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Theory of counseling: Solution focused therapy Essay

Brief review of the model

Solution focused therapy, also known to as Solution Focused Brief Therapy (SFBT), is a kind of ‘talking-therapy’ founded on the ‘social-constructionist’ perspective. The focus of this therapy is on what clients would like to achieve after undergoing therapy on the problems and issues affecting them which made them seek therapy.

Solution focused therapy centers on the current times and future rather than on what happened. The therapist asks questions and encourages the patient to share more of his/her account, potencies and possessions, and about exemptions to the predicament.

The counselor may even at times seem curious, but as a professional, he should do it in a respectful manner to the clients so as to make the client feel at ease and encourage him or her to open up. This enables the client and therapist to form a rapport and move to the next step, which is finding an effective cure of the problems affecting the client. (Sommers-Flanagan & Sommers-Flanagan 2004).

This type of therapy focuses on two vital aspects: 1) providing support for individuals to discover their ideal futures; and 2) Discovering when, where, with whom and how pieces of that ideal future is already occurring. This is a more or less practical approach despite the fact that it is mostly done by means of a social constructionist’ thereof can be accomplished without a particular theoretical structure beyond that which is totally clear off any intent to remain as close as it can to the above two mentioned aspects (Corey 2009).

Therapists using this therapy method have a belief that people undergo constant change and that by being able to guide their clients to discover things in their life that they desire to change, they greatly help with therapy. They also try to concentrate on positive things that are presently taking place in the individual’s life and what the individual wants to continue.

Solution focused therapists tend to assist their patients to create a realistic vision of their preferred future. Therapists go further by helping out persons seeking therapy to discover and identify periods in their life that are nearer to the future they have created, and examine the difference between the two (the present and the future).

When individuals are made to see these aspects and successes, and their consciousness is discovered, they are moved from their present state to the future that they have created for themselves or identified. Therapists then constantly help them to repeat these successful things when they are not experiencing any problems or when their problems are less brutal (De Shazer 1988).

Solution focused therapy does not just focus on the cause of a problem and the details surrounding it but tries to move the client from the problem towards a solution. It identifies, discovers and comes up with resources and skills within the client that the client can embrace and use them to overcome their problem.

This method of therapy acts as a guide to the client but gives the client utmost control of identifying ways of overcoming his/her problem. Therapists also use language that creates and maintains a futuristic focus for the client such as “when this is fixed”, they do not make conclusions on what they think the client may be trying to say but the use questions to open up the client’s thinking and focus his/her view towards addressing the problem in the future (Hawkes, Marsh & Wilgosh 1998).

SFBT therefore transfers focus from problems to problem-solving, in spite of the client’s present predicament, to a comprehensive and inclusive highlight of the probable solutions. This model differs greatly from other conservative and traditional models of therapy as it focuses and emphasizes on both the present and the future, and showing less or no interest at all in trying to perceive the problem (Gerber, 1999). Its main strength is that it creates workable solutions.

Use of intervention strategies

Miracle Question

This is a method usually used by therapists to try and draw out the client’s thinking from the problem and steer it to the future without the problem. It is usually designed to aid the client to picture him/herself in a realistic future that is different to the present and past and when the problem the client is experiencing is non-existent. Therapists employ this intervention strategy after the client has given them a brief overview of why he/she is seeking therapy.

The use of miracle questions by the therapists draws out the client to talk and that is why this therapy method is referred to as the solution focused therapy as it makes the client identify solutions on his/her own problems.

It also aids to establish and set up goals for the client. An example of a solution question from a therapist to a client would be such as: “Suppose one night a miracle happened and your problem was solved. How would you know. ” Solution focused therapy being a goal driven method of therapy, miracle questions greatly smooth the progress of treatment for a client (Coady, Stalker & Levene 2000).

Cheerleading/ great compliment/compliments

This intervention strategy is mostly used to support and encourage the client’s success. Therapists prefer this strategy as it is able to pack a powerful punch and is also vital in identifying and developing solutions.

It has a multiple ripple effect on the client as it is able to: authenticate the progress and grounds being covered by the client; provides encouragement to the client by constantly making them aware of the personal power they wield over their wellbeing; heaps a lot of emphasis on a client’s strength and abilities; cultivates confidence in the client; smoothes the progress of relationship building between the client and his/her therapist and sustains a good rapport; it also assures the client that future possibilities are built on past successes by creating an expectation in them.

