What is Solution-Focused Brief Therapy? - Techniques & Training

Instructor: Nathan Kilgore

Nathan has taught college Psychology, Sociology, English, and Communications and has a master's degree in education.

This lesson defines Solution-Focused Brief Therapy (SFBT) and contrasts it with traditional therapy. SFBT techniques and training are discussed, along with the guiding principles of this therapeutic approach.

SFBT vs. Traditional Therapy

As the name suggests, Solution-Focused Brief Therapy (SFBT) is therapy that's focused on solutions. Sometimes called Solution-Focused Therapy, SFBT was developed by Steve de Shazer (1940-2005) and Insoo Kim Berg (1934-2007) in the 1970s. This form of therapy utilizes the acknowledgement of past successes as a springboard to envision an optimistic future. Whereas traditional therapy tends to focus on problems and past failures, SFBT aims to find the silver lining in every cloud.

Historically, traditional therapy involves dissecting, analyzing, and interpreting problems and failures. Problems are typically remedied in traditional therapy by educating the client or leading him to discover feelings, thoughts, and interpretations of the problem. Traditional therapy usually looks to the client's past, whereas SFBT encourages the client to envision a future that is bright and promising, optimistic and filled with solutions.

This optimistic future is envisioned by the therapist helping the client discover past victories and strengths. The theory is that once a client realizes his life isn't 100% bad or problematic, he will gain confidence in the hope of tomorrow. SFBT would suggest that even in the midst of tragedy or turmoil, positive elements can be found. And, as small as some successes might seem, in SFBT, every success and victory is important and worthy of celebrating.

Guiding Principles of SFBT

SFBT has several guiding principles, including the following:

  • Focus on solutions, not problems.
  • The client already possesses knowledge and skills, as demonstrated in past/present success.
  • Envision the future; don't analyze the past.
  • Duplicate present beneficial and productive behavior/thinking.
  • Life isn't bad or problematic in totality; look for and accent the good.
  • Small change leads to big change; celebrate even slight changes in behavior that are positive.

SFBT Techniques and Training

The SFBT technique is constant, regardless of a client's chief complaint. First, the therapist aims to discover how the client defines success. For example, the client might define success as monetary gain, accolades gained, a sense of peace, or acts of selflessness. The therapist asks questions to reveal the cognitive, language, and behavioral patterns that accompany the client's definition of success. Then, the therapist uses similar language and key phrases to assist the client in constructing a picture of how future success might appear.

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