What is Solution-Focused Therapy?

solution based therapy

Solution-focused therapy is an evidence-based practice to assist people of all age ranges in dealing with a wide variety of complex challenges. To date, there are over 150 randomized controlled trials supporting the benefits of this practice. It is often a brief intervention to help manage complex situations in a short time frame. This technique focuses on the positive. Some basic tenets include:

  • Solution building, not problem-solving
  • Change is constant and inevitable
  • Clients are the experts, but therapists can give compliments
  • Identifying exceptions to the problem
  • Asking the miracle question

We will start by explaining the first of these basic tenets. Each of the tenets matters for a holistic approach to care. They intersect to form a meshwork of support for the client.

Solution Building, Not Problem-Solving

In other practices, like problem-solving therapy, the focus is on the issue. The client comes up with possible solutions to the problem, but that is not the initiating factor. In solution-focused therapy, however, we take the opposite approach — we start with the solution.

Example: Envisioning and creating a life without drinking instead of focusing on what causes you to drink.

Dealing with Change

One of the basic tenets of solution-focused therapy is that change is constant and inevitable. Issues will come and go just like solutions. Checking in every session on what has changed is imperative to this process.

Example: Life has ups and downs. Even when you do nothing, change is happening in your environment. In the drinking example, you may start drinking less because of a new law in your city or start drinking more as you grow weary of quarantine.

Clients Are the Experts, but Therapists Can Give Compliments

The client, you, will come up with the solution. Part of the job of the clinician is to applaud you when you come up with a practical, working solution. That positive reinforcement will keep you on track for your solution to your problem.

Example: You chose to quit drinking. Your therapist is allowed to celebrate that decision with you. If you come into session and share, “I threw out all the alcohol in my house.” Your therapist might first inquire, “How did that make you feel?” and capitalize on the positive feelings you have about your decision to quit. “Excellent work!” is a good response.

Identifying Exceptions to the Problem

Part of coming up with the solution will be identifying when exceptions to the problem take place. Remember: change is constant. There are times when the problem is not in effect. Here are some helpful questions to ask yourself:

  • When are those times when the problem is not in effect?
  • Where are you?
  • Who are you with?
  • What are you doing?
  • Is there a way to increase the frequency of these moments?

Example: You realize you don’t drink when your wife is home. You enjoy spending quality time with her and know she doesn’t like it when you drink. Can you schedule to spend more time with your wife when you know you are susceptible to taking to the bottle?

Asking the Miracle Question

At the end of a session, a clinician practicing Solutions Focused Therapy might ask you the miracle question. The question goes like this:

If you woke up tomorrow and your biggest problem had disappeared, how would you know? What would look and feel differently?

The purpose of asking this question is to help determine the solution. The clinician will investigate how to incorporate elements of this alternate reality into your current life. Just because the problem still exists and a miracle has not happened, how can you make your life more closely mirror the life you’re envisioning? That’s the critical question to begin your journey to the solution.

Example: When asked this question, you may respond, “If I woke up tomorrow and my alcoholism had disappeared, I would know because I would feel healthier, and my body would start to change. I would lose my beer gut.

Some basic tenets of solution-focused therapy include the reminders that 1) solution building is the focus, not problem solving, 2) change is constant and inevitable, 3) clients are the experts, but therapists can give compliments, 4) identifying exceptions to the problem can help you come up with the solution, and 5) asking the miracle question makes all the difference.

Is solution-focused therapy something you are interested in? You can google worksheets for the evidence-based practice and start there. If you want additional assistance, find a practitioner that matches you and fits your style.

At Valiant Living, we understand the importance of evidence-based practice. At our men’s only facility in Denver, Colorado, where we treat addiction and co-occurring mental illnesses, we know that solutions are necessary. Our expert staff can help you pinpoint solutions and reach your goals. If alcohol use is your specific problem, as highlighted in the examples in this blog post, we are here to help. We can also help with addiction to other substances. You don’t have to focus on the negativity of your problem but rather the positivity of the solution. By envisioning your life without the substance, as exemplified with the miracle question, you can start to make changes for the better. Striving for your solution takes time, and Valiant Living is here to help you stay the course. To learn more about our services and how we might be of help, contact us today at (303) 952-5035.