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How to understand solution-focused brief therapy

Solution-focused brief therapy differs from conventional talking therapies, with its primary focus on the future. The therapist encourages a client to construct a hypothetical "dream future", and then establishes the steps required to reach it. Learn more about how solution-focused brief therapy works, and how exactly the results are achieved.

Background

Solution-focused brief therapy is an example of talking therapy. It differs from conventional talking therapies by focusing almost entirely on the future, rather than dwelling on the past or present issues which may have caused therapy to be sought. Therapists use the technique to encourage clients to divulge their preferred future. Gradual decisions and steps are then made towards these goals. The theory suggests that any former problems can be overcome by simply formulating a realistic plan. One common method of achieving this outcome, is to analyse previous occasions when life has felt closer to this “ideal future”. By vividly remembering these times and establishing aspects which made them more positive, it becomes possible to recreate similar situations.

Methods

Miracle question It is important for a solution-focused brief therapist to let the client decide on their personal “ideal future”, rather than repeating stereotypical responses. One common way of ensuring this, is to skilfully apply the “miracle question”. A typical example of a “miracle question” may take the following form: “Imagine going to sleep tonight, and a miracle occurring which solves each of your problems. If nobody told you that the miracle had occurred, how do you imagine that it would manifest itself in your daily life? What would change and what would stay the same?” Exception seeking question Another common method within solution-focused brief therapy, is known as the “exception seeking question”. Experts insist that there will always be a time when a problem is less severe, or alleviated even marginally. Therapists aim to vividly establish these instances, and encourage the client to consistently apply them to his or her daily life. Solution-focused brief therapy is frequently scaled to accommodate more than one individual. Strategic family therapy utilises the technique to solve conflicts within families (or other small groups). It can even be a motivational tool for large businesses to accomplish long-term financial goals.

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