Table of Contents

Definition of Solution Focused Brief Therapy

Solution-Focused Brief Therapy (SFBT) is a goal-oriented, strengths-based therapeutic approach that focuses on helping individuals identify and work towards solutions to their problems, rather than dwelling on the problems themselves. It is a brief and time-limited form of psychotherapy, often consisting of only a few sessions, designed to facilitate positive change in a relatively short period.

SFBT is effective for a wide range of issues, including relationship problems, anxiety, depression, substance abuse, and more. It is particularly suitable for clients who are motivated to make changes and prefer a pragmatic, forward-looking approach to therapy. SFBT is used in various settings, including individual and family therapy, as well as in schools, workplaces, and other contexts where short-term, solution-focused interventions are appropriate.


Explanation of Solution Focused Brief Therapy

Solution-Focused Brief Therapy (SFBT) is a therapeutic approach that emphasizes finding and working towards solutions to a person’s problems in a relatively short period of time. This approach is based on several fundamental principles:

  • Solution-Focused: SFBT focuses on solutions rather than dwelling on problems. The therapist and client collaborate to identify the client’s goals, resources, and strengths, and then work together to develop strategies to achieve these goals. This approach is future-oriented and aims to help the client move beyond their current challenges.
  • Brief and Time-Limited: As the name suggests, SFBT is a short-term therapy. It typically involves a limited number of sessions, often ranging from just a few to around ten sessions. This time-limited nature makes SFBT a cost-effective and efficient approach to therapy, as it doesn’t delve deeply into the client’s past or require long-term commitments.
  • Goal-Oriented: SFBT is highly goal-oriented. The therapist helps the client define specific, achievable goals that they want to work toward. These goals serve as a roadmap for the therapy process and help focus the client’s attention on what they want to change in their life.
  • Client-Centered: SFBT places the client at the center of the therapeutic process. The client is viewed as the expert in their own life, and the therapist’s role is to facilitate their exploration of solutions. Therapists actively listen, ask open-ended questions, and encourage the client’s self-reflection and self-determination.
  • Scaling Questions: Therapists often use scaling questions to help clients assess and measure their progress. Clients are asked to rate their current situation on a scale (e.g., from 1 to 10) and then identify what would move them one step higher on the scale. This approach helps clients visualize their progress and set incremental targets.
  • Exception Finding: SFBT encourages clients to identify times when their problems were less severe or absent. By examining these exceptions, clients can learn from their own experiences and discover what worked in those situations. This can lead to insights about potential solutions and coping strategies.
  • Miracle Question: The miracle question is a commonly used tool in SFBT. It asks the client to envision a miracle occurring overnight, where their problem is completely resolved. By asking what life would be like in that scenario, clients can clarify their goals and the steps needed to achieve them.
  • Feedback and Compliments: SFBT therapists provide positive feedback and compliments to clients to build their self-esteem and motivation. Reinforcing the client’s strengths and progress can boost their confidence and belief in their ability to change.

SFBT is often used for a wide range of issues, including relationship conflicts, anxiety, depression, substance abuse, and family dynamics. It is a practical and pragmatic approach that is particularly well-suited for individuals who are motivated to make changes in their lives and prefer a results-oriented, forward-focused approach to therapy.

History of Solution Focused Brief Therapy

Solution-Focused Brief Therapy (SFBT) has its roots in the broader field of family therapy and was developed during the 1980s. It emerged as a response to the limitations and challenges associated with more traditional, problem-oriented therapeutic approaches. Here’s a brief history of SFBT:

Early Influences:

While SFBT was developed in the 1980s, it drew upon several earlier therapeutic approaches and ideas. Key influences included the work of family therapists like Gregory Bateson and the communication theory of Paul Watzlawick, who explored the ways in which communication and language shape human behavior and relationships.

The Brief Therapy Movement:

SFBT is closely related to the broader “brief therapy” movement that gained momentum in the 1970s and 1980s. This movement emphasized the potential for effective therapy within a limited number of sessions, in contrast to traditional long-term psychoanalysis or therapy models.


SFBT is often associated with two main founders: Steve de Shazer and Insoo Kim Berg, who were part of the Brief Family Therapy Center in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Along with their team, they played a significant role in developing and popularizing the approach. De Shazer and Berg’s work was instrumental in shaping the core principles and techniques of SFBT.

