Counselling and psychotherapy are full of acronyms and abbreviations – and as a client you want to be sure about exactly what these stand for so you know how they can help you. Let’s take a look at two different types of therapy that are often known by their abbreviations – CBT and SFBT. You only need to search on Google to see that people often use the internet to find out what these initials mean and what the differences between them are.

CBT stands for cognitive behavioural therapy, which is a type of therapy that aims to help you understand and change the way you think, feel and behave, to help you cope with your problems. It's based on what causes or maintains the problem(s) and how to reframe these thoughts.

SFBT stands for solution-focused brief therapy. This is a short-term, goal-directed form of therapy in which the purpose is to help the client discover, clarify and accomplish their own solutions to problems. SFBT is future-oriented, so it supports and motivates the client to move forward towards the desired outcome, rather than remaining stuck on the presenting issues.

The key differences between CBT and SFBT

In CBT, the focus is on eliminating or reducing a problem or symptom. In SFBT, the focus is on enhancing or amplifying a solution.

In CBT, a therapist will pay attention to the client's negative thought patterns and behaviour. In SFBT, a therapist pays attention to the client's resources and their strengths rather than the problem.

CBT highlights what can be done better or differently. SFBT highlights what's already being done well.

CBT is based on what causes or maintains the problem(s). SFBT is interested in exceptions to the problem and what's different for the client during those times.

CBT is often led by the therapist. SFBT empowers clients to work through their own goals, while the therapist acts as a guide to help formulate a well mapped solution.

Since most of my clients seek short-term intervention, I apply SFBT in my treatment plans and I've observed some outstanding results.

But it’s important to remember that different types of therapy can be helpful for different people. Many therapists will use more than one type of therapy when working with a client.

It’s always worth asking your therapist what type of therapy they practice and asking them any questions you have about what that means and how it could help you. You can do your own research too by reading the articles about types of therapy on the BACP website.