Solution-focused therapy (SFT) is a type of short-term therapy that places far more importance on discussing solutions than problems. Of course, we must discuss the problem to find a solution, but beyond understanding what the problem is and deciding how to address it, solution-focused therapy will not dwell on every detail of the problem we are experiencing.
Who can benefit?
While it is not suitable to use as a treatment for major psychiatric conditions, SFT is currently used for most emotional and mental health problems that other forms of counselling are used to treat, such as:
- Personal stress and work-related stress
- Substance abuse/ addiction
- Relationship problems
SFT has been found successful in helping a vast array of people, including couples, families and children. It is thought to work very effectively for those who are keen to embrace change and have a goal-orientated mindset, as these individuals are often more responsive to therapy techniques.
So…how does it work?
In SFT, the therapist will help us to envisage a clear and detailed picture of how we see our future - and how things will be better once changes are made. They will also encourage us to explore past experiences and times when we were as happy as we see ourselves in our future vision. These processes aim to evoke a sense of hope and expectation and make a future solution seem possible.
It is essentially the future vision that drives the therapy process forward, ensuring that it is directional and, as a result, brief. Therapists can use this future solution to shape the techniques and questions that will comprise discussions. These aim to help us to realise our potential and find the courage to move forward.
✽ The Miracle Question
The 'miracle question' - a question that encourages us to stop thinking about why we cannot achieve something and instead picture how our lives could be if a miracle occurred. This helps us to view life very differently and takes the focus off the cause of our problems. Instead, the emphasis is placed on times when our problems are non-existent.
Ultimately, the miracle question enables us to picture a solution. Our responses are expected to describe this solution in detailed behavioural terms, and this can have powerful implications about our need to do something different. This is thought to pave the way for small, realistic steps that will help us form an entirely different way of living. Some of us may even begin to implement some of the behavioural changes we have pictured.
✽ Exception Questions
Exception questions allow us to identify with times when things may have been different for us - periods in our lives that are counter to the problem we are currently facing. By exploring how these exceptions happened and highlighting the strengths and resources used by us to achieve them, a therapist can empower us to find a solution.
Examples of exception questions a therapist may ask include:
- Tell me about times when you felt happiest.
- What was it about that day that made it a better day?
- Can you think of times when the problem was not present in your life?
✽ Scaling Questions
Following miracle and exception questions, scaling questions will typically be asked to perceive our problem in terms of difficulty. This tends to involve using a scale from one to 10 in which each number represents a rating of the problem (one being the worst a situation could be and 10 being the best).
By identifying where our problem lies in our mindset, a therapist can go about exploring where things would need to be for us to feel that the aims of therapy have been met. From here we can establish specific goals and identify preferred outcomes. Scaling questions can also prove useful for tracking progress.
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