Key Publications:

Steve de Shazer’s book “The Miracle Question” (1988) and Insoo Kim Berg’s “Family Based Services: A Solution-Focused Approach” (1994) were instrumental in documenting and explaining the principles and techniques of SFBT. These publications helped disseminate the approach to a broader audience.

Key Concepts and Techniques:

SFBT introduced key concepts and techniques that are now associated with the approach, including the miracle question, scaling questions, exception-finding, and the emphasis on client strengths and resources. These techniques have become central to the SFBT model.

Application Across Settings:

Over time, SFBT expanded its application beyond family therapy to other fields, including individual therapy, education, social work, and organizational consulting. Its adaptability and effectiveness in various contexts contributed to its widespread adoption.

Research and Effectiveness:

SFBT’s impact on the field of psychotherapy and counseling has been significant. It has been the subject of numerous research studies that have demonstrated its effectiveness in producing positive outcomes within a relatively short period of time.

International Influence:

SFBT has gained international recognition and has been incorporated into the practices of therapists and counselors around the world. Its principles and techniques have been translated into multiple languages, and training programs have been established in various countries.

Today, Solution-Focused Brief Therapy remains a respected and widely practiced therapeutic approach, appreciated for its practical and goal-oriented nature, as well as its capacity to empower clients to find solutions and create meaningful change in their lives.

Types of Solution Focused Brief Therapy

Solution-Focused Brief Therapy (SFBT) is a flexible approach that can be adapted to various settings and populations. While there is typically one core approach to SFBT, it can be applied in different contexts and tailored to meet the unique needs of clients. Here are some common types or adaptations of Solution-Focused Brief Therapy:

Individual SFBT:

This is the most common form of SFBT and is often used for individual clients seeking help with personal issues, such as anxiety, depression, self-esteem, or goal-setting. The therapist works with the client to identify their goals and develop strategies for achieving them.

Family SFBT:

SFBT is frequently used in family therapy to address relationship conflicts, communication problems, and family dynamics. The therapist works with the family as a whole or with specific family members to identify solutions and improve the overall family functioning.

Couple SFBT:

In couple therapy, SFBT can help partners identify and work towards common goals, improve communication, and address relationship issues. It focuses on what each partner wants from the relationship and how they can achieve it.

Group SFBT:

SFBT can be adapted for group therapy settings, where individuals with similar concerns or goals come together to support one another. The therapist helps the group members identify solutions and share strategies for change.

School-Based SFBT:

SFBT principles can be applied in educational settings to address student behavior issues, academic challenges, and communication problems between students, teachers, and parents. It helps students set goals and find solutions to enhance their academic performance and social well-being.

Workplace SFBT:

SFBT can be used in the workplace to address issues like workplace stress, conflict resolution, team-building, and career development. It can help employees and employers focus on solutions to improve job satisfaction and productivity.

Addiction and Substance Abuse SFBT:

This adaptation of SFBT is used to address addiction and substance abuse issues. It helps individuals identify their recovery goals and develop strategies for overcoming addiction.

Crisis Intervention SFBT:

SFBT can be employed in crisis situations, such as in the aftermath of traumatic events, to help individuals and communities identify ways to cope with the crisis and rebuild their lives.

Child and Adolescent SFBT:

SFBT can be adapted for use with children and adolescents, helping them set goals for personal growth, academic success, and improved family relationships.

Organizational SFBT:

SFBT can be applied to improve organizational functioning and management by identifying solutions to workplace challenges, enhancing team communication, and fostering a positive work environment.

Community-Based SFBT:

In community settings, SFBT can be employed to address various issues within a community, such as improving community relationships, addressing neighborhood disputes, or enhancing community well-being.

While these are different applications of SFBT, the core principles of the approach remain the same, emphasizing solution-focused, goal-oriented, and strengths-based techniques. The specific techniques and strategies used may vary depending on the context and the needs of the clients or groups involved.

Techniques of Solution Focused Brief Therapy

Solution-Focused Brief Therapy (SFBT) employs a range of techniques and strategies designed to help individuals and families identify and work toward solutions to their problems. These techniques are often practical, forward-focused, and oriented toward the client’s goals and strengths. Here are some key techniques commonly used in SFBT:

The Miracle Question:

This is a central technique in SFBT. The therapist asks the client to imagine that a miracle has occurred overnight, and their problem has been completely resolved. They are then asked to describe what their life would look like without the problem. This technique encourages the client to envision a positive future and helps clarify their goals.

