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Solution Focused Therapy

July 31, 2020 Read Time - 6 minutes

About Author

Leah likes writing about health and science subjects. Through her writing she hopes to help people of all backgrounds have equal access to information and quality healthcare.

Solution Focused Therapy

What is solution focused therapy? Solution Focused Therapy, also called Solution Focused Brief Therapy, concentrates on a patient’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 patient’s past.

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 patients to achieve their vision of the future.

What are the Benefits of Solution Focused Therapy?

Solution focused therapy was developed to provide quicker and longer lasting relief for patients. 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. 

As such, solution based therapy requires less of the patient’s time and money. Additionally, patients ideally leave with a tangible plan to conquer their various life problems.

Solution focused brief therapy aims to empower patients 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 patient 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 miracle had occurred, how would you know? How would your life be different?”

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

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

In this way, no two patients will go through the same process. We are all living separate lives and we all want different things. Imagining a scenario in which their current problems are not present can help patients 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?”

Questions like these require the patient to reflect on what they are already doing well. As such, the therapist’s job in solution focused treatment is to help the patient 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 patient in problem free talk. By discussing the aspects of the patient’s life which are not problematic, the therapist can help the patient identify what circumstances allow them to feel this way.

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

Exception Seeking Questions

Likewise, a therapist might ask the patient exception seeking questions. These require the patient 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 patient realize what factors have changed or what solutions may have been present.

Scaling Questions

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


Read: Top Therapy Apps


What are the Key Concepts of Solution Focused Therapy?

Solution focused therapy works by helping the patient identify and develop the skills needed to create change. Think of the therapist as a guide, who helps the patient uncover skills they already internally possess. By bringing these abilities to light, solution focused therapy empowers patients 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 patient identify behavior patterns that may be causing problems and helps the patient work to change these behaviors. Solution focused therapy has a similar goal but often takes a different approach, focusing more on future goals and how to achieve them.


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.


Read: Family Therapy


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.


Read: How to Find a Therapist


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.

A great place to start is with a consultation with a primary care physician at PlushCare. While our doctors are not therapists, they are able to prescribe mental health medications and can refer you to a therapist or counselor.

Book your appointment to get your mental health treatment plan started today.


Read More About Therapy


Sources

psychologytoday.com. Solution-Focused Brief Therapy. Accessed on July 29, 2020. https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/therapy-types/solution-focused-brief-therapy

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#

Most PlushCare articles are reviewed by M.D.s, Ph.Ds, N.P.s, nutritionists and other healthcare professionals. Click here to learn more and meet some of the professionals behind our blog. The PlushCare blog, or any linked materials are not intended and should not be construed as medical advice, nor is the information a substitute for professional medical expertise or treatment. For more information click here.

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