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 clients 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.