Scaling Questions:

The therapist might ask the client to rate their current situation or progress on a scale of 1 to 10, with 10 being the best possible scenario. The client is then encouraged to explore what would make them move one point higher on the scale. This technique helps clients quantify and visualize their progress.


SFBT therapists help clients identify exceptions to their problems. This involves exploring times when the issue was less severe or absent, and then examining what was different during those times. By focusing on exceptions, clients can discover strategies and resources for positive change.

Coping Questions:

Clients are asked about how they have coped with their challenges in the past and what coping strategies have worked for them. This technique encourages self-reflection and helps clients recognize their existing strengths and abilities.

Compliments and Positive Feedback:

SFBT therapists offer compliments and positive feedback to clients, emphasizing their strengths and progress. This boosts the client’s self-esteem and motivation to continue working on solutions.

Reflective Listening:

Therapists use active listening skills to reflect and clarify what the client is saying. This technique helps clients feel understood and valued, fostering a collaborative therapeutic relationship.

Future-Oriented Questions:

SFBT focuses on the future and encourages clients to set concrete goals and create plans for reaching those goals. Questions like “What will be different when your problem is solved?” and “What steps can you take to get there?” promote forward thinking.

Follow-Up and Review:

In subsequent sessions, therapists often review the progress made since the previous session, reinforcing achievements and identifying new goals and strategies for the future.

Using Language and Metaphor:

SFBT therapists pay attention to the client’s language and may use metaphors or stories to help clients reframe their understanding of their problems and envision solutions.


This technique involves separating the problem from the client, so the problem is treated as something external rather than defining the client’s identity. This can reduce the emotional burden associated with the problem.

Solution Development:

The therapist collaborates with the client to develop concrete, practical steps or action plans to work toward their goals and solutions. This can involve breaking down larger goals into smaller, manageable tasks.

These techniques are used in a flexible and client-centered manner, and the therapist’s approach may vary depending on the client’s unique needs and the specific context of the therapy session. SFBT techniques are designed to empower clients to find their own solutions, build on their strengths, and create positive change in their lives.

Advantages of Solution Focused Brief Therapy

Solution-Focused Brief Therapy (SFBT) offers several advantages, making it a popular and effective approach in the field of psychotherapy and counseling. Some of its key advantages include:


 SFBT is a time-limited therapy that often produces positive results in a relatively short period. This can make it more cost-effective and accessible to a broader range of clients.


SFBT is highly focused on goals and solutions. It helps clients clarify their objectives and develop actionable steps to achieve them. This focus can promote a sense of purpose and motivation in clients.


SFBT places clients in the driver’s seat of their own change process. Clients are encouraged to identify their strengths, resources, and solutions, empowering them to take control of their lives and make meaningful changes.

Positive and Hopeful:

SFBT emphasizes a positive and hopeful outlook. It encourages clients to envision a better future, which can boost their morale and counter feelings of hopelessness.


SFBT is adaptable to a wide range of issues and settings, from individual therapy to family, couples, group therapy, schools, workplaces, and more. This flexibility makes it applicable to diverse populations and concerns.


SFBT is a client-centered approach, focusing on the client’s expertise in their own life. Therapists use active listening and reflective techniques to understand the client’s unique perspective and experience.

Reduction of Resistance:

SFBT typically encounters less resistance from clients than other therapy approaches because it avoids delving deeply into the client’s past and emotional wounds. This can be particularly helpful for clients who are initially resistant to therapy.

Brief and Solution-Focused Techniques:

SFBT employs practical and straightforward techniques that are easy to understand and apply. This can lead to quicker and more tangible results.

Reduction in Negative Emotions:

By focusing on solutions and positive outcomes, SFBT can reduce the emotional distress and negative emotions associated with the client’s problems.


SFBT leverages the client’s existing strengths and resources. It highlights what is working in the client’s life and encourages them to build upon those strengths.

Suitable for Various Populations:

SFBT can be adapted for children, adolescents, adults, and the elderly. It is applicable to individuals, couples, families, and groups.

Research Support:

SFBT has accumulated empirical evidence supporting its effectiveness for a wide range of issues, making it a well-researched and evidence-based approach.

Cross-Cultural Applicability:

The solution-focused approach is often considered culturally sensitive and adaptable, which makes it relevant for diverse cultural backgrounds and languages.


