The official name for Solution Focused Therapy is Solution Focused Brief Therapy (SFBT). But what in the world does "brief" mean? Does it mean that Solution Focused therapists only strive to offer "quick fixes?" Does it mean that the number of visits is automatically limited? Does it mean that clients can't come back if they feel there is still work to be done? None of these answers are correct.
Some forms of therapy are indeed long term because they focus on one problem after another and strive to dig deeper and deeper into the root causes of situations. These approaches may in fact, at times, be helpful, but in these approaches it is sometimes difficult to tell when one has finally reached a resolution to the issue which brought the client the therapy in the first place.
Brief, in Solution Focused Brief Therapy, really doesn't describe a period of time; rather it refers to a perspective. Brief means "not one session more than is clinically necessary." In SFBT the goal is not to chase "therapeutic rabbits;" rather the goal is to help the client make satisfactory progress towards their preferred future. Sometimes this journey is completed in just a few sessions. Sometimes the course of therapy takes longer. But for each client the focus is on helping them achieve the best hopes they had in mind when they sat down with the therapist for the very first time. Compared to other forms of therapy SFBT is often brief; because we listen to the client, determine a destination and begin the journey with that end in mind.
The primary approach to counseling utilized at Living Hope Family Therapy and Counseling is known as Solution Focused Brief Therapy. People often ask how this approach differs from other approaches to therapy. There are many distinguishing features, but the main one is that Solution Focused Brief Therapy focuses on the "other side of the wall." Now what in the world does that mean?
If you think of a wall that divides our present experience and circumstances from our preferred future (what we would like life to really be like), the wall could simply be labeled Our Problems. Most approaches to therapy focus on this wall. They try to solve problems, work around problems, or gain insight into problems. Sometimes they do this by either analyzing a client's present situation or their past in significant detail. The only problem with this is that what we focus on usually grows! In Solution Focused Brief Therapy we take a "mental leap" over the wall. We begin to focus on what life would be like without the problem. Attention is given to what our behaviors, thoughts, feelings, and experiences will be as we begin to live our Preferred Future. Then we begin to explore times in our life when we have experienced a bit of this Preferred Future and we look what steps might be take to help move towards this destination.
Believe me, I am fully aware that sometimes analyzing our problems and our past can be sort of fun. The experience can become something of a psychological treasure hunt. But I have found that the most effective way to help people experience deep change is to invite them to the other side of the wall. It's a whole new world and once you visit it I doubt you will want to go back.
Dr. Allen Schneider is a United Methodist pastor and a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist presently serving the Sapulpa and greater Tulsa communities.