Please edit the slides as you see fit. Also,
let me know if you want a different
format. I am going back to SC this
weekend to see my father in law in the
hospital. If we don’t make it back in time
Monday, please let me know if you would
be able to meet another time. I will be in
class Wednesday by 5pm so I can get the
ppt. ready. I will also print these forms as
handouts for the class. If you have
anything else you need me to do, let me
Solution Focused Therapy
Course: Working with Families
February 10, 2012
Group Project presented by
Kyle McNair, Linda Ellison and Lesley Smith
Roots and Development of Solution
Focused Theory (SFT)
• SFT was a front runner of the adoption of the social
constructivist thinking that became prominent in the late
1980s and early 1990s.pg.177
• It offers a bridge between strategic theories and
language theories. pg.177
• Most of the innovators of SFT came from the Brief
Therapy Center(BFTC) in Milwaukee in the late
1970s. Pg. 177
Steve deShazer and Insoo Berg
• Married couple credited with being the primary
developers of SFT. Pg.177
• Berg trained most of the current leaders of SFT
and is an advocate of its use with alcoholics.
Clinician affiliated with BFTC
Developed a controversial
model for working with
Contrary to to most therapy
models, Lipchik invited the
batterer in conjoint sessions
• Her book, Divorce Busting is
addressed to couples. Pg. 177
• Known for including the
following phrase in therapy:
“Do a one-eighty”
• If what a person is doing is not
working, then he or she is advised
to do the opposite.
Hypnotist that combined the
ideas of his teacher, Hypnotist
Milton Erickson with the SFT.
Ideas based on the phenomenon,
Uses language that matches the client’s language
ex: Client- “I see him failing.”
Therapist- “ It looks bleak to you.”
O’Hanlon uses the following monologue with clients who come to
him complaining about being depressed:
If I were going to do a real depression, I would reduce the amount of stimulation
from the environment and from inside myself. I would go to my bedroom, pull the
shades , and stay under the covers… It would be essential to avoid anything that
made me breathe deeply or move physically, because it is difficult to maintain a
good depression that way. I would dwell on the past and all the things I should or
shouldn’t have done. I would compare myself with other people and lose by the
comparison. I would think I had always felt this way and would always feel this
way in the future.(O’Hanlon & Weiner-Davis, 1989,pg.98) pg. 186
Clients are captivated by this kind of monologue. They are “entranced.” They
experience what is described by the term, naturalistic trance. Most people begin to
recognized theyt are using repeated actions, behavioral patterns for doing their
depression, and tbhey see there are choices-they can choose to act differently to change
those patterns that have been maintaining their depression. pg. 186
Solution Focused Therapy (SFT)
Focuses on solutions rather than on the
problems that brought clients to seek therapy.
SF therapists have learned that most people have
previously solved many, problems and probably
have some ideas of how to solve the current
To help clients see these potential solutions, therapists may ask, “Are there
times when this has been less of a problem?” or “What did you ( or others) do
that was helpful
• After these questions, clients visibly change in their demeanor and some even
break out in smiles as a they describe their solutions. The next step is to identify
the most recent times when the client has had small pieces of miracles (called
exceptions) and get them to repeat these forgotten experiences.
SFT Therapist Optimistic Approach to
Starts session by discussing anything that is not related
to the client’s issues, (weather, job, school etc..).
Confrontations or disagreements are avoided. The
therapist shows non-judgemental interest in helping
clients feel comfortable being there.
Asks a series of questions designed to retrieve exceptions to
the client’s problem.
Exceptions: times when things progress smoothly.
SF therapists looks for past solutions clients have tried that have worked-what they
have done in in the past that was successful. They also listen for strengths and
resources in their clients that they can build on(O’Hanlon & Weiner-Davis, 1989)
The initial goal is to change the language in the session from problem talk to solution
SFT Therapist Optimistic Approach to
Solution-focused therapy is pragmatic,
cognitive, and easily teachable.
It emphasizes brevity and a nonpathological view of people.
