Conceptualization of Solution-Focused Brief Therapy

Name of the Theory

Solution-focused therapy which is also named solution-focused brief therapy (SFBT) represents a type of treatment that is concerned with paying attention to a solution rather than a problem. The therapy’s purpose is to approach the individuals in a way that they can find the best solution with little assistance (Nelson, 2019). A therapist encourages people to identify the needed skills, abilities, and other resources that would help them to resolve the issue.

The method called solution-focused brief therapy appeared in a sphere of family therapy in the 1980s when psychologists gauged the amount of time, energy, and other resources released onto problem seeking. Moreover, the problem seeking caused a slightly negative impact than positive outcomes (Gladding, 2015). Therefore, Steve de Shazer and Insoo Kim Berg created solution-focused brief therapy in the 1980s after observing the results of conventional treatments outcomes (Gladding, 2015). SFBT focuses on finding out realistic solutions to promote a long-lasting therapeutic effect instead of conducting long-term sessions. The method significantly developed over three decades and spread all over Canada, the United States, European and Asian countries. The standards of solution-focused therapy are practices within different environments such as schools or working settings where people focus on achieving goals and improving personal relationships.

SFBT has proved to be efficient in both individual and family therapy. Moreover, it treats a wide range of issues and addresses the different challenges (Gladding, 2015). The treatment is widely applied to handling such problems as family dysfunction, relationship problems, domestic or child abuse, eating disorders, and other related issues. The solution-focused method can be used in conjunction with different types of therapies or can function alone.

Fundamental Tenets of the Theory

Among the fundamental principles, SFBT identifies the following ones:

  1. The therapy is aimed towards finding a resolution for the problem and does not primarily focus on the issue.
  2. The center of therapy is on the client’s future; meanwhile, past events, problems, and experiences cannot affect the decision-making process.
  3. The beneficial behaviors assigned to the clients are essential to stick to frequently to ameliorate one’s life.
  4. Some problems have exemptions which means that some factors restrain the problem from occurring. Thus, this restraint can be used by the patient and counselor to co-design solutions.
  5. The patterns of behavior, cognition, or interactions with others can be co-build by the therapist, and a client or the psychotherapist may help to find the alternatives.
  6. The model suggests that solution behaviors already exist for clients and behavioral interventions are not necessary.
  7. The psychotherapist implementing the SFBT asserts that one small change can result in a large one causing drastic life alteration.
  8. The therapist should use communicative techniques while exploring possible solutions, but they should differ from the methods applied to diagnose the client’s problems.

Role of the Counselor

The therapist’s role is to ask helpful questions and to see the response of clients to co-build a possible solution to the problem. Moreover, the counselor should be aware of the patients’ vulnerabilities and streaks to make up the right questions that underlie the resolution. It’s the counselor’s role to envisage a picture of the desired future for the client. The therapist’s goal is to assess the previous problems, evaluate how those affected present conditions, and assist in identifying whether the current issues are manageable. In addition to this, the professional must not concentrate on past problems to deteriorate the outcomes of therapy.

What Creates Behavior Change

The main factor creating the change in a client’s behavior is that they are concentrated on finding a solution instead of digging out existing or past problems. By building up a path to a successful problem resolution, patients aspire to improve their lives and interpersonal relations. Moreover, during the therapy, they find out which skills they have and which are to obtain to create a better future (Parry, 2019). The envisioning process is a driver to their behavioral change as it motivates them and develops additional skills. Thus, they learn to answer the questions on their own, realize them, and produce ways towards problem-solving.

Techniques Used in SFBT

Some of the SFBT techniques apply only to this kind of therapy, while others have a wide range of applications. Working with a licensed professional is required when one cannot solve problems on their own, but one may also use the techniques suggested for self-therapy.

Firstly, a good therapist asks properly-structured questions to impact the client’s process of finding the best solution. Asking good-structured questions is pivotal in any type of therapy, but SFBT represents a row of questions aimed to provoke wondering and discussing the goal-setting and problem-solving processes. One of such matters is named “coping questions” which pursues to test a person’s resiliency to different factors. Furthermore, it allows therapists to identify how their clients manage problems efficiently. Another type of question is a “miracle question” which encourages patients to foresee a future in which they do not have unsolvable issues. Giving a client a perspective of a better future, he starts forming the steps in his imagination towards ameliorating the following events.

