Solution-focused brief therapy is a short-term therapy which focuses on setting goals and working out how to achieve them. It’s about the future rather than the past and promotes positive change by encouraging you to focus on what you can do, rather than what you can’t.

Our member Baljit Kamal, who runs Well Space Therapy in the West Midlands, says: “It helps you discover, clarify and achieve your own solutions to your problems. It supports and motivates you to move forward in life, rather than remaining stuck on the issues you are currently facing." 

What is a solution-focused approach?

Solution-focused brief therapy is also known as brief therapy, SFBT, or the solution-focused approach.

Says Baljit: “The main focus is to set clear, concise and realistic goals. Rather than discussing your current concerns in detail, a solution-focused therapist will explore how your life will be once these concerns are resolved.

"We focus on what you want and your strengths, and only delve into the past as far as is necessary to understand your concerns.”

SFBT is a type of humanistic therapy, which means it considers the client is the expert on themselves and their situation.

"It is based on the belief that every individual has the knowledge of what would improve their situation,” says Baljit. "The therapist’s role is to help you explore and put in place these solutions."

What techniques are used in solution-focused therapy?

Baljit starts by asking clients what things they’d like to address and what results they’d like to see.

“This ensures we’re spending time addressing the issues that matter most to them and can regularly review progress,” she says.

She prompts discussions through a series of techniques and questions specific to each client and their situation.

One of these is the ‘miracle question’ which asks you to imagine and explore a life where your problems have gone. This helps give insight into what you want to achieve.

Says Baljit: “We use this vision to create step-by-step methods to move the client from the current situation to their own better future.”

Another technique is the ‘problem-free approach’ where the therapist encourages you to talk about areas of your life which are not problematic. This helps you focus more on those things you would like to strive towards in your life, and less upon those you wish to reduce.

There are also ‘exception questions’ which ask about times when things have been different and you weren't facing the same problems.These might include “tell me about a time when you felt happiest” or “when you didn’t feel angry”.

"I often ask clients to describe what happened at an earlier point in their life when they faced adversity," she says. “I encourage them to recognise their own strength and resilience, and to apply the strategies they found most helpful then to their current situation.”

What can solution-focused brief therapy help with?

Solution-focused brief therapy can be helpful for a variety of issues including anxiety, depression, self-esteem, relationship issues and coping with changes in life. It can help individuals of any age, or couples, families and groups.

It's especially beneficial when you have a particular goal to achieve or problem to overcome.

How long does solution-focused brief therapy take?

People normally have between five and eight sessions with a therapist and find it effective within this period.

It can also be incorporated into other therapeutic approaches and may be used as part of longer-term therapy.

You can find a registered therapist who specialises in SFBT on our Therapist directory.

SFBT is also the most common form of therapy offered through employee assistance programmes (EAPs). If your workplace provides an EAP, you may be able to access up to six or eight sessions through them.