Counselors practicing solution-focused brief counseling believe that people who are feeling bad will continue to feel bad if they do not make positive behavioral changes in their lives.
The key to feeling better is to focus on "what" people are doing that seems to be helpful and to set goals with plans on how to accomplish these goals.
Solution- focused brief counselors believe that their clients will do better with a present and future orientation. In fact, solution-focused brief counseling may be the only counseling theory in which a future orientation takes precedence over a present orientation.
The philosophy appears to be that clients can become mired in their past unresolved conflicts and failures and blocked when focusing on present problems rather than on future solutions.
Clients may also be stuck in doing more of the same by continuing to try to solve their problems with the same failed strategies, the recipe for more failure
Solution-focused brief counselors view their clients or customers as being free to make choices and not be victimized by their heredity or environment.
hold a positive view of people that rivals that held by followers of Rogers's theories. People are seen as being basically good, with the power to overcome evil and to make good behavioral choices. Solution-focused brief counselors believe that people are also basically rational, having the capacity to solve their own problems, or complaints, and overcome the irrational influences in their culture. These counselors use the language of customer and complaint to emphasize the belief of the client knowing where to go and the motivation to do so. The counselor is hired to help construct the solutions
counselors cater to whatever common sense is found in their clients' thinking. For example, the test of any good idea is whether it will work for the client.
emphasize the appeal to their clients' common sense in the following pragmatic points stated in colloquial, perhaps over- used, everyday language: 1. "If it works, don't fix it. Do more of it." 2. "If it works a little, build on it, and try to do more of the part that is working." 3. "If it is broken, do something different to fix it. Experiment and imagine miracles."
In other words, once you know what works and what does not work, do more of what works and stop doing what does not work.
In summary, solution-focused practitioners base their work on the following assumptions
Counselors in solution-focused brief therapy work within a collaborative model of interaction believing that their relationship with the client is a critical element in every session. These counselors do not consider themselves experts rather they believe they cannot know more about a client's life than the client knows.
Those skills are listening, echoing key words, asking questions, getting details, being silent, summarizing, and noticing hints of possibilities. Solution-focused counselors are active and work to create an environment that invites change.
These counselors do not teach, interpret, train, or give directions but focus relentlessly on solutions.
Solution-focused practitioners use active listening, empathy, questions, explanation, reassurance, and suggestions
• Life contains struggles, but all people have strengths that they can use to improve their lives. Counselors should respect the strengths and the directions clients choose.
• Motivation increases when counselors consistently emphasize strength
• Discovering strengths takes a cooperative exploration between clients and counselors. Helpers do not decide by themselves what clients need to improve in their lives.
• Counselors who focus on strengths are less likely to judge or blame people for their problems. Instead, they can discover how the clients have managed to survive.
• All environments, no matter how distressing, have some resources.
Counselors spend little time trying to determine why people have not been able to solve their problems but presume that people are doing the best they can. The substance of counseling is to increase hope and optimism by building the anticipation of change, no matter how small. Counselors look for the patterns of success in the lives of their "customers." After listening for the subtle hints about success and then expanding talk about those areas, counselors ask for more and more information about these exceptions to the problem.
believe that the right kind of talk can begin a movement toward attend- ing to possibilities and positive direction
Finding a solvable complaint. The first step leads to developing goals and interventions that promote change. People's problems are considered normal and changeable. Counselors and clients work to find images of the complaint that are within the client's control. Counselors ask questions that relay optimism and encouragement. Difficulties are viewed as normal parts of life and change- able. suggested scaling questions to establish where the client is beginning and to check possibilities and progress.
2. Determining goals.- Counselors work with clients to identify goals that are specific, observable, measurable, and concrete. Three common forms for goals are
(1) to change the doing of the problem situation,
(2) to change the viewing of the problem situation or frame of reference, and
(3) to access resources, solutions, and strengths
"What will be the first sign of change?" and
"How will you know when counseling has been helpful to you?" elicit discussion of positive change and what a solution might be.
Counselors may use this miracle question
3. Planning an intervention. Counselors make use of their understanding of clients and treatment strategies to encourage change. Helpful questions are
"What changes have already happened?"
"What worked in the past when you faced a similar situation?" and
"How did you make that happen?"
4. Drafting strategic tasks. The tasks are written so clients can understand and agree to them. The tasks are chosen to build cooperation and success. De Shazer talked about three types of tasks that link to motivation:
a. Visitors or window shoppers have not presented clear problems or expectations of change. In this case, counselors only give compliments.
b. Complainants have concerns and expect change but think others should be doing the work. Counselors should suggest observations so that people become more aware of themselves and their situations. A homework assignment for this type client would be to find things that are happening in the person's life to do more often, thus eliciting more self-awareness.
c. Customers are ready to take action to find solutions to their concerns.
5. Focusing on positive new behaviors and changes. As clients return and report on their task, counselors focus on change, progress, and possibilities. The problem is viewed as external to the client and may be referred to as "it" or "that." Questions that help at this stage of treatment are "How did you make that happen?" and "Who noticed the changes?" Counselors highlight strength and competence; they are cheerleaders for the client.
6. Maintaining. The focus in this stage is on consolidating gains. Counselors give clients adjustment time to promote further success. Counselors also help clients stay hopeful if change happens slower than they would like.
