Find A Therapist logo.

Solution Focused Brief Therapy: Techniques for Lasting Change

Written by:

published on:

Updated on:


Note: Your support drives Find-A-Therapist. We earn a commission if you purchase services through our ads.

Looking for a therapist?

Solution-focused brief therapy (SFBT) is a therapeutic approach that centers on empowering clients by helping them identify and work towards their desired goals.

Developed in the late 20th century by Steve de Shazer and Insoo Kim Berg, this method has its roots in social constructionism and has since gained substantial recognition for its practical, results-driven approach to therapy.

SFBT stands out from other forms of therapy by placing the focus on clients’ strengths and resources rather than analyzing their problems or symptoms.

Key to the success of this approach is the use of specific techniques aimed at guiding clients through the process of discovering hopeevoking solutions, and instilling self-efficacy.

Understanding Solution Focused Brief Therapy


Solution-focused brief therapy (SFBT) is a goal-orientedfuture-focused approach to psychotherapy that primarily focuses on finding solutions and fostering positive change rather than dwelling on problems and their origins.

It is a short-term and highly effective method, which makes it an appealing choice for treating a wide range of mental health issues.

In contrast to traditional therapy, SFBT emphasizes the importance of clients identifying their desired outcomes and working together with the therapist to construct a path toward achieving them.

This process often includes exploring the clients’ strengthsskills, and prior successes to help them recognize their ability to solve problems in their lives.

The foundations of SFBT can be attributed to its core principles, which consist of:

  • Maintaining a future-oriented perspective, focusing on the desired outcomes and strengths rather than analyzing problems and past experiences.
  • Utilizing open-ended questions to help clients think about their goals and how they can achieve them.
  • Emphasizing the clients’ competence and expertise in their own lives, empowering them to find solutions and maximize their potential.
  • Collaborating with clients to develop specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, and timely (SMART) goals.

One of the key characteristics of this therapeutic approach is its brevity. Typically, SFBT consists of 3 to 5 sessions, although the exact number of sessions may vary based on the individual needs and progress of the client.

The shorter time frame of this type of therapy not only encourages clients to work efficiently towards their goals but also makes it more accessible and cost-effective.

Evidence suggests that SFBT is an effective method for treating a variety of mental health concerns, including depression, anxiety, relationship issues, and substance abuse.

Its success can be partly attributed to the collaborative and empowering nature of the therapist-client relationship, as well as the practical tools and techniques used to facilitate change.

In conclusion, solution-focused brief therapy is a practical, efficient, and empowering approach to psychotherapy that emphasizes the strengths and resources of clients to help them achieve their desired outcomes.

Its principles, techniques, and brevity make it a highly effective and accessible option for addressing a wide range of mental health concerns.

Key Concepts and Principles

SFBT therapy

Solution-focused brief therapy (SFBT) is a type of short-term therapy aimed at helping clients discover and utilize their strengths and resources to create positive change.

This therapy is built on the foundation of languageoptimismmotivation, and coping skills.

This section will explore its key concepts and principles, including The Miracle Question, Exception Questions, and Scaling Questions.

The Miracle Question

The Miracle Question is a core technique in SFBT that facilitates the exploration of clients’ goals and desired outcomes.

Therapists ask clients to imagine that a miracle occurred, solving their problems overnight. Clients are then encouraged to describe in detail what their lives would look like in the absence of their problems, which helps them identify their own resourcesstrengths, and potential solutions.

This question is designed to shift the focus away from problems and towards a more positive, solution-building mindset.

Exception Questions

Exception Questions target instances when the client’s problem did not occur or was less intense. These questions help identify exceptions to the problem, uncovering clients’ coping strategies and moments of success.

By acknowledging these exceptions, clients can build on their existing strengths and resources to develop more effective solutions. This approach fosters optimism and motivation for positive change.

Scaling Questions

Scaling Questions are used to measure clients’ perception of their problemsprogress, and confidence in finding solutions.