If the miracle question does not work, and the patient cannot imagine a way to a better life, a therapist resorts to the best hope questions. These questions’ purpose is to ensure the client that everything he does is for the better and hope is a key to creating a better future. The client’s answers will establish the achievability of the set goals and help ensure that everything he wants is possible.

To identify the exclusions to the concerning issues, therapists will inquire about the «exception questions.” These questions help to reveal the detail of the patient’s life with and without problems. Such an approach helps to realize in which circumstances the client is exposed to vulnerability and which events do not cause any harm (Kim et al., 2016). The other “scaling question” is asked in the circumstances when exploring how their problems impact them, how self-confident they are to resolve them, and what has the treatment brought so far. Such a method helps to gauge the client’s motivation and whether they are confident enough to progress treatment.

Another technique can be used both individually and under the therapist’s surveillance. “The “presupposing change” technique is potentially influencing SFBT because when people are facing problems, they tend to pay attention to the issues and disregard the positive changes in their life (Kim et al., 2016). Thus, the counselor should ensure the clients about the upcoming changes as positive phenomena and the events occurring can be seen from a brighter perspective.

Besides the wisely constructed questions, therapists use other methods of approaching their customers. For instance, compliments may be used to validate the client’s progress or encourage them to perform better. They also help to punctuate what one does so that it works for them. Furthermore, looking for exceptions is another tool to implement as it assists both sides in understanding what does not work anymore and how it can be substituted.


Specifically, what will the assessment phase of counseling look like with this approach and this family?

Using solution-focused brief therapy, a therapist can assess the family’s situation as concerning due to the spouses’ indecisiveness in resolving their relationship problem. Firstly, despite the husband Jack’s willingness to preserve family, his intentions do seem insufficient as he would cancel the counselor’s appointments or behave inadequately during the sessions. Moreover, the wife, Diane’s trust, was undermined by Jack’s job and money machinations. In general, their case presents critical as if they were on the verge of a divorce situation. At the stage of assessment, it is necessary to have a personal session with each spouse to identify their strengths and viewpoints to comprehend how both of them can contribute to family rebuilding.

What is the presenting family concern/issue?

The case study presents a family of Jack and Diane, who are 46 years old and who have five children. Despite their deep love for each other, they cannot perceive why their relationship is deteriorating. Both have incompatible job schedules and barely see each other. Diane is concerned that Jack was lying to her about attending the job that he had lost and loaned money to pay bills. Furthermore, she worries about her husband’s cannabis abuse and cannot accept it as a norm. Meanwhile, Jack does not consider cannabis consumption detrimental but relaxing. Jack feels that his actions deteriorated their relations; therefore, ardently wants to keep his family. Besides, Diane showed concern that her eldest son and daughter might hide alcohol and drugs.

What is the family’s stated goal(s) for counseling?

The family’s goals are the following:

  1. To restore spouses’ relationship;
  2. To rebuild Diane’s trust in her husband;
  3. To establish the schedules so that the spouses could have time to themselves;
  4. To prevent Jack from cannabis abuse;
  5. To find out why the eldest son and daughter hide illegal substances.

Is your goal(s) for counseling different from their stated purpose?

My goals correspond to the family’s intentions, but I would also like to understand the link between the father’s hiding his job loss and children’s alcohol and drug hiding as they could unconsciously repeat his actions. Moreover, as implementing the solution-focused brief therapy concerns focusing on the present and future events, I would propose the following goal: to find a way to rebuild mutual trust so that each spouse feels comfortable.

How does this theory conceptualize/frame the family’s issues (review theoretical formulations)?

