already functioning healthfully in their decision-making, while giving careful consideration to what their life could and may be like.
In talking through these hypothetical scenarios, clients – with the validation and encouragement of the therapist – begin to identify and exercise small, practical steps they can assimilate toward effective change in their lives. Often, these questions are asked as the session is coming to its conclusion, thus allowing the therapist to gain insight into the introspection, motivation, and thought processes of their client. Additionally, this question is “food for thought”, designed to carry on with the client in their day, giving them something to ponder and deliberate until their next appointment together. By creating an invitation for consideration when identifying opportunities for a different approach forward-going, therapists provide “homework” or “experiment” windows for clients to explore and embrace in their daily life.
Beyond the initial miracle question, a series of scaling questions are employed to simultaneously allow both client and therapist to assess the client’s situational scenario, identify their perceived course required to achieve their goal, and establish what they will want to do in order to maintain their current level of progress, as well as continue to move forward. Clients are encouraged to evaluate and rate their level of motivation and confidence, as well as identifying and specifying that which brought them the greatest sense of progress, using a 1-10 scale, in the direction of their goal, “best hope,” or “miracle.”
Positive validation, encouraging observations, and compliments are all essential parts of the process of SFBT. When a particular strategy has yielded successful outcomes, acknowledging this course of thought and action further bolsters continuing contemplative consideration in future outcomes. Therapists approach SFBT with the prevailing attitude that their clients already possess the wisdom, strength, discernment, and experience to effect positive outcomes in their lives; their primary objective is to foster a confidence within their clients to see that within themselves. This approach to the therapeutic process creates an environment of collaborative and reciprocal trust, rather than one of doctor/patient hierarchy. Further, by elucidating and punctuating the positivity of the client’s thought-responses and actions, the therapist encourages self-confidence and heightened self-esteem in future considerations and interactions.
SFBT can provide highly-effective treatment in a variety of challenging situations. It has been found exceptionally successful in youth intervention and with parent/child behavioral issues, as well as providing fresh and unique opportunities for growth with persons who may be considered to be an “expert” in a particular sphere of influence or field. Because SFBT leans heavily toward the concept that the person in therapy already has a base-level grasp on their own ability to affect positive results through creative problem-solving, short-term therapy (typically just 4-8 sessions) is sufficient to achieve lasting and sustainable results. Schools, corporate or small-business entities, and family/couples have proven to benefit greatly from the encouraging and empowering setting provided by SFBT.