Clients rate their situation on a scale from 0 to 10, with 0 being the worst possible and 10 being the best. Therapists then ask follow-up questions to explore the reasons behind the scores and discuss potential improvements.

This technique allows both the therapist and the client to track progress and encourages a sense of achievement, even when small milestones are reached.

Therapeutic Process and Techniques

Short term solution-focused therapy

Solution-focused brief therapy (SFBT) is a goal-oriented approach that primarily focuses on finding solutions to clients’ problems rather than examining the root causes of the issue.

This type of therapy puts an emphasis on discovering the clients’ strengths, resources, and desired outcomes, which can help establish a solid foundation for change.

The therapeutic process and techniques of SFBT are based on a systematic framework that aids clients in achieving their goals and making progress in their lives.

Establishing the Clients’ Goals

The therapeutic process in SFBT usually starts with establishing the clients’ goals and developing a clear understanding of what the clients hope to achieve by the end of therapy.

The therapist and the client collaborate to identify inherent strengths, resources, and previous successes that can be utilized to pursue the desired outcome.

Individuate Interventions

Next, steps are taken to individuate interventions that will assist clients in utilizing their strengths and resources to achieve these goals.

In SFBT, various interventions are employed to help clients identifyexplore, and implement solutions to their problems.

One common technique is the “Miracle Question,” which asks clients to envision what their life would look like if their problems were miraculously solved. This imaginative exercise helps clients to clarify their goals and identify realistic steps they can take to achieve them.

Another technique is using scaling questions to measure clients’ progress and motivation to change. These questions enable clients to evaluate their current situation and set incremental goals to work towards.

Coping questions are another key component of the SFBT process. These questions help clients recognize how they have been able to manage difficult situations in the past, drawing attention to their existing coping strategies and resources.

Examples of coping questions include:

  • How have you managed to get through tough times before?
  • What personal strengths have helped you stay afloat during challenging periods?

By highlighting their past successes and inherent abilities, clients can develop a sense of empowerment and self-efficacy, which is crucial for initiating and sustaining positive change.

Overall, the therapeutic process and techniques of solution-focused brief therapy are geared towards fostering a sense of hope, resilience, and positive change.

Through collaborative goal-setting, creative interventions, and a focus on clients’ strengths and resources, SFBT offers a unique and effective approach to therapy that can facilitate lasting progress and growth.

Roles and Responsibilities of Therapists

Solution-focused brief counseling

In solution-focused brief therapy (SFBT), the role of a therapist differs significantly from that of traditional therapy approaches.

SFBT therapists focus on helping clients identify their strengths and resources rather than dwelling on their problems. This section discusses the main roles and responsibilities of therapists in SFBT.

Non-judgmental and Curious

One primary responsibility of SFBT therapists is to remain non-judgmental and curious. They refrain from interpreting the client’s issues and instead facilitate a solution-focused conversation.

As guides, they help clients explore their issues, identify their preferred future, and find their own solutions to move toward their goals.

Collaborative and Cooperative

Another crucial role of SFBT practitioners is to establish a collaborative and cooperative relationship with their clients.

The therapist creates an environment where clients feel heard, respected, and empowered to take responsibility for their own well-being.

This relationship encourages creative thinking and solution-focused conversations.

Positive and Supportive Language

The role of the therapist in SFBT also includes using positive and supportive language.

They actively listen and reflect on the client’s words, using affirmative language to emphasize the client’s strengths and resources.

This approach helps clients feel valued and confident in their abilities to make positive changes.

Solution-focused Thinking

Therapists in SFBT use specific techniques to help clients develop solution-focused thinking. These techniques include:

  • Asking scaling questions to measure progress
  • Exploring exceptions to problems
  • Identifying coping strategies that clients have already employed
  • Developing specific, realistic, and measurable goals
  • Encouraging frequent follow-up to monitor progress and make adjustments as needed

In summary, SFBT therapists play a crucial role as expert guides who focus on clients’ strengths, resources, and goals.

