Many approaches to counselling focus on the problem which the client is troubled by and there is often a need to explore and unpick, which is undoubtedly effective, but the process takes time. The Solution Focused Brief Therapy approach was therefore developed out of a perceived need for a model of therapy which focused on a solution, rather than on a problem, and to be brief! SFBT can be highly effective within 5 to 8 sessions.The approach was developed in America in the mid twentieth century, and arose out of the idea that by focusing on the positive rather than the negative the client can begin to realise their own resources, which can be recognised as having been effective already, and to employ these to progress towards their desired aim.
Since the focus is on the solution rather than the problem, the aim behind SFBT is to find a desired outcome for the client which feels comfortable for them and which will therefore be realistically achievable. To find this, the approach uses a specific set of questions aimed at promoting a positive thought process. The question perhaps most familiar is what is known as the ‘Miracle Question’. This question seeks to uncover the greatest change which needs to occur for a client to be feeling as they want to be, such as free of anxiety, sadness or stress for example, or to feel more in control, able to say ‘no’ or make changes to their life which lead to the outcome they seek. Subsequent questions have other significant purposes, such as those directed at negotiating the aims, identifying recourses, motivation, maintenance of progress and prevention of sabotage, and at creating greater self awareness for the client. The approach also uses a scoring process (from 1 – 10: how strong is your desire to make change) and questions around ‘exceptions’, which help the client to see that there are times when the problem doesn’t actually exist.
Although deceptively simple, SFBT will be most effective used by a practitioner who has a an in-depth understanding of the process, and can offer a confidential and safe space within which to build a therapeutic relationship.
Written by Lue Glover Wilson