SFBT is non-pathologizing and non-blaming. It does not focus on diagnosing mental health disorders, making it less stigmatizing for clients.

Suitable for Various Settings:

SFBT can be used in diverse settings, including mental health clinics, schools, hospitals, organizations, and community-based programs.

The advantages of SFBT, such as its efficiency, client-centered approach, and emphasis on solutions, have made it a valuable approach for helping individuals, couples, and families overcome a wide range of challenges and achieve positive change in their lives.

Effectiveness of Solution Focused Brief Therapy

Solution-Focused Brief Therapy (SFBT) has been found to be an effective therapeutic approach for a variety of psychological and emotional challenges. Numerous studies and clinical reports support its efficacy. Here are some key points regarding the effectiveness of SFBT:

Broad Applicability:

SFBT has demonstrated its effectiveness across various client populations, including individuals, couples, families, children, and adolescents. It is also used in diverse settings such as schools, workplaces, and community organizations.

Brief and Time-Limited:

SFBT is often recognized for producing positive results in a relatively short period, typically within a few sessions. This makes it cost-effective and efficient, particularly for individuals seeking brief interventions.

Client Satisfaction:

Clients often report high levels of satisfaction with SFBT. Its solution-focused and strengths-based approach can lead to rapid progress and a sense of empowerment.

Reduction in Problem Severity:

Research has shown that SFBT can significantly reduce the severity of various psychological and emotional problems, including anxiety, depression, relationship conflicts, and addiction.

Positive Outcomes:

SFBT helps clients identify and work toward specific, actionable goals. Clients are encouraged to envision a better future and develop practical steps to reach their desired outcomes.

Emphasis on Change:

The approach emphasizes change rather than dwelling on past problems. This forward-focused perspective can help clients overcome feelings of hopelessness and helplessness.

Reduction in Negative Emotions:

SFBT can lead to a decrease in negative emotions associated with clients’ issues. By highlighting solutions and successes, it can mitigate emotional distress.

Cross-Cultural Applicability:

SFBT is often seen as culturally sensitive and adaptable, which makes it suitable for diverse cultural backgrounds.

Strengthening Relationships:

In family and couples therapy, SFBT can improve communication, understanding, and collaboration. It encourages family members or partners to work together to find solutions and strengthen their relationships.

Support in Crisis Situations:

SFBT is used in crisis and trauma interventions, helping individuals and communities cope with and recover from traumatic events. It assists in finding ways to adapt to the crisis and build a path forward.


SFBT empowers clients by focusing on their strengths, resources, and the potential for positive change. This empowerment can lead to more sustained results.

Research Support:

SFBT has a strong evidence base, with numerous research studies demonstrating its effectiveness in producing positive outcomes. These studies often include various psychological and emotional issues, as well as different client populations and settings.

While SFBT has proven to be effective, it is essential to note that therapy outcomes can vary from person to person, and the effectiveness of any therapeutic approach may depend on the client’s motivation, the skill of the therapist, and the specific nature of the client’s issues. However, SFBT’s practical and solution-focused nature makes it a valuable and widely used approach in the field of psychotherapy.

Considerations of Solution Focused Brief Therapy

When considering Solution-Focused Brief Therapy (SFBT), there are several important factors and considerations to keep in mind, both for therapists and clients:

Client-Centered Approach:

SFBT is a client-centered approach, which means that the client’s perspective and goals are central. It’s essential for clients to actively engage in the therapeutic process and be motivated to work on their goals.

Problem Severity:

SFBT is generally most effective for individuals with mild to moderate psychological or emotional challenges. For severe issues, a longer and more intensive form of therapy may be more appropriate.

Short-Term Focus:

SFBT is a time-limited approach, and it’s important for clients to understand this upfront. Clients seeking long-term, exploratory therapy may need to consider other therapeutic models.

Openness to Change:

Clients should be willing to explore solutions and make changes in their lives. If clients are resistant to change or not motivated to work toward their goals, the effectiveness of SFBT may be limited.

Therapist Competence:

It’s crucial to work with a therapist who is trained and experienced in SFBT. A skilled therapist can apply the approach effectively and adapt it to the client’s unique needs.


The success of SFBT depends on a collaborative relationship between the therapist and the client. Clients need to actively participate in setting goals, identifying solutions, and implementing changes.