Adopting a non-judgmental, curious, and collaborative approach facilitates solution-focused conversations and empowers clients to take control of their lives.

To find a therapist skilled and experienced in solution-focused brief therapy, you can search online directories such as TherapyDen or Find-a-Therapist, which provide contact information, making it easy for you to initiate the process of connecting with a qualified therapist.

Application of SFBT

Solution-focused brief therapy

Through the use of solution-focused brief therapy (SFBT), therapists support families, couples, and children in identifying and utilizing their existing resources to promote health and wellness in their lives.

By focusing on strengths and solutions, SFBT fosters an environment that empowers individuals to address concerns, adapt to stress, and embrace change.

Family Therapy

SBFT is an effective approach to address various problems and concerns that families may face. By focusing on the family’s strengths and resilience, SFBT helps to facilitate positive change within the family unit.

During the counseling process, the therapist works with the family to identify and build on their existing problem-solving abilities, ultimately empowering them to overcome challenges and improve overall family functioning.

Some common issues addressed in family therapy may include:

  • Communication
  • Stress management
  • Conflict resolution
  • Behavioral concerns in children

Couples Therapy

In couples therapy, SFBT is used to help partners navigate various relationship challenges and improve their overall communication and problem-solving abilities.

By focusing on the strengths and resources that exist within the relationship, the therapist helps couples overcome concerns and maintain a healthy connection.

Key elements of SFBT in couples therapy may include:

  • Identifying relationship strengths
  • Developing collaborative solutions
  • Building trust and emotional intimacy

Child Behavioral Issues

The application of SFBT in addressing child behavioral issues is particularly useful at both individual and family levels. SFBT can be applied in the context of classroom behavior management as well as in-home therapy.

By focusing on the child’s existing strengths and resources, the therapist works on promoting positive change in their behavior and self-esteem while also helping parents to support their child more effectively.

Some common child behavioral issues that SFBT can address include:

  • Social difficulties
  • Emotional regulation
  • Attention and concentration problems
  • School-related stress

Benefits of SFBT


Solution-focused brief therapy (SFBT) is an effective therapeutic approach that brings about positive change in individuals.

The benefits of this therapy can be summarized in the following ways:

Time-efficientUnlike traditional therapy models, SFBT is a short-term intervention, often yielding significant results in a limited number of sessions.

This efficiency allows clients to focus on goal achievement and experience improvement quickly.
Strengths-basedSFBT emphasizes clients’ strengths and resources rather than focusing on their problems or deficiencies.

By identifying and harnessing these strengths, clients are better equipped to create lasting solutions.
CollaborativeThe therapist and client work together to develop solutions tailored to the client’s unique needs.

This collaborative approach fosters a sense of autonomy, empowering clients to actively participate in the therapeutic process.
Flexible applicationSFBT can be adapted for different populations, cultures, and age groups.

This adaptability makes it a versatile tool for mental health professionals.

These benefits of SFBT contribute to improved clients’ well-being and mental health while offering a more efficient and collaborative therapeutic approach.

Critiques and Controversies

SFBT therapy

Solution-focused brief therapy (SFBT) emerged as a therapeutic approach that focuses on clients’ strengths and resources to help them construct solutions to their problems.

Despite its popularity and effectiveness in a range of settings, SFBT has encountered a series of critiques and controversies.

Theoretical Foundation

One critique of SFBT involves its theoretical foundation, which stems from constructivism.

Critics argue that SFBT’s constructivist approach, centered on clients generating their own solutions based on their subjective realities, may not be suitable for all clients and situations.

Additionally, this theoretical foundation faces challenges when applied within traditional diagnostic and problem-oriented frameworks.

Lack of Empirical Research

Moreover, SFBT has been criticized for its lack of empirical research, with detractors questioning the therapy’s long-term effectiveness.

While some studies report positive outcomes, concerns remain regarding the accuracy of measures used and the therapy’s efficacy beyond short-term goals, perpetuating the debate on SFBT’s effectiveness.

