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Discover the Power of SFBT: Unlock Your Strengths and Achieve Your Goals

As a kind of psychotherapy or counselling, Solution-Focused Brief Therapy (SFBT) is also known as Solution-Focused Therapy (SFT). As opposed to the problem-focused approach taken by traditional talk therapies, this method emphasises the importance of the individual's strengths and resources in order to bring about positive change. In other words, SFBT doesn't focus on the origins of the problem or the client's perceptions of what it means for them or how they got that way (De Shazer, 1988; De Shazer & Dolan, 2012), but rather on how to move forwards and find a solution.

SFBT doesn't focus on the origins of the problem or the client's perceptions of what it means for them or how they got that way

In the late 1970s and early 1980s, De Shazer and Berg (De Shazer et al., 1986) at the Brief Family Therapy Centre in Milwaukee developed what is now known as Solution-Focused Therapy. De Shazer and Berg came up with the idea for it after hearing several examples of clients focusing on external factors rather than looking within for solutions to their difficulties and refocusing their attention towards the future.

They also noted that the client's problems were inconsistent in that they were present at times but absent at others, since the individual did have times when they were able to function normally in spite of the absence of the problems. Therefore, in cases where the individual is unaffected by the issue, it is vital to consider and investigate such scenarios (Iveson, 2002).

What Is Solution-Focused Brief Therapy Used For?

Currently, Solution-Focused Brief Therapy is used to treat the majority of emotional and mental health issues that other forms of counselling, such as:

  • Depression

  • Anxiety

  • Self-esteem

  • Both internalised and externalised stress at work

  • Addiction and substance abuse

  • Discord in relationships

SFBT is most effective when a client is attempting to achieve a specific objective or overcome a specific issue.

While it is not appropriate as a treatment for severe psychiatric conditions such as psychosis or schizophrenia, it could be used in conjunction with a more appropriate psychiatric treatment or therapy to reduce tension and increase awareness of the individual's strengths and internal resources.

Maljanen et al. (2012) found that after one year of follow-up, SFBT was efficacious in reducing depression, anxiety, and mood-related disorders in adults. According to a study on substance misuse in adults, SFBT is just as effective as other forms of talking therapy (problem-focused therapies) in treating addiction and reducing addiction severity and trauma symptoms (Kim, Brook, & Akin, 2018). Bond et al. (2013) found that SFBT is most effective for treating child behavioural problems when it is implemented as an early intervention before behavioural issues become severe.

Soluton-Focused Brief Therapy Techniques

In a session of solution-focused therapy, the counsellor and client will work collaboratively to set objectives and discover solutions to the obstacle. The counsellor will ask questions to obtain an understanding of the client's previously unnoticed strengths and inner resources.

The counsellor will also bring awareness to and support the client's strengths in order to shift the client's focus to a more solution-oriented, optimistic outlook, as opposed to ruminating on the problem while being unaware of their strengths and abilities.

Numerous techniques are employed in SFBT to redirect the client's attention to the future and a solution. These techniques include the miraculous question, coping enquiries, problem exceptions, compliments, and the use of scales, which are described in greater detail below.

The Miracle Question

The counsellor will have the client pretend that their troubles have disappeared by the time they wake up from sleep. If the client reports that their difficulties have vanished following this visualisation, the therapist will probe more to find out what has changed. For instance, "Picture that the next time you go to bed, a miracle occurs during the night, and when you wake up in the morning feeling refreshed, your problem has vanished." How do you know that the issue is no longer an issue for you? How come this morning seems so different? Tell me about the things in your life that have vanished or shifted.

What would it be like to wake up tomorrow without this problem? (De Shazer et al., 1986) This question may assist in identifying and obtaining a deeper knowledge of the problem and how it is impacting the individual, and it can create motivation to go forwards and conquer it.

The Coping Question

The practitioner will employ coping questions to learn more about the client's coping strategies.

It's natural to wonder how someone with a lengthy history of mental health issues like depression or anxiety has managed to keep going strong in the face of what could be a devastating setback.

Questions on coping strategies include: "After everything you've been through, I'm wondering what has helped you cope and keep you afloat during all of this?" When asked these types of questions, clients often become more self-aware of their strengths and the factors that have contributed to their success up to this point (De Shazer et al., 1986).

