• Solution-focused brief therapy is a highly effective, concentrated therapeutic method that helps clients identify the path forward when faced with life transitions, interpersonal issues, or emotional distress.
  • Solution-focused approaches are ideal for those faced with anxiety, stress, minor depression, relationship issues, family conflict, or children with behavioral issues. The duration of solution-focused brief therapy is typically 5-8 sessions.
  • A therapist employing a solution-focused approach likely will use 3 types of questions to help empower their client(s) and to stimulate critical thinking. These include miracle questions, exception questions, and scaling questions.  
  • Because a solution-focused therapist can help their clients to quickly and effectively identify and remedy their challenges, it’s best to seek help when you begin experiencing emotional distress—before your concerns or conditions continue to snowball.  

The field of psychology is constantly evolving, both in areas of research and through the development of cutting-edge therapeutic methods. Mental health professionals who work as clinicians are always looking to use the most successful techniques—and deciding which method or approach to use is highly dependent on the client’s needs and wants. One of the most successful and broadly-used methods in contemporary practice is known as solution-focused brief therapy. 

Solution-focused brief therapy offers a concentrated, team-based effort between a client and their therapist. Both individuals and groups can benefit from solution-focused brief therapy. But as widely applicable as it may be, you may be curious about its benefits and what conditions or concerns solution-focused brief therapy can help to treat. 

Who Benefits Most From Solution-Focused Brief Therapy?

One of the most streamlined aspects of solution-focused brief therapy is given away by its title: This therapeutic method is all about identifying solutions—and from there, finding the path toward achieving them. But unlike some other forms of therapy, solution-focused brief therapy doesn’t dive into the past—that’s not what the client and therapist are after (more on this later). 

Instead, this approach is most beneficial and clinically-proven to help treat: 

  • Individuals who are struggling with a form of addiction or substance abuse
  • Children who are displaying behavioral problems 
  • Family conflict through group family therapy sessions
  • Couples who are faced with a myriad of relationship issues 
  • Those experiencing a difficult life transition 
  • The effects of depression, anxiety, and low self-esteem

Solution-focused brief therapy sessions are extremely goal-oriented. A client who commits to a solution-focused approach with their therapist won’t usually dive too far into the past, when it comes to talking through their concerns or conditions they’re faced with. Instead, both client and therapist will focus on addressing the most pressing issues at hand, and they will work together to identify the solutions necessary to improve the client’s quality of life and emotional well-being

What Happens in a Solution-Focused Brief Therapy Session?

A typical solution-focused therapy session will involve addressing changes in life, helping the client to see that change is inevitable—and because of this, we must all learn healthy ways of adapting. A core aspect of solution-focused brief therapy is the emphasis that’s placed on the client as the “expert in their own life.” A solution-focused therapist will allow clients to fill them in instead of immediately taking the wheel, stimulating constructive conversation that aims to empower and inform the client of their own strengths and challenges. 

This happens through three main types of questions that a therapist will use to talk with their client. These include: 

  • Miracle questions: These are used to help clients think outside the box, once both their therapist and themselves have identified major roadblocks. A miracle question usually involves prompting the client to consider what life would be like without the issues that are troubling them. Often, simply considering the possibility of a less-stressful daily life can be helpful in opening our minds up to new solutions.
  • Exception questions: These questions are utilized by a therapist in order to have the client describe a situation or time period when they weren’t affected by the concerns or conditions that brought them to seek therapy. For example, if someone is depressed, they may be asked to talk about daily life before their mood declined. Once a client is able to describe this positive moment or period in their life, the therapist may steer the conversation toward identifying what may currently be causing their emotional distress. 
  • Scaling questions: This type of question is often used by a solution-focused therapist in order to gauge the intensity of a client’s emotional distress—in other words, how much an experience is troubling them. By touching base in each session, the therapist gets a sense of how their client is progressing—and the client may gain a sense of emotional awareness, too.

This form of therapy isn’t conventionally used to treat more major forms of psychiatric disorders, such as schizophrenia, borderline personality disorder, or bipolar. But while solution-focused brief therapy isn’t a cure-all, it aims to treat a wide variety of personal or interpersonal issues within 5-8 sessions. 

When Should You Schedule Solution-Focused Brief Therapy?

As with our physical health, our mental health state can fluctuate as we progress through our life. When something doesn’t feel right and causes our emotional state to decline, there may have been warning signs of trouble or conflict that we missed. That’s why it’s important to schedule a session with a therapist before your situation worsens. A solution-focused therapist can help you and/or your loved ones to eliminate communication issues, and help you to identify the steps needed in order to solve your personal and interpersonal challenges. 

For anyone experiencing a difficult life transition, minor depression, anxiety, self-esteem issues, or who has found themselves in the midst of family or relationship-based issues, solution-focused brief therapy could be part of the answer. Reaching out to a therapist to explore whether this form of therapeutic treatment is best for you can offer peace of mind, comfort, and—most importantly—hope.