What Is Solution-Focused Therapy

What Is Solution-Focused Therapy

Solution-focused therapy is one of the newer treatments available, and you can use it to treat many different conditions. It focuses on finding a solution to the problem rather than focusing on the problem itself. It is often future- and purpose-oriented, helping clients make changes to remove or reduce difficulties.

In solution-focused therapy, the client is seen as an expert in their situation, not as a therapist. Therapists are there to help clients find existing resources to deal with their problems. Their role may include helping clients:

  • Know what their life would be like without these problems
  • Identify situations where a solution or part of a solution has emerged
  • Develop ways to continue using the solution in the future

The Origin of Solution-Focused Therapy

Solution-focused therapy was initially recognized by Steve de Shazer and Insoo Kim Berg in the late 1970s and early 1980s at the Milwaukee Brief Family Therapy Center in Wisconsin. Unlike other therapies, it does not center on a client’s history. It focuses on finding solutions rather than examining deeper issues.

The client and their therapist work in tandem to show a clear picture of the client’s life if the problem were eliminated or minimized to an insignificant level. The goal is to work together to determine what tools the client may already have — for example, life experiences or behaviors — to help implement a solution to the problem that works.

Uses for Solution-Focused Therapy

Solution-focused therapy is brief and may last only a few sessions. Its focus is finite, and little time is spent on previous history, a mental health diagnosis, or insight into specific actions. Instead, time is spent looking at tools the client may already have in place that can help remedy the problem.

Because solution-focused therapy focuses on specific problems and their solutions, clients and counselors can utilize it for a more extensive range of issues. These can include:

  • Stress
  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Eating Disorders
  • Relationship Issues
  • Child Behavioral Issues
  • Alcohol Abuse
  • Substance/Drug Abuse

Solution-focused therapy is often less helpful for those who suffer from serious mental issues like bipolar disorder, psychosis, or schizophrenia. Distorted thinking patterns can render this therapy counterproductive unless the client’s condition is more stable. However, some research reveals that treatment is effective with schizophrenic patients, but only with medication compliance issues.

Solution-focused therapy is not depth- or insight-focused. But you can use it alongside other therapies to help increase clients’ awareness of their internal strengths and resources.

Solution-Focused Therapy Techniques

Solution-focused therapy is often highly synergistic and focused on setting goals and solving specific issues. Therapists and clients work to determine goals. Typically, the more precise the client’s goals, the more effective the therapy is in the end. It focuses on small, realistic, and achievable changes that can lead to positive change.

Once a goal is set, the client and therapist look for resources that will aid in achieving the goal. Together, they explore past situations and actions of the client that could be used to accomplish the plan—the client and therapist work to find exceptions to the problem. Solutions are born from these exceptions.

Ranking Solutions on a Scale

Clients can evaluate possible solutions using a scale from zero to 10 and decide what additional actions may be required. For example, zero represents the worst-case scenario, while 10 is the best answer (fits the client’s goals).

The therapist and client decide what 1-9 might look like as well – to help the client understand how various solutions could solve the problem. This can help the client set practical solutions.

For example, if 10 is an ideal solution, the therapist and client can decide what that entails and how realistic that solution is. They can also decide what a lower-rated solution to the problem might look and feel like. A seven might provide a more sensible solution that is still effective — the problem may still interfere but not too much. The more detailed and concrete the client’s explanation, the more likely to use it.

What is the Miracle Question?

There is such a thing as a “Miracle Question” in solution-focused therapy. The therapist may ask, “If everything worked out in your favor – a “miracle,” so to speak – what would that look like?” Your answer can often lead to a better understanding of the problem at hand, and provides a fresh perspective on how it affects and motivates you to solve it.

Putting Your Strengths First

Solution-focused therapy focuses on the client’s strengths instead of their pain or past trauma. The client oversees the direction of the treatment and sets a few goals. There isn’t much emphasis on a diagnosis or problems in the past, other than how those experiences can help form solutions to the current situation.

Coping Questions Keep You Focused

The therapist may ask coping questions to the client. These are questions about how their life is going despite the current issue. Coping questions help reinforce to the client that they can solve various problems – including the current topic. Questions like this can force clients to shift their views of themselves in a positive direction:

  • You completed all your chores and errands yesterday. How did you do it?
  • When you have a hard time sleeping, what soothes you?
  • How did you keep yourself together during a disagreement with your significant other?

The client’s answers to these questions can help them better understand their internal and external resources. Other questions a therapist may ask might be like this:

  • What would your future look like if you didn’t solve the problem?
  • What is the difference between a temporary fix and solving the problem completely?Setting Specific Goals

Setting Specific Goals

Clients set their goals in solution-focused therapy, but the goals need to be specific, concrete, and realistic. These goals typically involve preventing a particular issue from occurring. Plans are developed as the client and therapist discuss what the client wants to achieve in the future.

Once the goal is set, therapy sessions focus on periods when the client is not experiencing the problem (i.e., a good time). The therapist uses the 0-10 scaling questions to gauge how close the client is to achieve their goal. As the client works toward their goal, the therapist may recommend adjustments to help the client successfully resolve the issue as quickly as possible.

Is Solution-Focused Therapy Right for Me?

Solution-focused therapy works best for those who quickly want a solution to a specific problem. This type of therapy does not provide extensive depth, so it’s best used in cohesion with other proven therapies.

One may benefit from seeking online therapy for Solution-Focused therapy, especially if you are nervous about being seen or feel embarrassed. Online therapists are qualified and fully licensed and may be able to help with various issues. 

Online therapy may also be more convenient than most traditional treatments. You can get the treatment you need without ever needing to leave your home. Schedule therapy sessions when it is most convenient for you with Mindful Living Group telehealth providers.