What is Solution-Focused Therapy

Have you ever dreaded therapy because you didn’t want to delve into your deep and scary past? Maybe you are the type of guy that sees a problem just wants to solution right away. Steve de Schazer and Insoo Kim Berg came up with just that type of remedial treatment. They called it Solution-Focused Therapy.

“Causes of problems may be extremely complex, their solutions do not necessarily need to be” Steve de Shazer.

Schazer and Berg originated their therapy from observing thousands of therapeutic sessions and pulling out all of the questions and techniques that seemed to produce the best possible results. SFT is more pragmatic in it’s approach when working with clients. It strays away from interpretation by not assuming that the therapist knows what is best for the client.

In Good Will Hunting, there is a classic example of the dreaded moment of confrontation where Robin Williams comes in and holds Matt Damon while saying over and over again that, “Its not your fault.” I love that scene, but Solution-Focused Therapy is different.

Instead, SFT therapists focus on identifying their patient’s objective and measurable goals. They then map out a detailed description of what their life will be like when the goals are accomplished. In order to develop effective solutions, they search meticulously through the client’s life experiences for “exceptions” – or times when some aspect of their goal was already happening to some degree. SFT is straightforward and efficient. Specific techniques are also used to supplement the whole process.

SFT Techniques:


I. Scaling Question.

Therapy typically starts with a Scaling Question. The scaling question is used to gauge how prevalent the problem is in the person’s life. It is usually used in the start of the session. If the therapist asks you on a scale of 1-10 how bad your depression is, he or she has a good idea how to move forward with the rest of the session. The therapist can also use the scaling question to evoke a positive response.

Therapist: On a scale from 1-10 how happy are you in your relationship?

Person: I would have to say a 6.

Therapist: Why isn’t is lower?

Person: Because I still really love her and I am able to be my complete self around her..(etc)

By asking why the score wasn’t lower, the therapist got the person to speak positively about the relationship.

II. Past Success Question.

This question is meant to find the exception. It is similar to finding a unique outcome in Narrative Therapy. It is simply asking the person what it would be like if the problem did not exist.

III. Future Preferred Question:

This technique is all about getting the person to create a future reality that is both attainable and desirable. When asking the preferred future question it helps the therapist encourage their patient so that they can visualize an image of their preferred future in specific detail. A good sign is when their patient will begin to describe in positive terms what they will do differently in that situation. When this happens their motivation and willingness to try out further steps usually increases. Here are a couple of examples:

“What would you like instead of the problem?”

“How will you notice things will have become better?”

“How will you feel when your problem is no longer with you?”


IV. Reframing.

Reframing is a positive interpretation on problem behavior. It gives a positive spin to an interaction with those in the person’s environment. It suggests a different way of behaving, which frees the client to alter behavior while making it possible to bring about changes.

In essence, it is a new way to view reality. People will often see what they want to. The <strong>reframing technique is a tool that offers a different perspective on things that happen. As human beings, we often create most problems with our thoughts. Changing these thoughts to align with reality is like having a breath of fresh air.

V. Indirect compliments:

These are typically used intermittently to reinforce positive thoughts and behavior exhibited in the therapist’s client. This technique also serves to amplify positive characteristic traits that are displayed in the session.


“Wow, how did you manage to finish that task so quickly?”

“How were you able to not get upset when she bickered that time?”


VI. Summarizing:

Summarizing is mainly used to build rapport with the client. To them it shows empathy, respect, and helps to formulate the next question in the Therapy Session. High levels of rapport with the therapist have been shown to also be associated with high levels of positive emotional regard and higher perceived outcomes of therapy. When the therapist summarizes content expressed by their client, it also helps the therapist go over anything that might have been missed.

VII. The Miracle Question.

This is the cornerstone for SFT. It has the client imagining an ideal future, and then immediately connecting it to the present moment. This question is what actualizes the present. The client will be challenged to look into past their obstacles and hopelessness to focus on the possibilities. There is a whole book dedicated to the Miracle question and how it can change your life.

“The Miracle Question: Answer It and Change Your Life” Linda Metcalf

The Miracle Question- Answer It and Change Your Life eBook- Linda Metcalf



Check out this video of how to apply the Miracle Question in your life.

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