What is Solution Focused Brief Therapy?

Solution focused brief therapy (SFBT) is an approach to building change, with a focus on the future. SFBT is distinctive from more problem-based therapy approaches. Instead of investigating the causes of the problem or reducing problem behaviour, SFBT explores a person’s resources and resilience, building on what is already working. In SFBT the client is considered expert in their own lives. The assumption is that the client will have the resources and skills they need to resolve the problem; the therapist’s role is to ask questions and listen in such a way that the client begins to notice their own strengths, and can formulate their own way of moving forwards.

So what might you typically experience in a Solution Focused therapy session? The therapist will listen closely to you, seeking to understand what is important to you. They will be particularly interested in what you would find a useful outcome from the therapy, and more generally will explore your hopes for the future. They will listen carefully to the parts of your narrative which suggest skills and strengths and talents which might be helpful for you in moving forwards. As such they will often ask questions which enable you to notice your own successful strategies and accord more significance to all that you have already achieved. The therapist is also likely to ask questions about what your ‘hoped-for future’ might look like, drawing out little details of what you might start to notice in your everyday life.

In my experience after a stroke people often want to tell me about who they were before the stroke, their experience of having a stroke, and how this has affected different parts of their life. As a Solution Focused Therapist I hold in mind the image of having one foot in acknowledgement and one foot in possibility (O’Hanlon & Beadle, 1996): part of the therapy process is acknowledging the pain and distress of the stroke, while all the time holding on to the possibility that there is life after stroke.

Harvey Ratner, from BRIEF @briefsolutions speaking on 9th February 2018 at #SFECC18 conference (credit: @SFBTEssex)

‘Solution-focused therapists operate from a deep, abiding belief that people, if treated right, are competent and capable… This belief allows the solution-focused therapist “to look for the light instead of cursing the darkness.”‘
Michael Hoyt (2009) Brief Psychotherapies, p181