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Solution Focused Therapy

writtenByWritten by: Melissa Dowd (Licensed Marriage & Family Therapist)
Melissa Dowd (Licensed Marriage & Family Therapist)

Melissa Dowd (Licensed Marriage & Family Therapist)

Melissa Dowd received her Master’s degree in Counseling Psychology from Dominican University of CA and is a Licensed Marriage & Family Therapist. In addition to her work as a clinical therapist, Melissa is passionate about promoting emotional wellness through leading workshops, guest appearances, and across social media platforms.

Read more posts by this author.

January 10, 2021 Read Time - 7 minutes

What is Solution Focused Therapy?

Solution Focused Therapy, also called Solution Focused Brief Therapy, concentrates on a therapy client’s present and future circumstances to find appropriate solutions to their problems.

It differs from traditional therapy in that it is goal oriented and does not involve a deep analysis of the client’s past. According to author Bill O’Connell, “A solution-focused approach will spend less time on the client’s problem-past and more on obtaining a description of the kind of future he [or she] wishes to have.”

In this way, it is not targeted at uncovering the symptoms or issues that typically bring a person to therapy. Instead, solution focused therapy seeks to create a plan for clients to achieve their vision of the future.

  • Browse our network of top therapist to find one that matches your needs.

  • Get private and secure emotional support weekly from your dedicated therapist.

  • Experience comprehensive care with unlimited access to your care team and primary care physician.

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What are the Benefits of Solution Focused Therapy?

Solution focused therapy was developed to provide quicker and longer lasting relief for client’s. Steve de Shazer and Insoo Kim Berg of the Brief Family Therapy Center in Milwaukee, developed solution focused brief therapy in the 1980s as an alternative to traditional therapy. 

Solution based therapy requires less of the client’s time and money, with treatment typically lasting between 5-8 sessions. Additionally, clients ideally leave with a tangible plan to conquer their various life problems.

Solution focused brief therapy aims to empower clients with the tools, skills, and abilities to achieve their goals.


Read: Everything You Need to Know About Online Therapy


Solution Focused Therapy Techniques

What should you expect from solution based therapy? Expect to get close to your therapist and spend a lot of time identifying your goals and how to get there. Solution focused therapy will be different for everyone but some common techniques include:

The Miracle Question

Solution focused therapy often begins by having the client imagine the future they want. Miracle questions help people envision a future in which their problems do not exist. The therapist may ask, “If you were to wake up tomorrow and a miracle had occurred, how would you know? How would your life be different?”

Starting with this, therapists and clients will identify a patient’s goals and work backwards together, identifying the skills and steps necessary to achieve their vision.

This process is highly collaborative and individualized for each client’s goals. 

No two clients will go through the same process. We are all living separate lives and we all want different things. Imagining a scenario in which current problems are not present can help clients identify the circumstances that give rise to such problems. By doing so, a process by which to overcome these problems may present itself.

Coping Question

Another popular technique in solution focused therapy involves the use of coping questions. The therapist might ask, “How do you manage, in the face of these challenges, to fulfill your obligations each day?”

Solution focused therapy questions like these require the client to reflect on what they are already doing well. As such, the therapist’s job in solution focused treatment is to help the client identify the skills they already possess that can be used to create the positive change they want to see.


Read: Does Therapy Really Work?


Problem Free Talk

Similarly, a therapist may engage a client in problem free talk. By discussing the aspects of the client’s life which are not problematic, the therapist can help the client identify what circumstances allow them to feel this way.

These lessons can then be taken and applied to other areas of the client’s life to help them overcome existing problems.

Exception Seeking Questions

Likewise, a therapist might ask the client exception seeking questions. These require the client to consider a time in their life when a current issue was more manageable or absent. By examining the circumstances of this time, therapists can help a client realize what factors have changed or what solutions may have been present at the time.

Scaling Questions

Finally, a solution focused therapist will often ask scaling questions. These require clients to scale their problems from 1-10. This scale is determined solely by the client and is a technique designed to make the client take ownership of their problems. Only by accepting ownership can clients believe they have the power to create change.

  • Browse our network of top therapist to find one that matches your needs.

  • Get private and secure emotional support weekly from your dedicated therapist.

  • Experience comprehensive care with unlimited access to your care team and primary care physician.

Talk to an Online Therapist PlushCare-App-Steps

What are the Key Concepts of Solution Focused Therapy?

Solution focused therapy works by helping the client identify and develop the skills needed to create change. Think of the therapist as a guide, who helps the client uncover skills they already internally possess. By bringing these abilities to light, solution focused therapy empowers clients to create step-by-step solutions to their problems. 


The principles of solution focused therapy are self realization and empowerment.


You possess the tools needed to create the change you want to see in your life. The therapist’s job is to help you realize that fact and act on it. To this end, goal setting is at the foundation of solution focused therapy.

Is Solution Focused Therapy the Same as Cognitive Behavioral Therapy?

While the two are not identical, they are closely related and are often used to treat similar problems.

Cognitive behavioral therapy helps the client identify behavioral patterns and thought processes that may be causing problems, and helps the client work to change these thoughts and behaviors. Solution focused therapy has a similar goal but takes a different approach, focusing on future goals and how to achieve them from a current starting point.


Read: Medication for Anxiety and Depression


When to Use Solution Based Therapy:

  • Problems in the workplace
  • Problems in school
  • Problems within the family
  • Problems within a relationship
  • Behavioral problems
  • Addiction
  • Child abuse
  • Domestic abuse

Solution focused family therapy is also a popular treatment used to help several members of a family develop a shared goal in hopes of overcoming familial challenges.

What are the disadvantages of solution focused therapy?

Because solution focused therapy is goal oriented, some critics say it discourages speculation about why problems arise. For this reason, solution focused therapy may not be recommended for those with severe mental health concerns.

What to Look for in a Solution Focused Therapist 

Much like your average therapist, not all solution focused therapists will be right for you. The goal when looking for a therapist of any kind is to find someone who makes you feel comfortable.

To do this, try asking friends and family if they recommend a specific therapist. Also, don’t be afraid to take advantage of resources at school, work, or on the internet

PlushCare now offers online therapy for individuals in California who are over the age of 18. You can meet weekly with your trusted therapist for video sessions and receive ongoing emotional support. 

Don’t wait for your mental health concern to get worse, the longer you delay seeking care the harder your road to recovery may be. Mental health disorders such as anxiety and depression are 100% treatable, get started with a trusted therapist today. Book your therapy appointment today

  • Browse our network of top therapist to find one that matches your needs.

  • Get private and secure emotional support weekly from your dedicated therapist.

  • Experience comprehensive care with unlimited access to your care team and primary care physician.

Talk to an Online Therapist PlushCare-App-Steps

Read More About Therapy


Sources

O’Connell, Bill. Solution-Focused Therapy. Accessed on December 3, 2020. https://books.google.com/books?id=pwZBAVCWO6YC&dq=solution+focused+therapy&lr=&source=gbs_navlinks_s

goodtherapy.org. Solution-Focused Brief Therapy (SFBT). Accessed on July 29, 2020. https://www.goodtherapy.org/learn-about-therapy/types/solution-focused-therapy

psychiatryonline.org. Learning Solution-Focused Therapy. Accessed on July 29, 2020. https://psychiatryonline.org/doi/book/10.1176/appi.books.9781615370986#

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