This come outs as simple and easy to grasp/understand questions whose intention is to take back the client back to the positive observations on what they have been able to do. “It provides encouragement for the client and helps them think about their personal accomplishments” (Greenberg, Ganshorn and Danilkewich 2001).

The ability of therapists to use this strategy and focus on the small things the client does to overcome misfortune and achieves is the first step in noticing strengths and accomplishments, “it becomes the easiest and most supportive first step in solution talk” (Selekman 1997).

Time-outs and tasks

This helps the client to immediately focus on goal identification. Timeouts and tasks are interrelated and allow clients of both parties (the therapist and the client) to reflect on the issues that arise from the conversations they have between them. The timeout especially is very effective and handy when they have just finished a conversation.

Clients are usually informed before the start of a session that a time out will be held at the end of the session or when seen fit by the therapist. This prepares them and makes them aware of the tasks and accolades being given to them at the end of the day’s session.

The time out duration is usually limited to a minute or two. However Greenberg, Ganshorn, and Danilkewich (2001) note, “Although time-outs are not always feasible, the rationale for using them warrants reinforcement: the accolades we offer patients are part of solution talk, and taking a minute or two to identify praise statements is important.”

On the other hand tasks are used by therapists to carry out an assessment of how the client is progressing with therapy. In some cases this is used when the therapist is treating a patient that has a definite complaint those that are unsure of what they expect from the treatment, are not given any tasks. The task is often discussed at the end of the time out session when a complete analysis of the session has been done (Sommers-Flanagan & Sommers-Flanagan 2004).

Exception questions

These questions are intended to uncover patients’ successes and strengths. Exception questions operate on the presumption that there are always times when the identified problem is less intense or absent and when pieces of the desired solution picture appear.

Patients often paint a problem picture that is universally present, and “exception questions short-circuit this presentation by eliciting expectations in behavior, instances when the desired outcome is happening, ‘even if only a little bit,’ once patients identify expectations, physicians amplify their role in the solution picture” (Greenberg, Ganshorn, and Danilkewich 2001).

Theoretical development

Solution focused theory is described as ecosystemic, thus intended to impact problem behaviors in various social settings. Insights on the creation of an ecosystemic view that included 1) asking questions that re-oriented the client to the problems, 2) searching for clues that revealed how others perceived the problem situation, and 3) noticing changes.

However, an important point must be remembered when describing the interaction between problems and solutions. While some theorists described a close relationship between problems and solutions, known as problutions, this contradicted the solution-focused concept that solutions are not directly related to problems (Selekman 1997).

Solution focused theory is described as mainly being tasked with providing therapy. Its task is to coach the client to be an expert and know the best way to solve his or her problem. Insight is not necessary for change in the client. The unit (individual, couple, and family) is not as important as the type of relationship the therapist has with the client (visitor, customer, complainant, or patient).

Focus is emphasized on finding the solution and time oriented to coincide with the present and future familiarization (De Shazer, 1988). Understanding is presumed, not “worked on”, and occurs due to the counselor’s regard for the patient from the start.

Ethical concepts based on ethical principles, that underscore diverse characteristics of a predicament grounded along ethical lines, leading to the most ethically accurate resolve according to the guiding principles contained in the ethical theory itself also come into play when therapy is being undertaken.

Branden (1995) notes, “People usually base their individual preference of ethical theory upon their personal experiences” In life, in most cases one is confronted with a dilemma, where they have to decide what is right or wrong.

In order to be effective therapists/counselors who utilize solution-focused theory should have a command of the essential components and principles that underlie the theory. In addition, they should find other counselors engaged in solution-focused individual or group work, or form a peer supervision group, in order to support each other in the use of the theory (Branden 1999).

More importantly, keeping a healthy rapport between the client and the therapist is very important for the environmental friendliness of both parties during a therapy session. If the other party withholds from the other this could result in the client retreating into a shell and turning against the therapist. Any efforts to make him/her overcome their problems will likely push them further away from the therapist.

For instance, the client on realizing that the therapist is interested on their relationship as patient-doctor model and nothing to do with their welfare, they may decide to emotionally withdraw themselves. Besides contributing to a lack of trust, this to a severe case may lead to total detesting of the therapists efforts to help the client. In addition, the client may lose confidence with the therapist and drift away from being active (Montgomery & Kottler 2010).

