Solution-focused therapy

Solution-focused therapy was pioneered by Steve de Shazer and Insoo Kim Berg at the Brief Family Therapy Center in Milwaukee, Wisconsin in the early 1980s.  It is a non-normative approach as the counsellor offers no theory or views as to what the client should do.  The client defines the focus of the counselling session.  The basic tenet of solution-focused therapy is that the clients have innate strengths and resilience to come up with solutions to their problems.  There must have been times when the problems were not present or not as serious.  The emphasis of working with the clients is not on understanding the problems but on finding solutions to the problems. It is solution finding as opposed to problem solving.  Solution-focused therapy is forward-thinking and goal oriented.

The solution-focused counsellor believes that the clients have the abilities to find the right solutions.  The clients are the experts on their lives.  The solution-focused counsellor is the expert on the counselling process.  The SF counsellor adopts of stance of unknowing and curiosity in the counselling conversation.  The counselling dialogue between the counsellor and the clients is disciplined, focused and purposeful.  With well thought-out questions, the counsellor elicits from the clients details and descriptions of the client’s desired future. 

The client is encouraged to describe in detail the perfect future that they desire in their lives. The details  and descriptions offer clues to clients as to what possible actions to take. The solution-focused counsellor asks questions for the benefit of the client.  When the clients hear their own responses, they can notice the potentials for change.

Resources, strengths, past successes and exceptions to problems are tools that the counsellor helps the client to identify. Very often the clients have failed to notice these tools. The counsellor will emphasize these tools and encourage the clients to take small steps or to make small changes.  Small steps or small changes can snowball into significant changes. 

Solution-focused therapy is a modality that works well with all problem areas, but is especially effective with clients facing challenges such as anxiety, depression and trauma.  Establishing a healthy self-identity, couple relationships,  parent-child relationships, improving communication, improving self-esteem, maintaining healthy boundaries in relationships, personal growth, stress management, grief, life transition, retirement, anger control, work-life balance, optimizing work performance, decision making and career planning are also areas where solution-focused therapy works.