Using the language of change, SFBT helps clients envision a future where their current problem is solved. It taps into their capabilities and inner resources. SFBT minimizes emphasis on problems and failures of the past, and instead focuses on the client’s strengths and previous successes. Once the client identifies a desired outcome, the therapist assists the client in identifying small , incremental steps toward realizing the behavioral goal
SFBT is a future oriented therapy based on the assumption that clients have solution behaviours in place to cope with their problems. Given that problems don’t happen all the time, clients are encouraged to look at exceptions – times when the problem could have occurred but it did not. These exceptions are used by the client and the counsellor to come with solutions to address the problem at hand.
- There are three key components to SFBT.
- The first one pertains to client concerns; what is important to them; vision of preferred future and internal resources related to the same; scaling of client’s motivational levels and progress towards reaching their goal.
- The second is about co-construction of new meaning for the clients. Counsellors listen carefully and absorb the client’s words and meanings. They then connect and incorporate client responses into their follow-up questions. This skill is known as language-matching and helps maintain the flow of the conversation. Through this process clients tend to discover themselves as people of ability with strengths and positive qualities, who are in the process of creating a more fulfilling life.
- The third pertains to co-constructing the vision of a preferred future with the client that draws on past successes, strengths, and resources that can help turn the client’s vision into a reality.
- Setting of specific, concrete and realistic goals is an important aspect of SFBT.
- Some of the key interventions in SFBT include the scaling, coping and miracle questions.
- Scaling questions – are linked to the client’s concerns and preferred future. They can also be used to invite people to self-evaluate how much they want to change and how sure they are that they can. They can be used to identify goals, clarify the current situation, identify current coping strategies, prevent relapse and more. For e.g. “On a scale of 0 to 10, where 10 represents all the changes you are looking for, what would 10 look like? What would be happening that would tell you that things are at 10?”
- Coping questions – if a client reports that the problem is not better, the counsellor may sometimes ask coping questions such as – “How have you managed to prevent it from getting worse? “ or “This sounds hard – How are you managing to cope with this to the degree that you are?”
- Miracle question – a way to ask for a client’s goal that communicates respect for the seriousness and intensity of the problem, and at the same time leads to the client coming up with smaller, more manageable goals. It helps identify additional internal coping resources and stimulates creative thinking. Clients appear to experience pleasant emotions, which enhances the experience of therapy. Here’s an example of a miracle question: “I am going to ask you a strange question [pause]. The strange question is this: [pause]. After we talk, you will go back to your work (home, school) and you will do whatever you need to do the rest of today. It will become time to go to bed. Everybody in your home is quiet, and you are sleeping in peace. In the middle of the night, a miracle happens and the problem that made you to talk to me today is solved! But because this happens while you are sleeping, you have no way of knowing that there was an overnight miracle that solved the problem. [pause] So, when you wake up tomorrow morning, what might be the small change that will make you say to yourself, ‘Wow, something must have happened – the problem is gone!”
- SFBT also entails experiments and homework assignments, checking progress since the last session, and structured feedback from the counsellor.
A number of researchers have reviewed studies about SFBT conducted in a variety of settings and geographical locations, with a range of clients. Based on the reviews of these outcome studies, Wallace J. Gingerich and Sheri Eisengrat concluded that the studies offered preliminary support that the SFBT approach could be beneficial to clients. However, more microanalysis research into the co-construction process in solution-focused conversation is needed to develop additional understanding of how clients change through participating in these conversations.