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Solution-focused brief therapy (SFBT) or Solution-focused therapy is a type of psychotherapy that places greater importance on finding solutions rather than delving on problems.

Discussing an issue is essential to find a particular solution, but SFBT does not focus on a problem beyond understanding it and ways and means to address it.

Solutions-focused therapy was initially developed in the late 1970s at the Brief Family Therapy Center based in Milwaukee.

Solutions-focused therapy does not delve deep into a person’s childhood or past but instead focuses on accentuating the positive aspects.

The therapists encourage the clients to focus on hope and achievements rather than problems and causes.

A solution-focused therapist, instead of making any particular diagnosis or analyzing the past, focuses on encouraging the client to recognize and successfully implement alternatives.

Solution-focused Brief Therapy Treatment Plan

A typical solutions-focused therapy treatment includes several factors, including:
  • The reason or problem for which the client is seeking a solution
  • Diagnosis (if any)
  • Medication list (if any)
  • Current symptoms
  • A client’s social support
  • Treatment type
  • Treatment frequency
  • Goals and objectives
  • Criteria for measuring the progress
  • Client’s strengths
  • Barriers to progress

Popular Solutions-focused Brief Therapy Techniques

While certain techniques are specific to SFBT, other methods have broader applicability to therapies or individuals working on trying to solve their problems without a therapist. The following are some of the SFBT techniques:

Questions

Asking the right questions forms a vital part in any therapy, but SFBT formalized this into a method. This technique involves asking specific questions that are intended to make a client start thinking and discuss the solutions.

Some of the questions asked in this technique are:

Coping Questions. Coping questions are intended to help a client recognize their resilience and identify how they are effectively dealing with their problems. A typical coping question starts with “how do you….”
Miracle Question: It is another common question in SFBT. A miracle question encourages a client to imagine a future where they will no longer have a specific problem. This helps the client see a way forward while allowing them to believe in the future as well as identify concrete steps to make it happen. A typical miracle question starts like “Imagine a miracle has happened….”
Best Hopes Question. Sometimes a miracle question does not work, which results in the therapist using the “best hopes” problems. Answers to these questions help in establishing what the client wants to achieve and set realistic goals.
Exception Question: These questions are asked to identify exceptions to certain problems affecting the client. In this, the therapist asks questions regarding a client’s experiences with and without the problem.
Scaling Question: SFBT practitioners frequently ask a scaling question where the client is asked to rate their experiences from 0 to 10.

These questions help the therapist to assess the progress and know more about the client’s confidence in identifying a solution.
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Do One Thing Different

This exercise is another SFBT technique which is generally completed individually. Modifications are made based upon the user.

This exercise is aimed at helping the learning process of breaking the problem into a simple pattern and making strategies to make things better. There are eight steps involved in this technique.

Step 1: Makes the client think things that are usually done in a problem situation. The client is allowed to change one thing like body patterns, timing, location or the order of things to be done.
Step 2: Asks the client to think of something that another person will do to make it better. It asks the client to do the same thing the next time a problem crops up. It also asks the client things that were done in the past that made things better and doing it when the problem crops up the next time.
Step 3: Understanding the feelings about something but not allowing them to determine the actions.
Step 4: Changing what the client focuses on. To solve a problem, a client is asked to change the perspective or focus.
Step 5: Making the client imagine a time when they are not having a particular problem they are currently facing.
Step 6: Sometimes, clients with problems talk about how others are dealing with the problem and why cannot they do it in a better way.
Step 7: If the client believes in Higher Power, then focus on it to get things better. When one is truly focused, things generally turn for the good.
Step 8: Using action talk for getting a better handle on things. Action talk uses facts and only talks about things that can be seen and felt. Action talk doesn’t believe in what others think or feel.

Presupposing Change

Another handy technique used by SFBT therapists is “presupposing change.” This is a technique with great potential, mainly because when a person has a problem, they tend to focus on issues rather than positive changes happening in their life.

When life throws a curveball at you, then it becomes difficult to focus on positive things happening in life.

Presupposing change technique helps the clients to turn their attention on positive things that are happening in their lives, be it small or insignificant.

This technique makes the client make note of any positive change that happens and celebrating it and using these to draw up strategies for a future win.

Evaluation

Solution-focused brief therapy finds extensive usage in both individual and group therapy in several countries.

SFBT is mainly used in treating substance abuse, adolescent delinquency, depression, as well as business consulting and coaching. However, SFBT does not have enough data to fall back upon due to the lack of controlled trials.

In one trial, SFBT was found to be effective than receiving no treatment for depression, recidivism in prisoners, adolescent delinquencies, and rehabilitation following orthopedic surgery.

Bottomline

Like any program or technique, there are many critics of SFBT. They argue that solution-focused brief therapy is very simple and does help in answering complex conditions.

But the therapy also has supporters who believe that simplicity is a virtue and this therapy can act as a supplemental therapy to other techniques for specific purposes.

The solution-focused method has found its way into client-centered therapies and motivational interviewing. It has the potential to achieve greater success in positive psychology.

This unique psychotherapy technique may have numerous unexplored possibilities even after decades of its invention.