Solution focused therapy (SFT) was devised in the 1980’s by Steve de Shazer (O'Connell 1998). It is often used as a form of brief therapy.
I often integrate SFT into other forms of therapy. It can be helpful in setting the goals of therapy. It can also be useful in helping family members to break entrenched conflict or in introducing conversations about intimacy.
The philosophy behind the approach came from 2 surprising observations that were made by De Shazer’s team.
1. Clients are not necessarily helped, by talking about the problem or it’s origin.
2. The solution does not have to fit the problem
A problem focused approach, they argued tended to limit clients and their therapists to old ways of talking about and viewing a problem. Therapy, they noticed, could often appear stuck in the past offering scant vision of what changes needed to be made in the future.
De Shazer maintained that positive changes could be made in a person’s life without defining the problem at all. For a solution to be found, it was enough to ask the client to imagine their future without the problem.
We cannot successfully steer a bicycle without looking in the direction we want to go. Nor can we navigate ourselves out of life’s pitfalls, without a sense of the future and of how different we want things to be.
Things that you may notice about an SFT session are that it is very focused. The therapist will be actively inviting specific ways of talking that he or she believes are most conducive to solution finding.
A typical session will focus upon what you would like to change. It will invite you to think of a hypothetical situation when the problem does not exist. You will be asked to focus on very concrete changes; such as the differences that you or others will see or hear. Finally you will be invited to define the first step that needs to be taken in reaching this future.
Therapy takes as long as it takes. However emphasis is placed upon the client’s competences, strengths and sense of autonomy. The aim is to not keep anyone in therapy longer then is needed.
O'Connell, B. (1989) "Solution Focused Therapy" Sage:London