Exceptions to the Problems

According to the principles of solution-focused therapy, there are times when an individual either does not experience the problem or issue at all, or experiences the problem but is unaffected by it (De Shazer et al., 1986). Therefore, it is natural to wonder what is unique about the present. By having the client reflect on and recollect times in their life when the problem did not arise, the practitioner can study the problem's exceptions and ask the client what was different in those situations.

This may provide useful information for figuring out how to fix the issue.

Knowing that there are instances when the issue has no effect on them is also beneficial since it may help the client realise that the issue is not always as overwhelming as it seems.

Being 'unclouded' or reminded of moments when we weren't preoccupied with our issues is empowering because we tend to be 'clouded' or preoccupied with them.


Throughout sessions, they can be used to gauge the client's progress towards their ideal state of being or the achievement of their objective and to compare where they are now to where they were in the first or second session.

If the counsellor and the client both agree that a 9 or 10 is still out of reach, they can begin to investigate what else needs to be done to get there. In addition to providing insight into the client's emotional state, scales can be used to guide therapy sessions and identify any obstacles standing in the way of the client's progress towards a solution.

Solution-Focused Brief Therapy Benefits

Clients with more severe problems that require more time, as well as clients who are reserved or who struggle to speak and open up fully to the therapist, who would naturally benefit from more time to gain trust and feel comfortable, may not be good candidates for this type of counselling due to its short duration.

However, benefits include:

  • Compared to longer-term therapies that last months or even years, SFBT is more cost-effective because it is a short-term therapy; sessions will run on average between 6-10 weeks but can even be a single session.

  • The counsellor also provides the client with encouragement which encourages them to recognise their strengths, boost their self-esteem, and continue working towards their goals. This can assist the client understand their challenges and then establish a goal to overcome them.

  • It's future-focused, so it encourages the client to stop living in the past and start living in the present, and it's optimistic, so it instills the confidence the client needs to take the next step into the future.

  • The client, not the therapist, determines the course of treatment, and they are encouraged and supported no matter how small their successes may seem. Even if they fail to reach their goal, they are still praised for demonstrating their strengths in other areas of their lives.

Final Words

Future-focused and outcome-focused, solution-focused brief therapy (SFBT) aims to help people overcome current challenges. Instead than concentrating on the client's problem, the therapist will assist them zero in on their strengths, resources, and coping mechanisms that will aid in their recovery and the achievement of their future objectives. Clients explain the changes they would like to see in their life (the solutions) and the methods they would employ to implement those changes (the personal resources).

  • De Shazer, S. (1988). Clues: Investigating solutions in brief therapy . New York: Norton & Co.

  • De Shazer, S., Berg, I. K., Lipchik, E., Nunnally, E., Molnar, A., Gingerich, W., & Weiner-Davis, M. (1986). Brief therapy: focused solution development. Family Process, 25(2): 207–221.

  • De Shazer, S., & Dolan, Y. (2012). More than miracles: The state of the art of solution-focused brief therapy. New York: Haworth Press

  • Franklin, C., Biever, J., Moore, K., Clemons, D., & Scamardo, M. (2001). The Effectiveness of Solution-Focused Therapy with Children in a School Setting. Research on Social Work Practice, 11 (4): 411-434.

  • Iveson, C. (2002). Solution-focused brief therapy. Advances in Psychiatric Treatment, 8(2), 149–157.

  • Kim, J, S., Brook, J., Akin, B, A. (2018). Solution-Focused Brief Therapy with Substance-Using Individuals: A Randomized Controlled Trial Study . Research on Social Work Practice, 28 (4), 452-462.

  • Maljanen, T., Paltta, P., Härkänen, T., Virtala, E., Lindfors, O., Laaksonen, M. A., Knekt, P., & Helsinki Psychotherapy Study Group. (2012). The cost-effectiveness of short-term psychodynamic psychotherapy and solution-focused therapy in the treatment of depressive and anxiety disorder during a one-year follow-up. Journal of Mental Health Policy and Economics. 15 (1), 13–23.

  • Sanai, B., Davarniya, R., Bakhtiari Said, B., & Shakarami, M. (2015). The effectiveness of solution-focused brief therapy (SFBT) on reducing couple burnout and improvement of the quality of life of married women. Armaghane danesh, 20 (5), 416-432.


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