Solution Focused Brief Therapy

What is Solution-Focused Brief Therapy?

Solution-focused brief therapy is a concise, solution-oriented psychotherapy, In other words, it focuses on the solutions rather than the problems. This approach was originally developed in an urban mental health facility that treated individuals that were not previously diagnosed with a mental illness.

Since its inception, solution-focused brief therapy has gain popularity becoming one of the leading forms of therapy and making a presence in business, education, criminal justice, social services and medicine.

Solution-focused brief therapy is a real-world, goal-driven approach to psychotherapy. It focuses on developing brief, well-defined, realistic goals. Solution-focused brief therapists believe that you ultimately know what you need to do to make your life better, although at times you may need help understanding how to accomplish those goals and solve your problems.

What Happens During A Solution Focused Brief Therapy Session?

During a solution-focused brief therapy session, you and your therapist works together to develop attainable goals and realistic solutions.

Psychological interventions that are used to craft goals and solutions during solution-focused brief therapy:

Previous Solutions

Solution-focused brief therapists believe that most people have experienced the same of similar problems in the past. According to these therapists, you have the knowledge to solve your current problems, but you just need helping unleashing that knowledge so that you can find suitable solutions. The main goal of a solution-focused brief therapist is to help you think of realistic solutions to your problems. Your therapist may ask you questions like: “Have you ever experienced an issue like this before? What did you do? Was your solution successful? What do you wish you had done differently?”


There may be times in which you have not experienced a similar problem and therefore do have previous solutions to pull from. In that case, the problems you are experiencing are considered exceptions. In other words, exceptions occur when a problem could have arisen, but for some reason did not.

A previous solution is something you have tried in the past that worked, but you no longer use, while an exception is something that should have, would have or could have happened, but for some unknown reason did not. Your therapist may ask you questions like: “What is different this time that was not present in the past?”

Present and Future

The purpose of solution-focused brief therapy is to concentrate on the present and the future, not the past. These therapists believe that the most effective way to solve problems is to focus on what is happening now in your life and how you would like for your life to be like in the future. Solution-focused therapists believe that focusing on the past and the cause of the problems on delays the healing process. Your therapist may ask you questions like: “What do you want your life to be like in the future? How can you apply what you learned in therapy to your daily life?”

Praise & Validation

Another important part of solution-focused brief therapy is praise. It is important that your therapist recognize when you make progress. He/she must also validate your feelings, encourage you to make a change and provide a safe, supportive environment for you during the treatment process. Your therapist may ask you questions like: “How did you do that? What other things do you know how to do well? What hidden talents do you have?”


Once your therapist has increased your self-confidence through praise and validation and you can accurately recognize previous solutions and exceptions to your problem, your therapist will gently invite you to try what previously worked. In some cases, your therapist will suggest that you try new solutions to your problems to see if they work.


Solution-focused therapists typically take a brief break during the last half of each therapy session to ponder on what occurred during the first half of the session. Before the break your therapist may ask you questions like: “Is there anything that we did not talk about that you would like for me to know at this time?”

Once the break has ended, your therapist may encourage you to experiment with new ways of thinking and behaving. The purpose of the experiment is to find more positive and productive ways for you to successfully meet you predefined goals.

Is Solution-Focused Brief Therapy Effective?

Yes, solution-focused brief therapy is very effective. Studies have shown that this approach has helped many people strengthen their communication skills and resolve problems in prompt and efficient manner.


Gingerich, W., Eisengart, S. (2000) Solution-focused brief therapy: a review of the outcome research. Family Process, 39, 477-498.

Ratner, H., George, E. & Iveson, C. (2012). Solution focused brief therapy: 100 key points and techniques. New York, NY: Routledge.

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