Solution Focused Brief Therapy

by | Therapy type

Solution Focused Brief Therapy (SFBT) is a quick solution focused therapy that emphasises clients’ present and future circumstances. Symptoms are not targeted. Instead, SFBT has a rational approach towards formulating clients’ solutions. This approach also assumes clients are motivated to improve their circumstances.

This therapy suggests that people have problematic default solutions based on their experiences. Thus SFBT aims to modify these default solution patterns to enhance their efficacy. Since SFBT is also quick in nature, it relies on clients’ existing strengths to assist clients in their challenges.

SFBT in contrast to other therapy models, focuses on what’s going right in clients’ lives. Solution focused therapists are concerned with exceptions to problem patterns and success. This promotes hope within clients as they realise they are able to eliminate the problem.

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Steve de Shazer and Insoo Kim Berg developed SFBT. They noticed that most of the therapy session was spent discussing problems and symptoms. Hence, they decided to form a type of therapy that was quick and solution focused. The quicker solutions were found, the less time clients would be in agony.


Goal setting is an integral part of SFBT. During the start of therapy, clients are asked to identify the goals they want to achieve. Goals are uniquely constructed by each client.


SFBT suggests asking a specific set of questions to provoke thinking for problem solving.

Presupposing Change 

Presupposing change question allows clients to focus on positives in their lives. Therapists ask clients “What’s different or better since I last saw you” This question can also be asked in the first therapy session. The alternate version would be “What’s different or better since making the appointment and now?” 

This technique helps clients to view their progress, no matter the magnitude of it. Clients start to realise that they are able to overcome their challenges.


Exception Questions

To identify exceptions to clients’ challenges, exception questions are asked. An example would be “Can you think of instances when the problem was not present” This allows clients to gain awareness into the circumstances when the problem is most active, and when the problem has little influence over clients. Through this, therapists and clients can devise plans for these exceptions to occur more often.

The Miracle Question

The miracle question helps people envision their life without the problem. Therapists ask clients “If a miracle happened and the problem you have was solved overnight, how would you know it was solved, and what would be different?” Clients’ answers can help them identify possible steps to take towards change.

Scaling Questions

Solution-focused therapists may use scaling questions for clients to examine their present circumstances. This helps the therapist to identify clients’ motivation and confidence in finding a solution. Clients could be asked “On a scale of 0 to 10, with 0 being the lowest and 10 being the highest, how are your problems affecting you?”


Due to its quick and goal oriented nature, solution-focused therapists may miss out on clients’ important emotional troubles. Additionally, an empathic therapeutic alliance may not have formed between the therapist and client. SFBT may also be difficult for clients that have suffered abuse,  traumatic experiences, and mental illnesses since SFBT assumes that clients are always able to work towards a solution.

To see therapists specialised in this field, visit here

Janna was our in-house blog writer and therapy specialist. She has supported The Therapy Platform users towards successful therapy experience. She is about to complete Master of Counselling. 

Janna Lim

Therapy Specialist


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