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SOLUTION-FOCUSED BRIEF THERAPY

Solution-focused brief therapy (sfbt) was developed in the 1980s by Steve de Shazer and Insoo Kim Berg of the Brief Family Centre in Milwaukee, USA. They modified existing brief therapy, keeping only those elements which were linked to a good outcome for the clients.

There are a number of differences between sfbt and traditional psychotherapy. Central assumptions are that the goals for therapy will be chosen by the client and that the clients themselves have resources which they will bring to therapy. A detailed history is not essential for sfbt. ‘Problem talk’ and speculation about motives or ‘purposes’ of symptoms are avoided. The therapist adopts the client’s vocabulary and tracks their use of language. Expert ‘jargon’ is not used.

Goals are defined in practical and recognisable ways. Talk about pre-session changes, exceptions, scaling tasks and the ‘miracle question’ keeps the focus on effective solutions. Homework tasks are offered to continue the process of change between sessions. Individuals, couples or families may be seen; joint sessions are common even if one individual is the main focus.

An important research finding is that sfbt is equally effective for all social classes whereas other psychological therapies favour the well-educated and affluent. In practice those with few resources are the ones most in need of effective therapies. Another advantage is that results are usually achieved within 3 – 6 sessions. Hospital stays and waiting lists are reduced when an sfbt approach is adopted. Being a practical intervention which uses available resources whenever possible, the method is also effective for management consultancy.

Carlisle course:

An introductory course in solution-focused brief therapy has been offered in Carlisle, UK since 1996 in collaboration with St Martin’s College. This was the first accredited course in sfbt in the UK. The course is also recognised by the Canadian Council of Professional Certification. There are other courses in Newcastle, Canterbury, Plymouth and Preston. There is a Diploma course based at BRIEF in London and an MA in sfbt at Newman College, linked to Leicester University.