Realistic Goal Setting:

The goals set in SFBT should be realistic and achievable. Unrealistic or overly ambitious goals can lead to frustration and disappointment.

Strengths and Resources:

Clients should be open to exploring their strengths, resources, and past successes, as these are central to the SFBT approach.

Cultural Sensitivity:

SFBT should be adapted to consider the client’s cultural background and beliefs. Therapists need to be aware of and respect the client’s cultural context.

Assessment and Monitoring:

SFBT often involves regular assessment and monitoring of progress. Clients need to be comfortable with this aspect of the process and provide honest feedback to the therapist.


SFBT is adaptable to various settings and client populations, but the therapist must be flexible and able to tailor the approach to the specific context and client needs.

Understanding the Model:

Clients should have a basic understanding of the SFBT model and its principles, including the focus on solutions, the use of scaling questions, the miracle question, and other core techniques.

Time Commitment:

Clients should be prepared to attend multiple sessions, even though SFBT is a brief therapy model. The number of sessions can vary depending on the client’s goals and progress.

Maintenance of Progress:

SFBT can lead to rapid progress, but clients may need to continue applying the learned skills and strategies to maintain and build upon their improvements after therapy.

Feedback and Communication:

Open communication between the client and therapist is crucial. Clients should feel comfortable providing feedback about the therapy process, and therapists should regularly check in with clients to gauge their satisfaction and progress.

SFBT can be highly effective for individuals who are motivated to make changes in their lives and who prefer a practical, solution-focused approach. By considering these factors, both clients and therapists can make the most of this approach and work together to achieve meaningful results.

Process of Solution Focused Brief Therapy

Solution-Focused Brief Therapy (SFBT) is a structured and goal-oriented therapeutic approach. The therapy process typically involves several key steps:

Engagement and Building Rapport:

  • The therapist establishes a warm, empathetic, and non-judgmental rapport with the client.
  • The therapist explains the SFBT approach and sets clear expectations for the therapy process, emphasizing its solution-focused nature and time-limited format.

Assessment and Goal Setting:

  • The therapist collaboratively assesses the client’s concerns and issues, seeking to understand the client’s perspective.
  • The therapist helps the client define clear, specific, and measurable goals. These goals serve as the foundation for the therapy process.

Exploration of the Client’s Preferred Future:

  • The therapist encourages the client to envision their preferred future. This often involves asking the “miracle question,” which invites the client to describe what their life would look like if their problem was suddenly resolved.
  • The therapist explores the client’s responses, encouraging them to provide detailed descriptions of their desired outcomes.

Identification of Exceptions:

  • The therapist assists the client in identifying times when the problem was less severe or absent. These exceptions offer insights into the client’s existing strengths and potential solutions.
  • By examining what worked during those exceptions, clients can begin to build on their successes.

Scaling Questions:

  • The therapist may use scaling questions to measure and monitor the client’s progress. Clients are asked to rate their current situation on a scale, typically from 1 to 10, with 10 representing their preferred future. Clients are then encouraged to discuss what would move them one point higher on the scale.

Solution Development:

  • The therapist works with the client to identify practical, concrete steps and strategies for reaching their goals. This collaborative process often involves brainstorming, action planning, and setting achievable targets.

Support and Positive Feedback:

  • Throughout the process, the therapist provides support, encouragement, and positive feedback to reinforce the client’s progress and maintain motivation.
  • Clients are reminded of their strengths and resources, which can contribute to their ability to create positive change.

Review and Future Planning:

  • In subsequent sessions, the therapist reviews the progress made since the previous session. Clients are encouraged to reflect on their achievements and identify new goals or steps for the future.
  • The therapy process may involve a cycle of setting and achieving goals, with each successful step leading to the identification of new goals and solutions.

Termination and Follow-Up:

  • SFBT is a time-limited approach, and therapy sessions come to an end when the client and therapist agree that the client’s goals have been achieved or that the client has made sufficient progress.
  • The therapist may discuss follow-up plans to ensure that clients continue to apply the skills and strategies learned during therapy in their daily lives.

Throughout the SFBT process, the therapist takes on a role of active listening, asking open-ended questions, and guiding the client’s exploration of solutions. The approach is highly collaborative, with the client being viewed as the expert in their own life. The therapist’s role is to facilitate the client’s journey towards their desired outcomes and solutions. SFBT is known for its practicality, efficiency, and client empowerment, focusing on change, strength, and resilience.

author avatar