August 23, 2019

What is Solution Focused Therapy?

My interest is in the future because I am going to spend the rest of my life there.” Charles F Kettering.

“When you discover you are riding a dead horse, the best strategy is to dismount.” Dakota Tribal saying

Now that I am in business as the Solution Therapy Center, I am frequently asked “What is Solution Focused Therapy (SFT)?” I am glad to be asked.

Solution Focused Therapy is uniquely positioned in the field of psychotherapy. By some estimates there are over 400 models of how to do therapy. There is ongoing debate and research about which models are most effective in helping clients change. Through research of the last 50 years, it is clear that people who get therapy are better off than 80% of those that do not. There is also agreement that for effectiveness hope must be a part of the therapy.

Finding hope and growing it is a key to SFT. The essence of SFT is ongoing conversation with the client about what is needed for progress. SFT recognizes that clients want to change; this is in contrast to approaches that are set on the idea that clients resist change. SFT recognizes that therapy can be done briefly and that small change can lead to large change. Search for identification of realistic hope is a key and ongoing process.

As part of finding and working with hope, Solution Focused therapists make particular effort to find client strengths and highlight those strengths in a way that encourages more use of what has been helpful in the past. The search for these abilities is centered on the client point of view. The client, not the therapist, is the expert on their life.

People come to therapy when some aspect of life is not working; the effort is to change gears. John Weakland, a well known Brief Therapist said, “The purpose of therapy is to move from the same damn thing over and over to one damn thing after the other.” Consider thoughtfully his words.

The work then is to get out of the rut of the current situation or the rut of the current feeling and to begin moving on with life. The therapy is a pit stop for the current stress, not a cure for life. Some therapies, at times get bogged down in the so called “whys”; the whys are often both bottomless and debatable. SFT notes people can, and do with some frequency, solve problems without understanding the whys.

As focus remains on solutions it is also the case that other (399+) psychotherapy tools can be called on. You have probably heard of some of them: Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, Social Learning Theory, Family therapy, Stress Management, Marriage Therapy, Financial Social Work and many other ideas? SFT is not dogmatic but rather flexible as it includes ability to shift focus and use the other tools to be on board with what the specific client needs.

If you consider therapy, stop and think about what your needs are and what you want to accomplish. How will you know therapy is done? Consider SFT and make sure you interview the therapist and have a sense that the therapist is a fit for you. Maybe the focus that is right for you or your family will include the hope and strength basis of Solution Focused Therapy.

Thanks for asking.

Bill