Many traditional therapies for addiction focus on what’s wrong with a client or what a client is doing incorrectly. However, Solution-Focused Therapy approaches client care from a position of strength rather than weakness, allowing each client to tap into his/ her hidden or under-used abilities and strengths.
In fact, one of the premises of this type of therapy is that the client knows what to do to solve their problems: He or she may need some support to do so, but nevertheless, the answer to the issue is still within. Eventually, the client and the therapist settle on some very specific, concrete goals that the client can realistically reach.
What is Solution-Focused Therapy?
Solution-Focused Therapy, which is also known as Solution-Focused Brief Therapy (SFBT), got its start in the late ‘70s. Founders Steve de Shazer and Insoo Kim Berg developed the goal-oriented, future-focused therapy in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. They spent numerous hours watching therapy sessions. Over the course of the years that they observed these sessions, the developers paid attention to the questions that the therapists asked their clients. This led to the therapists noting what techniques and interactions between client and therapists worked- to empower the clients and to change their behaviors.
Who Uses Solution-Focused Therapy?
SFBT is a flexible therapy. This allows therapists to use the therapy on its own or in conjunction with another type of treatment. It has been used as a therapy for addiction as well as for relationship issues, child and familial abuse, family system dysfunction, and with children who have behavioral problems. While it may not be an option as a stand-alone therapy for serious mental health issues, like schizophrenia or depression, it does help the sufferers of more serious issues to an extent.
The Role of Therapeutic Conversations in Solution-Focused Therapy
While each kind of therapy promotes an on-going dialogue between therapist and client, each therapy uses these conversations in a slightly different way, depending on the type of therapy. In SFBT, helping the client find a solution for their issue counts as a primary focus. The means by which the client will achieve their goals is also one of the aims of this type of therapy. These client-originated solutions come about through a series of the present- or future-focused questions, which the therapist asks the client.
The assumption behind these questions is that it’s better to focus on what’s already working (as opposed to asking the client questions that digs up the past and the origins of the problem). It also gives the client the opportunity to solve his/ her own problems rather than relying on the therapist to do it.
The following list shows the ways in which the therapist helps the client achieve his/ her therapeutic goals:
- What Solutions Have Worked for the Client in the Past?
SFBT is a very empowering therapeutic solution: One of its basic premises is that at some point in the client’s life, they have solved many of their problems. This belief is taken to its logical conclusion then postulates that the client must have some idea of how to solve his/ her current problem.
For example, if the client came to the therapist because he/ she is seeking a therapy for addiction, then the therapist would ask the client questions like, “Has there been a time in the past when this has been less of an issue for you?” or “What have you done in the past (or have you seen others do) that has helped alleviate this problem?”
- When Has There Been Exceptions?
Solution-Focused Therapy encourages clients to look for exceptions, meaning that when a client is in Solution-Focused Therapy, there is an assumption that there were times in the past when the client didn’t fall into destructive behaviors.
While the reason why the client didn’t respond as they normally would may have been that they were unconscious, the fact that the client didn’t succumb to the behavior provides a foundation for therapy. It shows the client that different outcomes can exist, even with a persistent problem. This is one of the reasons why it proves to be such an effective therapy for addiction.
By looking at how the client has solved problems in the past an how they avoided problematic behaviors, the client can then start to develop solutions for problematic behaviors, like an addiction.
- Compliments in Therapy
Although it may be easy for a client to fall into the belief that his/ her whole life has been a series of failures, the truth is most people have experienced some successes throughout the course of their lives. The therapist helps the client tap into these successes by offering the client a series of compliments.
These compliments tell the client that the therapist is listening and that the therapist understands the client’s plight. It also helps the client to acknowledge the fact that they have experienced some success. Through this, the client understands that they are capable of facing their challenges because, at some point in the past, they already have.
- Do More of What Already Works
In Solution-Focused Therapy, it isn’t necessary for the client to reinvent the wheel nor to delve into the origins of his/ her problem. Instead, the therapist encourages the client to do more of what is already working in the client’s life. In the absence of a solution, the therapist can also prompt the client to experiment with new solutions.
- Creative Thinking Through the Miracle Question
The miracle question in Solution-Focused Therapy functions as guided imagery and/ or hypnotic exercise, which allows the client to imagine what life would be like without the issue that faces him/ her. In the case of therapy for addiction, the therapist would ask the client to imagine what would happen with the client’s behavior if he/ she woke up and realized a miracle had occurred. That is to say, how would the client react if the problematic behavior suddenly disappeared unexpectedly.
By continuing to prod the client to answer the question, the client will eventually develop the skills to distance him/ herself from the problem. This line of thinking helps the client see that some solutions already exist and if the solution is not yet present in the physical world, there is one in the “imaginary world.”
- Scaling Questions
Scaling questions allow clients to evaluate their progress, assess their situations, and allow others to rate their issues using a scale from 0 to 10. Ten represents an area where the client/ therapist thinks that there is the most growth or the biggest issue, whereas zero represents the opposite. For example, in therapy for addiction, the therapist may ask the client to rate on a scale from 0 to 10 how a past solution has worked to help the client stay sober.
- How Has the Client Coped in the Past?
This is also a self-esteem building exercise. When the situation calls for it, the therapist will ask the client how they have stopped the issue from getting worse or how the client has managed to keep his or her head above water, despite all the challenges facing them. This line of questioning allows a client to see what strength of heart they already have, giving them a reserve to draw upon when things get difficult.
Solution-Focused Therapy is just one of the many treatment services that 310 offers as a part of our client’s treatment plans. To find out if SFBT is right for you, or to learn about our other services, contact us today.