Theories of Brief Counseling and Therapy: Goals & Techniques Video

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  • 0:01 Problem Solving
  • 0:41 Strategic Planning
  • 2:21 Seeking Solutions
  • 3:55 Strengths & Limitations
  • 5:30 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Lisa Roundy

Lisa has taught at all levels from kindergarten to college and has a master's degree in human relations.

Brief therapy provides a rapid approach to intervention for a specific problem. This lesson will introduce brief strategic therapy and solution-focused brief therapy as well as the overall counseling approach.

Problem Solving

Brief therapy involves providing direct intervention for a specific problem. Before we discuss brief therapy more in depth, let's imagine that you're presented with a problem. How would you approach the problem?

Most likely your answer to this question would depend on what you are imagining the problem to be. Some of you might be seeking to fix the problem and move on. Some of you might be trying to determine how to prevent it from happening again. This is similar to the different approaches taken by the two main types of brief therapy that will be discussed in this lesson: brief strategic therapy and solution-focused brief therapy.

Strategic Planning

Let's imagine that you've built a treehouse but cannot get to it from the ground. What do you do?

Most likely you will add a ladder that will allow you to reach the treehouse. Then you would make sure that the ladder was included in the blueprints for any future treehouses that you build so the problem doesn't happen again. It's unlikely that you would research the history of ladders to find out why ladders are used since this would not help you solve the problem. You would be more concerned with how to include a ladder that will fix problem and will continue to be a successful resolution.

Brief strategic therapy is a similar approach that creates solutions by focusing on the structure of a current problem rather than why the problem developed. With brief strategic therapy, both the client and the therapist are completely focused on creating a strategic plan that will eliminate the presenting problem. In order to accomplish this goal, it's essential to have an in-depth understanding of how the current problem is structured. The problem can then be restructured, creating a solution.

Imagine you have a client who has a fear of public speaking. Together you would examine the characteristics of the fear in detail. Maybe the client describes having difficulty breathing and focusing on their speaking topic when there's an audience. This then increases their anxiety level, which in turn creates more difficulties with breathing and focus. You would help the client develop a strategy to break this cycle, such as imagining the audience in their underwear as a distraction from the anxiety. This intervention would restructure the situation with a possible solution.

Seeking Solutions

Now imagine that you are driving home from work and suddenly the car develops the unique thumping of the flat tire. What do you do?

Most likely you will pull off the road and replace the tire with a spare as soon as possible. Maybe you will try a can of aerosol tire inflator if you don't have far to travel. If you have good insurance, you might call the insurance company to send someone to fix the flat for you. It's highly unlikely that anyone's initial response to a flat tire on the way home would be to start investigating the cause of the flat. You would want to get your car on the road again as soon as possible, and knowing the cause of the flat tire would be of little use in solving this problem.

Solution-focused brief therapy (SFBT) focuses on improving present and future functioning through problem solving and operates on the same principle. With solution-focused brief therapy, little attention is given to exploring the problem. Rather than dwelling on the problem, the client is encouraged to only discuss possible solutions. The focus is on realistic changes that can be achieved by the client, no matter how small they may be.

Imagine a client comes to you to help them overcome a habit of eating when they're bored or anxious. You help the client come up with solutions that could change their eating habits. The client tries to apply one of the solutions, such as going for a walk when they feel anxious or bored instead of eating. They then report back how well the solution worked and continue to apply successful solutions.

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