However, solution focused therapy is often misunderstood to be no more than the techniques it is famous for; pragmatic, future-oriented questions that encourage clients to re-conceptualize their problems and build on their strengths. However when presented in a “one-size-fits-all” approach, these systems may result in unsatisfactory consequences and leave therapists questioning what wrong they have done.

Regardless of this, ever since the conception of solution focused therapy, a myriad of problems has been able to be solved by therapists (Nelson & Thomas 2007). This is manifested through numerous studies carried out to determine the effectiveness of solution focused theory.

As a matter of fact, about sixty to eighty percent of patients gone through solution focused therapy have shown great progress during the course of the therapy (Selekman 1997). That is why, many practitioners cutting across diverse fields of study have been making use of solution focused theory for over the last two decades due to its supple nature and its accent on the client’s strong points, instead of providing the means to try and find out the problem.

Personal integration

The type of thinking promoted by the Solution focused brief therapy (SFBT) model spurs an individual think of the future and how they can work on solving their problems by creating an ideal and realistic future for themselves. In solving people’s problems, we have to understand their needs because they are the cause of the tribulations.

Most people will indulge in certain activities for a reason; therefore it is their need to achieve what they want that will guide each and every move they take. Human beings have four types of needs that are fundamental for survival (Lipchik 2002).

These needs include: Psychological needs such as hunger, sexual and emotional needs. Humans also require to be loved and be affiliated with others, they also need to feel safe, and finally they need to have self-esteem and feel appreciated.

Lack of the above needs creates an intense deficiency in an individual which often leads to depression and people end up looking for these needs in other things such as alcohol, drugs, fantasies and other harmful things (O’Connell, 2005).

If one requires rehabilitating people with problems in their lives; then one has to find out what need a particular person is lacking and how to provide it. This calls for intense research about them because most of them will not tell directly what their problem is but instead one will have to find out. Problem solving therefore involves understanding people and their various diverse needs (Quick & Thomas 2008).

Every human being wants to live and embrace each day as an authentic, self-aware, and triumphant person. People always tend to desire successful lives. However, the big question is how to go about this in the quest for achieving these successful lives. How do you go about it. Where do you begin. In a world, evidently full of wisdom, inspirational quotes, and transformational exercises.

The most important judgment one can make for him/her self, in life is, about their personality. And it all comes down to the distinction between low self esteem and high self esteem, the distinction between submissiveness and accomplishment, between failing and succeeding. This encourages understanding, self-awareness, and honesty, all vital elements in living a good life in an insensible world (Branden 1999).

At some point in an individual’s life, one runs into problems and tribulations in relation to themselves that often appear more than impractical for them to work out on their own and talk and seek solace from their friends or persons they can confide in (Pichot and Dolan 2003).

Though there are times when the situations they are going through and the tribulations they are suffering look as if they are too much to bear for them, their friends and the people acting as confidants; in addition to their lack of proper advice from the people he or she has gone to seek advice from, it just needs a friend to ask “’what do you want to do.’

Upon hearing this question, some people surprise themselves by asking what to do. Everything then suddenly becomes apparent, which is all it takes for them to find solution to their problems” (Greenberg, Ganshorn and Danilkewich 2001).

A sure way of ensuring effective and efficient use of solution focused therapy to clients is by enhancing counselor intervention strategies in the therapy sessions. This helps to encourage the patient as the therapist is armed with practical examples based on principles “with therapeutic change modalities” (Gerber, 1999).

Competent professionals should have; “a working knowledge of the vast range of treatment options, an understanding of the rationale behind each intervention strategy, and the ability to anticipate realistic outcomes” (Gerber, 1999).

Gerber argues that “presentation of main hypothetical information by synthesizing it into four groups interpreted according to intervention dynamics” helps therapists/counselors to be adaptable to the various needs of different clients of patients (Greenberg, Ganshorn & Danilkewich, 2001).

The question how the model of therapy changes one personality is very profound, in that the therapy model apart from working on the client/patient alone, it also makes the therapist go on a journey of soul searching as he or she has to create a rapport with the client and identify with him so as to make them feel at ease and be able to open up.

On guiding the client one also tends to do the same to him or herself, albeit indirectly. It therefore can be concluded as a constant workout for an individual whether they are the client or the therapist.

