Solution Focused Therapy
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Steps In Therapy
Many are stubborn in the pursuit of the path they have chosen, few in the pursuit of the goal - Nietzche Solution Focused Therapy (SFT) is sometimes linked to general Brief Therapy, Problem-Focused Therapy, and Possibility Therapy…. All share some common points of focus:
Traditional therapy goes wrong by focusing on the cause of problems, the details of how they play out, the ways these events deviate from "normal" or the way couples are "supposed" to work, and having couples passively accept the expert therapists' explanations of "what is wrong" with them. Doing this gets clients stuck in a passive and helpless role, locked into a problem narrative they rehearse over and over again *
A better approach moves client focus off of what's wrong and onto what's right, stresses the resources and skills clients have, and helps them take the role of expert (which they hold anyway) and take responsibility from there for setting their own goals and reaching them. It's not about what's missing and causes woe, but what's present and can lead to happiness *
Solution building is the goal, and as you change the language that shapes how you think about the problem, you change the language that shapes how you think about the solution *
There is no theory behind this, and you need not fully understand the problem to fix it. The solution may not even look like it will fit or resolve the problem, and that's fine - a small enough change will nudge the system in a different direction and that may be all that's needed *
Therapists maintain a future focus, with language like "when this is fixed…" "notice when this problem doesn't happen this week…" "write down what your partner does to fix the problem this week…" *
Rather than summing up what the therapist thinks the clients is saying, the therapist asks questions to focus and direct the client's thinking and view
de Shazer and Insoo Kim Berg developed this approach based on Milton Erickson and MRI models, and by watching what seemed to happen to families and couples right before they reported having had some break-through moment. This is key, as many studies of what works in therapy have been based on therapists views. When studies are done comparing therapist and client views of what happened in session and what was helpful… well, they disagree. Metcalfe and Thomas (1994) did a study asking some SFT therapists and patients the same questions. Here's what they found:
What's the role of the therapist?
Therapists SayConsultantAsk scaling questionsParaphraseLook for strengths and resourcesListen, give ideas
| Clients SayMediatorFriendSounding boardMade suggestionsSavior
| Why did you seek therapy?
Therapists SayThere was a divorce, multiple relationships, a death, mother worried about how the death impacted the sonDepressive symptoms, panic disorder, marital discordShe said both children were hyperactive, boyfriend, anger problems
| Clients SayIt was emergency treatment for me when I brought my son in, I was concerned about his out of control behaviorPanic, family stressors, my son's problemsA lot of negative people in our relationships, anger and temper problems
| Why did you end therapy?
Therapists SayI suggested they take a break over summer since it was a school issue, she agreed, she called later about another issue that was not therapy relatedWe agreed she had made significant progress. I asked if she wanted to end, she agreedThey decided they didn't need to come back, they thought they could do it on their ownThings were a 9 for her and an 8.5 for him. They felt things were resolved
| Clients SayIt was the therapist's decision… I was torn… I wanted my son to have someone to talk to… I still have difficulties with...
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