Within the framework of Jack and Diane’s family, the solution-focused brief theory will let them visualize their future together. First of all, the questions asked will help them to realize the skills that they have for finding a solution to maintain the relationship. Secondly, they will have to set common goals related to reconnecting with each other. Thirdly, the family will need to change their behavioral patterns to alter their present concern (Franklin et al., 2016). Even the smallest evasion from the existing habits will lead to substantial changes. Moreover, the family will be asked many helpful questions which already underlie a possible resolution.

Specifically, how will your theory create behavior change in this family?

The theory aims to change patients’ behavior by implementing the techniques directed towards finding a resolution for the problem. Therefore, the response will be altered when both Jack and Diane contemplate the questions asked and stick to their thoughts as a way of solution. Moreover, their conduct patterns will change due to the proper issue formulating that will make them envision their future without the concerns they have now.

What techniques will you use with this family? Be descriptive.

First of all, I will begin therapy by asking Jack and Diane to set the goals they are willing to achieve by the end of the sessions. I want them to pursue the same agreed-upon objectives and come to a compromise if they have any discrepancies. This goal-setting process will unite them and show if they’re going to rebuild their family. Moreover, the family will have to make a list of priorities to perceive the importance of further actions. Another method I am going to use will include several crucial questions that will assist them in the decision-making process.

To begin with, I will inquire about the “miracle question” “Let’s see if your problem has been already solved overnight and now your reciprocal trust, unconditional love returned, and Jack stopped taking cannabis. What are you, Jack and Diane, will be doing tomorrow morning?” This inquiry will let me know if they can imagine mutual circumstances where they are happy and trust one another. However, one question is not sufficient to come to a solution.

Thus, I will make up a “coping question” to ensure they can deal with the problems. The question will be formulated in the following way: “How have you managed to find a compromise on your issues so far?” It will also help Jack and Diane what can work for their relationship. When they realize how they can stay afloat, I will interrogate the next “presupposing question” that will establish the reasons and methods that stopped the conflict from occurring. I will ask them to remember when the disagreement occurred and why the tension reduced.

When they recollect how they overcame worrying issues, I will try to make them remember their time spent together when both felt the happiest. This will be the question the goal of which is to highlight the exemptions to prove their family can rebuild bonds. The final issue will be the “scaling” one that will ask them on the scale from one to ten to identify their current relationship status (Parry, 2019). It means that they will have to name the number end to explain why they chose it. When they describe it, they will realize the importance of further actions. I will reinforce their decision-making by complimenting and encouraging them to solve problems.

Specifically, using at least two references from counseling sources (peer-reviewed journals), in addition to the Gladding text, what is the empirical evidence for success with this theoretical approach?

The theory is efficient due to its apparent simplicity and focuses on the solution rather than on a problem. The sources suggest that this therapy is useful because one can create a new reality concentrating on changing the present and future (Nelson, 2019). Moreover, the treatment is evidence-based, and more than 70 meta-analyses were conducted to support its effectiveness (Franklin et al., 2016). The success of the therapy is that it represents brief interventions that significantly change one’s behavior and perception and is based on the client’s wants instead of prescribed norms.


Franklin, C., Zhang, A., Froerer, A., & Johnson, S. (2016). Solution focused brief therapy: A systematic review and meta-summary of process research. Journal of Marital and Family Therapy, 43(1), 16–30.

Gladding, S. (2015). Counselling: A comprehensive profession. Pearson.

Kim, J. S., Brook, J., & Akin, B. A. (2016). Solution-focused brief therapy with substance-using individuals. Research on Social Work Practice, 28(4), 452–462.

Nelson, T. (2019). Solution-focused brief therapy with families. Routledge.

Parry, S. (2019). The handbook of brief therapies: A practical guide. SAGE.

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"Conceptualization of Solution-Focused Brief Therapy." PsychologyWriting, 19 Sept. 2023,


PsychologyWriting. (2023) 'Conceptualization of Solution-Focused Brief Therapy'. 19 September.


PsychologyWriting. 2023. "Conceptualization of Solution-Focused Brief Therapy." September 19, 2023.

1. PsychologyWriting. "Conceptualization of Solution-Focused Brief Therapy." September 19, 2023.


PsychologyWriting. "Conceptualization of Solution-Focused Brief Therapy." September 19, 2023.