Solution Focused Brief Therapy (SFBT)

by Rachel Lysak | June 2024

When searching for a therapist, you will find that you have many different styles and techniques to choose from.  Some therapists will be explicit about the modalities they practice and others will not.  This post will provide the basics about one approach to therapy that may be right for you.  

Among the many therapeutic approaches, Solution Focused Brief Therapy (SFBT) stands out for its unique, optimistic, and efficient methodology. Rooted in the belief that clients have the inherent ability to solve their own problems, SFBT empowers individuals to envision and achieve their desired future. This blog post delves into what SFBT is, its key principles, and why it might be a compelling option for clients seeking therapy.


What is Solution Focused Brief Therapy?

SFBT, developed in the 1970s and 80s by Steve de Shazer and Insoo Kim Berg, is a short-term, goal-oriented therapy that focuses on solutions rather than problems. Unlike traditional therapy methods that often delve into the origins and underlying causes of issues, SFBT emphasizes what clients want to achieve and the steps they need to take to get there.


Key Principles of SFBT

  1. Future-Focused: SFBT encourages clients to imagine their desired future and explore ways to make it a reality. By focusing on goals and potential outcomes, clients are motivated to take actionable steps towards change.
  2. Strengths and Resources: The approach highlights clients’ strengths, resources, and past successes. Therapists help clients recognize and utilize these assets to overcome current challenges.
  3. Positive Change: SFBT is built on the belief that small changes can lead to significant improvements. Therapists and clients work together to identify and amplify these positive changes.
  4. Collaborative Process: The therapeutic relationship in SFBT is collaborative. Clients are seen as experts in their own lives, and therapists act as facilitators, guiding them towards their goals.
  5. Brief and Time-Limited: As the name suggests, SFBT is designed to be brief. The therapy typically spans a few sessions, making it a cost-effective and time-efficient option.


Why SFBT Might Be a Good Option for You

  1. Efficiency and Focus: For clients seeking quick and effective results, SFBT offers a clear advantage. Its structured and focused approach helps clients achieve tangible outcomes in a relatively short period.
  2. Empowerment and Confidence: By emphasizing clients’ strengths and past successes, SFBT boosts self-confidence and empowers individuals to take control of their lives. This positive reinforcement can lead to increased motivation and resilience.
  3. Goal-Oriented: Clients who have specific goals or outcomes in mind may find SFBT particularly appealing. The therapy’s future-focused nature aligns perfectly with individuals looking to achieve particular objectives.
  4. Positive and Optimistic: SFBT’s emphasis on solutions and positive change fosters an optimistic outlook. This can be especially beneficial for clients who feel overwhelmed or stuck in negative thought patterns.
  5. Collaborative and Respectful: The collaborative nature of SFBT ensures that clients feel respected and heard. This partnership can enhance the therapeutic experience and lead to more meaningful progress.
  6. Cost-Effective: The brief nature of SFBT can make it a more affordable option compared to longer-term therapies. Clients can achieve significant improvements without committing to extended therapy sessions.


Who Should Choose Another Approach

Just like any modality in therapy, one size does not fit all.  There are specific populations and situations where it may not be the most suitable option. Here are some scenarios and populations for whom SFBT might not be recommended:

-For individuals with severe mental illness, SFBT may not be the best choice. Those experiencing severe depression might require more intensive, long-term therapy that delves into the underlying causes of their condition. People with bipolar disorder often need comprehensive treatment plans that include medication management and possibly more in-depth psychotherapeutic approaches. Individuals with schizophrenia typically benefit from more specialized, ongoing support that addresses the complexity of their symptoms.

-Clients in acute crisis may also need different therapeutic approaches. SFBT may not be appropriate for individuals experiencing active suicidal thoughts or behaviors, as they require immediate, intensive intervention to ensure their safety. Clients dealing with the immediate aftermath of a severe trauma may need a more trauma-focused therapy that provides a safe space to process their experiences.

-Individuals with substance abuse issues might find other treatment methods more suitable. Those struggling with active addiction may need a more comprehensive treatment program that includes medical detoxification, long-term therapy, and support groups. Clients with co-occurring mental health and substance use disorders often require integrated treatment approaches that address both conditions simultaneously.

-Children and adolescents may sometimes need therapies tailored to their developmental stage. While SFBT can be effective for some children and adolescents, very young children or those with significant developmental delays may benefit more from therapies such as play therapy or behavioral interventions. Severe behavioral issues in children and adolescents may require more structured and behaviorally focused interventions.

-For individuals seeking depth therapy, SFBT might not meet their needs. Clients who are interested in exploring the root causes of their issues, including deep-seated emotional conflicts or past experiences, may find psychodynamic or psychoanalytic therapies more fulfilling. Some individuals prefer a long-term therapeutic relationship to explore and process their issues over an extended period, which SFBT’s brief nature may not provide.