Frequently Asked Questions Solution-Focused Family Therapy

Some situations call for assessing the problem from its roots, but it’s not always healthy to dwell on the details of how it came to be. In Voltaire’s words, “the longer we dwell on our misfortunes, the greater is their power to harm us.” 

When dealing with family problems looking for solutions often only requires directly addressing the issue at hand. Going beyond the current issue and fixating on things we can’t change may be pointless and even detrimental. To develop adaptive problem-solving strategies, individuals can turn to solution-based therapy.


Solution-focused therapy, also known as solution-focused brief therapy (SFBT), prioritizes looking for solutions instead of analyzing the problem. SFBT is different from the conventional forms of psychotherapy, where the past is thoroughly picked apart to address the present and future. 

Psychotherapists Steve De Shazer and Insoo Kim Berg developed SFBT in the late 1970s. De Shazer and Berg wanted to discover what people want. 

SFBT takes a postmodern approach, where there are no fixed truths. The truth, instead, is presumed to lie in whatever the client presents. With this, the therapist pays close attention to the client’s language. From there, they determine the solution. 

In the postmodern view, the client is the expert, not the therapist. The therapist believes that clients already possess the necessary tools and skills to solve their problems at hand. Therefore, the therapist’s job is to help clients reconstruct their stories and see their problems differently. It is also the therapist’s responsibility to help clients try something different if the current strategy isn’t working. 

Since SBFT relies on collaboration, the therapist and the client work together in setting goals, formulating solutions, and implementing these. It follows that the therapist should be flexible with the client’s resources when creating a plan. The client’s input is key in the process because clients are more likely to follow through with strategies that they’ve had a part in developing. 

If you want to understand the mechanisms of SBFT further and learn how it can benefit families, read the frequently asked questions below. 

What is solution-focused family therapy?

Solution-focused family therapy is goal-directed and future-focused. It shows families how not to dwell on the problems but to prioritize creating solutions together. This process mainly involves establishing a common mindset that leaves the past behind. The clients are then tasked to use these difficulties and challenges to develop a solution roadmap they all agree with.

What is the solution-focused brief therapy model?

A solution-focused brief therapy model refers to a goal-oriented model anchored on a person’s present and future life. It leaves behind what happened in the past. The therapist uses a model that helps the clients develop a vision and goal for the future. They support this goal by assisting the patients in co-constructing skills, abilities, and resources that will enable them to reach their vision.

What are the benefits of solution-focused therapy?

Solution-focused therapy is beneficial in many aspects. For one, this lets you draft measurable short- and long-term goals, which serve as your primary directive. This therapy aims to encourage you to capitalize on your strengths to achieve your goals. This therapy also allows you to know yourself best. Aside from reassessing what happened in the past, you also get to establish your identity by articulating properly what your vision is.

What are the three rules of solution-focused treatment?

The central philosophy of solution-focused treatment revolves around three rules:

  1. If it’s not broken, do not fix it.
  2. Once you have pinpointed what works for you, do more of it.
  3. If you’ve observed that something does not work, do not do it again; instead, do something different.

How do you implement solution-focused therapy?

In this type of therapy, it is necessary to determine the patient’s goal from the sessions and how it would affect them once they solve these problems. After setting up a measurable goal, they can work hand-in-hand to find the best solution.

One strategy is to determine the client’s behavioral pattern in the past and come up with methods to stray away from it. Then, the therapist guides the patient in reinforcing the positive qualities so that every solution will anchor on these strengths.

How long is solution-focused therapy?

Solution-focused therapy is relatively shorter as compared to other types of therapy because of its goal-oriented nature.  This intervention only needs around four to five sessions, which typically last for 45 minutes each. Once a particular issue has been solved, then the client and the therapist can close that chapter. With this, we can say that solution-focused therapy is less time-consuming than usual behavioral therapies.

Is Solution Focused Therapy Effective?

Yes, it is effective, given that solution-focused therapy works towards crafting solutions. It’s even mostly recommended to older children and teens since they’re more willing to collaborate with their therapists in reaching their set goals. However, individuals with complicated emotional difficulties may find this treatment challenging and ineffective.

Experts recommend that these people go through long-term therapy rather than solution-focused therapy.

What are the strengths and weaknesses of solution-focused therapy?

The primary strength of solution-focused therapy is that it is measurable. After the goal-setting process, your progress can be measured by how near or far you are from your established vision. Your therapist also gives you tasks that are realistic, consistent, and manageable.

One weakness that this treatment type has is that it does not address the problems’ root cause. Since it rarely looks back into the past and deep dive into the details, the drafted solutions only serve as band-aid solutions.


How do you focus on a solution at work?

First, develop a beginner’s mindset even if you’re in the field for a long time. Having a fresh mind can help you eliminate the biases you gained throughout your experience at work. These inclinations may tend to blind you from the creative ideas that are lingering around you.

Every surprising solution comes from a beginner’s point of view. Once you have erased all biases, break down all your work problems and set your goal for each one. If something’s working, replicate it; but if it’s not effective, then do something else.

What is an exception question in Solution Focused Therapy?

Exception questions give the clients the chance to determine the circumstances when it has been different for them. Some examples of this include:

  1. Describe the last time you felt that you had a better day compared to the rest.
  2. Can you think of the times when you don’t feel sad or angry?
  3. Tell me about the time when you thought you had no problem in your life and felt the happiest?

What is a solution-based approach?

A solution-based approach highlights the act of searching for solutions instead of dwelling on problems. In short, it is a strengths-based strategy. Patients set aside all the resources they can find and utilize this to solve the issues that are bothering them. It’s in pursuit of a purposeful and positive quick change.

What is the role of the client in solution-focused therapy?

The role of the client is to be the expert in their lives. They will serve as the architect in building their paths. They will be the ones who will decide which factors are small, achievable, relevant, and complicated.

What is the difference between solution-focused therapy and narrative therapy?

Narrative therapy focuses on the stories that each individual carries throughout their lives. They give meaning to the personal journey they have experienced in the past or the influence that others gave them. These things serve as their anchor on how they see themselves and the world around them.

On the other hand, solution-focused therapy does not dwell on what has happened but focuses more on how they will solve their current problems and achieve their vision.


Families can be dysfunctional when they don’t employ proper problem-solving techniques. It’s common for family members to fixate whose fault it is or what could have gone differently. Past issues may be brought up and may hinder resolving the current problem. 

Solution-focused therapy is effective, especially for individuals with relationship problems such as in families. Just like any other therapy, however, SFBT isn’t a one-size-fits-all solution. SFBT is limited to addressing the present problem and not issues from the past. Because of this, SFBT may not be suitable for those experiencing severe mental health disorders that need extensive programs for their root causes to be addressed. 

Despite SFBT’s limitations, multiple studies have provided empirical evidence for its efficacy. In particular, meta-analyses have shown that SFBT’s effectiveness is equivalent to other evidence-based approaches. Some studies produced significant results in less time and at less cost. A cost-effective program available can be beneficial, particularly for families who lack financial resources or insurance coverage. 

Implementing solution-focused therapies was successful among families with members who suffer from abuse disorders, drinking problems, childhood behavioral problems, etc. This approach may be a considerable shift from conventional psychotherapies. Still, it has proven its capacity to reconcile and restore relationships. 

If you are currently experiencing family problems, know that things can get better and that recovery is possible. Contact your local mental healthcare provider further to discuss the available solution-focused programs or other alternative methods.