With all this in mind, an individual’s life is bound to change especially the therapist as he/she is constantly going through the procedures of the model every day with patients who are very different from one another. But one disadvantage that poses great risk and danger is therapist burnout, may be due to the constant and never changing practices done every day (Coady, Stalker & Levene 2000).


This theory model has various advantages to it for any therapist dealing with clients who are seeking answers to their problems whether severe or less consistent. The solution focused brief therapy model comes out as a brief method of counseling that seeks to draw out patients and make them think of a future without the problems they are experiencing at the moment and in the past.

It does not dwell on finding out what the problem is but rather on how to find a solution for it, thus the name solution focused therapy. There is an interrelationship between this model of therapy and managed care compounded with demands of effective provision of counseling in short time frames.

This therapy method also puts emphasis on the positive accomplishments and outlooks of clients. A big advantage of this therapy method, is that it can be easily applied to a wide array of clients with a myriad of problems and be still effective.

The solution focused therapy is easily adaptable and the intervention strategies as mentioned above ensure effective and complete therapeutic healing for clients. It is a simple therapy method with step by step guidelines for therapists.

But despite the optimism and hope offered to patients and providing both therapists and clients with new ways to talk about the ins and outs of life filled with refreshing, effective, and promising change; it suffers some disadvantages and disappointments.

Critics of this method argue that the method is too simplistic in nature and does not have an adequate amount of experiential research to support it and that it might not sufficiently be of help to mental health patients, some further argue that it does not provide and develop adequate client/therapist relationship for it to come out therapeutic.

Nevertheless, the solution focused therapy in spite of it not being multicultural can still be utilized in a way that therapists get to understand their clients within the constraints of his/her cultural basis. This would enable both the therapist and client to find out solutions to those problems that may sometimes be out of the capacity of the client to deal with and change.

Though, the model is very efficient and effective to clients whose cultures embrace fast, down-to-earth, no-nonsense approach to problems and do not condone the cognitive, behavioral or affective components of a problem.

Numerous studies have been carried out to identify and find out whether solution focused therapy provides positive gains to clients or not. Professional experts have discussed this model of therapy at great lengths and the various methods/uses of approach to therapy and counseling.

However, one thing that comes out in almost all studies carried out and books on solution focused therapy is the emphasis this method focuses on, which is encouraging patients to look at exceptional periods within their lives when the problem they are encountering would likely have happened, but did not, and in the process of doing this they look at their future goals and the possibilities of a better future.

Intervention strategies such as: miracle questions, time-outs, tasks, cheerleading, goal setting, focusing, giving of accolades and so forth are an effective way of ensuring that the patient is focused on attaining the therapeutic help they were seeking. This is evident in the numerous studies carried out on solution focused therapy.

This therapy method can be applied across a diverse grouping of settings such as: couples, individuals, schools, children, pastoral work, depression, and so forth. Therapist training is also very important so that they are able to cope with various clients and know how to use the intervention strategies for example know when, how and which miracle questions to use.


Branden, N. (1995). The six pillars of self-esteem. New York: Bantam.

Coady, N., Stalker, C. & Levene, J. (2000). A closer examination of the empirical support for claims about the effectiveness of solution-focused brief therapy: Stalker et al. respond to Gingerich. Families in Society, 81, 223-230.

Corey, G. (2009). Theory and practice of counseling and psychotherapy. New York: Cengage Learning.

De Shazer, S. (1988). Clues: Investigating solutions in brief therapy. New York: Norton.

Gerber, S. (1999). Enhancing counselor intervention strategies: an integrational viewpoint. New York: Taylor & Francis.

Greenberg, G., Ganshorn, K., & Danilkewich, A. (2001). Solution-focused therapy. Counseling model for busy family physicians. Canadian Family Physician, 47, 2289-2295.

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Pichot, T. & Dolan, Y. (2003). Solution-Focused Brief Therapy: Its Effective Use in Agency Settings. New York: Routledge.

Quick, E. & Thomas, F. (2008). Doing what works in brief therapy: a strategic solution focused approach: Practical resources for the mental health professional. New York: Academic Press.

Selekman, M. (1997). Solution-focused therapy with children: Harnessing family strengths for systemic change. New York: Guilford Press.

Sommers-Flanagan, J. & Sommers-Flanagan, R. (2004). Counseling and psychotherapy theories in context and practice: skills, strategies, and techniques. Hoboken: John Wiley and Sons.

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