Ever since I started the graduate program in counseling psychology in California, I wanted my therapy sessions to be practical and useful, and kind to clients. I did not want to make it a very philosophical conversation. When I came across Solution Focused Brief Therapy in 2011, I finally found what I was looking for in the therapy conversation.
I want to share how Solution Focused Approach is practical, respectful, and empowering in the 3 parts blog series. For this blog, I will talk about Solution Focused Brief Therapy is a practical approach.
To explain how Solution Focused Brief Therapy includes a very practical mindset, I must briefly explain the history of how this approach came together. A group of therapists, social workers, sociologists, scientists, and other professionals wanted to create a therapy modality that is really useful to clients in the shortest workable route in the 1970s and 1980s in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. The practitioners observed thousands of therapy sessions live and on videotapes. They observed these sessions very closely to find what therapists did to create change in the client’s perspective, behaviors, relationships, and more. They picked up therapists’ questions that seemed to be useful in creating change in clients and intentionally used them in the session to test them out. They kept only the one that proven to make a difference in clients in the session and outside of the session. Then they bunched these practical questions together and named Solution Focused Brief Therapy.
The clients with whom the founders of Solution Focused Brief Therapy worked were in very difficult and serious life situations with multi-level of problems they were facing, like drug misuse, violence in the home, depression, suicide, anger, running away, legal issues about family being together. Many of them had serious mental health issues, like schizophrenia, anxiety, depression, suicide. Even though the clients were up against many difficulties in their life, the clinicians using Solution Focused Brief Therapy could work with clients where over 80% of clients reported they achieved some or all goals they wanted to see happening in their life.
In Solution Focused Brief Therapy conversation, we talk about real-life stuff.
Getting along with others in the family, feeling better,
feeling good about yourself,
leading to a better life, getting on with life.
The actual differences you will see and feel and do in life. We talk about what difference you want to see more in daily life.
We focus on all four elements of human beings. Being, Feeling, Thinking, Doing, Interacting. We do that because all those parts play integrated and important roles in being authentically you.
Through talking about these aspects of your life, we come back and talk about what might help to see a difference in your daily living even a bit. Practical bits. Not grandiose changes, but small do-able, practical changes that fit just right for you and that came from you. We will brainstorm small changes you want to see next based on what you have done in the past that created the desired changes, what you are good at, and what you want differently. I might share my ideas or things that others told me worked for them. But it never forced on you to do my ideas. You will be the one who is thinking for yourself and deciding for yourself in the therapy conversation. To make change practical and sustainable, it has to fit you, your personality, your lifestyle, and sometimes your family. You are in the driver’s seat of your life.
For example, let’s suppose I wanted to spend more time with my children instead of being on my cell phone. It is a tough habit to change. I can take my want in different directions. Few come to my mind, such as what spending more time with my children would look like, how my childhood affects how I use my time, what am I getting from being on my cell phone, what is wrong with me being on the cellphone instead of spending time with my children.
When we think in Solution Focused Approach way, we will choose to focus on
“what would it be like to spend time with my children a little more? What would that do to me, my children, and my family?”.
My focus will be on the present situation and future of our family, instead of digging into the past and reasons I am doing what I am doing in the past, few decades past. I want to stay current with what I want to see differently in my daily life. I may think of “when was the time I could put down my cellphone and choose to spend time with my children, even for a few minutes?” to find out anything that might help me to spend more time with my children. By staying with here and now, Solution Focused approach stays practical.
In the next blog, I will share other reasons Solution Focus Brief Therapy is a useful way of thinking in creating changes in people’s life.