7. Ending. When the goals are accomplished, clients often initiate the ending of the relationship. Clients may return for future concerns. Clients have improved by developing confidence, being heard and praised, and finding strengths and resources
1. Goals owned or set by the client work best because clients are more likely to achieve the goals for which they hold ownership.
2. If clients need assistance in goal setting—and they probably will with solution- oriented brief counseling—be sure that the goals are cocreated and are not the counselor's goals.
3. Behaviorally oriented goals that are observable help clients. Goals work best when they are positive, concrete, attainable, and reduced to small steps.
4. Goals should be stated in terms of what behavior will occur, how often it will occur, and under what conditions it will occur. Action, such as doing something, rather than inaction, such as not doing something, is preferred. For example, running around the block would be preferable to not watching television.
Counselors who use solution-focused brief therapy choose interventions from behavioral and cognitive treatments. Some of the strategies specific to solution-focused brief therapy are scaling, identifying exceptions, solution talk, and the miracle question.
Scaling involves asking the client to rate something on a scale of 1 to 10. one way to use scaling with children. The counselor makes two slash marks on opposite ends of the paper, then says something like this: "So this mark here we'll call 1 and that stands for when things are awful with your teacher, and this other mark is 10 and stands for when things are absolutely, exactly right. What number are you at today?" The visual helps the child connect the scale to the situation under discussion.
Identifying exceptions to the problem allows people to search for times when their problems were absent or less bad than they are currently. Those exceptions become sources of information when making plans for change. Some questions that might help uncover exceptions are "When the problem is not present, how are things different?" and "How did you handle this before?" and "What would you need to have that happen again?
Solution talk is another technique used in this type of counseling. Words are chosen to convey hope and optimism, a sense of control, and openness to possibilities.
• Ask open questions
• Use language that assumes problems are temporary and positive change will happen such as "When the problem is gone, what will you be doing?"
• Talk about the problem as something external
• Normalize the problem with phrases such as "risky behavior" or other less emotional terms
• Focus on coping behaviors
• Notice and reinforce strengths
• Create hypothetical solutions such as "If you weren't feeling scared, what would you be feeling and doing instead?"
• Concentrate on behaviors rather than thoughts and emotions
• Use these words frequently: change, different, possibility, what, and how
• Use and to indicate that what seems contradictory outcomes can exist together
• Offer different perspectives
• Match the clients' vocabulary or style
the child may say:
CLIENT:I want my Mom and Dad to get married again. COUNSELOR:How would that help you?
CLIENT: I would feel like I was part of a real family.
COUNSELOR:So, feeling a part of your family would be a goal for you.
: CLIENT:Yes, because now it doesn't seem like I am.
COUNSELOR: What would you be doing to let you know that you were a part of your family?
ClientI would like to be doing things that would help Mom and Dad out, like I did before they got divorced.
Counselor:So, finding out how you could help both your Mom and Dad could be another goal for you.
For the latter "I want others to be different" goal, the counselor would continue to keep the focus on what the client will be doing to cause others to behave differ ently. For example:
Client:I would like other kids in my class to be friends with me.
Counselor:Well, if that miracle occurred, what would we see on a video of what was going on in your classroom?
Client:Other kids would choose me to work with them on our projects.
Counselor:So, if the other kids were choosing you for a work partner, what would you start doing differently?
Client:I guess I would be nice about sharing my things with them. I have really awesome markers, but I don't want them messed up. Maybe if I let my friends use them, they would let me be on the team.
Counselor:That sounds like a good goal for you to have. What else would you be doing?
Client:I would be working hard to do my share of the work.
Counselor:That sounds like a better goal, because you would know right away if you did at least your share of the work.
The approach is pragmatic and fo- cused on the child's strengths rather than weaknesses. Discussions are about what the child presents and about what has changed since the last meeting. The counselor questions the child about what the child sees as a solution—what it would look like, how people will know something has changed, and what will be different when the change happens.
cautioned that sometimes children understand more than they can share verbally and other times they seem to understand only to please. Counselors are patient, listen carefully, and use tracking, reflection, and encouragement. The child tells his or her story through play and the counselor learns the child's perspective and sees the situation through the child's eyes. Puppets play out
problems or solutions, and other play materials can aid the child in searching for alternative actions. Griffith suggested that helping children rehearse solutions in play helps them practice what they can handle and what is a good fit for them. She reminded counselors not to give the child the solution but allow the child to discover it in order to build competencies. Techniques used in solution-oriented play therapy are scaling questions, externalizing, playing detective, trying magic tricks, experimenting, and reporting changes. Griffith's case study provides a valuable study of how this therapy builds on the child's resources, language, exceptions, and images.
expressive play therapy techniques of art, sand tray, and puppets to help children set goals, visualize how things could be different if the goal was achieved, describe exceptions, and write the solution message. Nims includes credits, bridge, and a solution task in the solution message. Credits are affirmations of the child and the child's efforts. The bridge is the connection between the credits and the task. The task is what the child has agreed to try before the next session. Taylor (2009) and Sweeney (2011) expanded the use of the sand tray with the solution-focused brief therapy process and provided specific procedures for practitioners.