It projects optimism, uses praise of people’s strengths and
accomplishments, and refers to the past only to search for
Therapy sessions can include one or more persons.
Problems Maintained By
“More Of The Same”
Solution-focused therapy pays little attention to the intricacies of family
dynamics and is oriented toward seeking future solutions .
SF therapists assert that when people are stuck in their complaint, they are
constrained by narrow, pessimistic views of their problem and keep trying to
fix it by doing “more of the same”. People are seen as stuck in rigid repetitive
patterns of thinking and behavior that maintain the problem (pg. 179 Par1).
They believe that the way a problem is approached affects the outcome of the
therapy. They seek possibilities for and strengths in, the client.
“Language constitutes the human world and the human world constitutes the
whole world”(deShazer & Berg, 1989). If nothing exists outside of language,
deShazer asserts, “There are no wet beds, talk about voices without people,
talk about depressions……….If one accepts that lanuage is reality, therapy
becomes a relatively simple procedure. All that’s needed to change is the talk.
Basic Questions For the
SF therapists ask themselves questions
when first meeting the clients:
“Who is the customer?”
They note which person is open to and eager for change.
• “Who is the complainant?”
This is the person who usually focuses on the problem and perceives it as
something someone else needs to fix.
“Who is the visitor?”
This is generally a family member who was invited to come along
to the session but is not invested in either the problem or the
possibility of change.
“What are the client’s goals and how will they and the therapist know when
their goals have been achieved.” (pg.180)
Example of Solution Focused Brief Therapy (SFBT)
Conducted by Insoo Berg
In this clip, Berg demonstrates the SFBT she used
in marriage counseling
Mainstays Of The Solution-Focused Approach
• SF therapists created certain formula tasks that can be offered
regardless of the content of the described complaint. (pg.180)
• One such task is offered at the very first session:
Between now and the next time we meet, I would like you to
observe, so that you can describe to me next time, what
happens in your (pick one: family, life, marriage, or
relationship) that you want to continue to have happen
• This task directs clients’ attention into a positive frame that
enables them to realize there is good in their lives. (pg.180, par 3)
Mainstays of Solution-Focused Approach
• deShazer’s group developed presuppositional questions that may
be considered as the mainstays of the solution focused approach
and can be used effectively with most presenting problems.
• The Miracle Question
“ Suppose one night while you were asleep, there was a miracle and
this problem were solved. How would you know? What will be
It appears that the mere act of constructing a vision of
the solution acts as a catalyst for bringing it about.
Through the use of the word will there is the implication
that a solution is imminent. (pg. 180)
Mainstays of Solution-Focused Approach
• The Exception Question
“Tell me about those times in the past or present when you didn’t have
the problem, or when it wasn’t so bad. What was different about those
times? What were you doing differently?
Therapists keep encouraging clients to expand on those differences,
those exceptions, times when the problem was more manageable or
They use compliments for anything they note as helpful toward the
described goal. They call attention to the smallest changes and ask clients
how they managed to make it happen.
They are careful with their use of language , using past tense when
referring to a problem, using “will” instead of would,” and interject
everyday language rather than psychobabble.
Therapists check out progress by asking scaling questions,” On a
scale from one to five how different are you feeling about ____
• Designed to influence the clients’ perceptions in
the direction of solutions, through the careful use
of solution language. Pg. 182
. Is open-ended, and avoids a “yes or no” answer.
. Are designed to bring out information about
exceptions . Pg. 182
Examples of these questions are found on pg.183-184.
Normalizing the Client’s Story
. SF therapists normalize everyday stressors. They may
say,”That’s understandable,” or “So what else is
. Normalizing comments have a calming effect. From
the clients point of view, the difficulty as normal
means maybe it’s not as bad or unsolvable as it
seems to the client.
Discussion More to Come
• SFT Therapists assigns formula tasks
for married couples to try at home.
• SFT is factual, cognitive, and easily teachable.
• It is clear, concise and obtains an optimistic
view of people.
Refers to the past only to gain insight on
exceptions to the problem
• Therapist praises the client’s accomplishments
Institute for Solution-Focused Therapy