Focus on the Present

A further controversy surrounding SFBT lies in its focus on the present and future, which may inadvertently neglect the importance of past experiences.

While proponents argue that emphasizing positive solutions promotes change, critics contend that complex issues and traumas from clients’ past experiences cannot be effectively addressed without a deeper understanding of their histories.

Clinical Scope

Lastly, SFBT has faced concerns regarding its clinical scope.

Some critics fear that SFBT’s brief format may not be suitable for clients with more severe or long-standing issues, potentially resulting in superficial solutions and inadequate healing.

This critique calls for ongoing evaluation of SFBT’s appropriateness and effectiveness for diverse client needs.

In conclusion, while SFBT offers many advantages, it remains subject to critiques and controversies. Addressing these concerns will contribute to the growth and development of this therapeutic approach, ensuring that clients receive the most effective care possible.

Final Thoughts

Solution-focused brief therapy
Young Indian man consulting with professional psychologist having psychotherapy appointment sitting on sofa indoor, sharing his problems with specialist woman. Cropped shot

Solution-focused brief therapy (SFBT) is a goal-oriented, time-sensitive therapeutic approach that focuses on identifying and amplifying an individual’s strengths and existing resources to facilitate positive change.

Instead of delving extensively into the root causes of problems, SFBT concentrates on exploring solutions and creating a vision of a preferred future.

SFBT has gained attention as an effective therapeutic approach, with studies providing evidence for its efficacy. Additionally, SFBT has been implemented in school settings, where the outcome literature has shown mixed results, warranting further investigation to establish its efficacy in educational environments.

The body of research on solution-focused brief therapy indicates its potential as an effective therapeutic approach. However, more research is needed to establish solid conclusions and to better understand the underlying processes.

Frequently Asked Questions

What are the key principles of SFBT?

Solution Focused Brief Therapy (SFBT) is a short-termgoal-oriented therapeutic approach that focuses on clients’ strengths and resources.

Some of the key principles of SFBT include setting achievable goals, maintaining a positive and future-focused orientation, identifying exceptions, and utilizing clients’ existing strengths.

SFBT operates on the belief that clients are their own experts and are capable of creating solutions for their problems.

This approach often involves asking solution-focused questions to help clients identify their desired outcomes and the steps required to achieve them.

How is SFBT applied in group settings?

In group settings, SFBT can be applied by focusing on each individual’s strengths while working towards a common goal.

The therapist acts as a facilitator, guiding group members to generate solutions by utilizing their own competencies.

During group sessions, participants are encouraged to share their successes and the strategies they have used to overcome challenges.

Scaling questions may be employed to track progress, and solution-focused techniques, such as the miracle question, can be adapted for use within the group setting.

What are common SFBT interventions?

Common SFBT interventions include the use of specific questioning techniques, such as:

  1. The Miracle Question: This question helps clients imagine their lives without the problem and identify the steps needed to reach that desired state.
  2. Scaling Questions: Clients rate their situation on a scale from 0 to 10, facilitating progress measurement and goal setting.
  3. Exception-Finding Questions: These questions help clients recognize moments when the problem is absent or less severe, allowing them to identify strategies that may have already been working for them.

Additionally, offering compliments and acknowledging clients’ strengths and achievements are other essential elements of SFBT interventions.

What are some limitations of SFBT?

While SFBT has many strengths, it also has some limitations. Since it focuses on short-term solutions and immediate goals, it may not be suitable for clients with more complex or longstanding problems.

Additionally, SFBT puts significant responsibility on clients to generate solutions, and some may struggle with this degree of autonomy.

Moreover, SFBT operates on the assumption that clients possess the necessary resources to address their issues, which may not always be the case.

Finally, SFBT can be seen as overly optimistic and may not adequately address the role of negative emotions, past experiences, or systemic factors that contribute to clients’ difficulties.

Additional Resources

Prioritizing our mental well-being is paramount in today’s fast-paced world. The digital age has redefined therapy and psychiatric care, making support more accessible than ever. To guide you towards a healthier state of mind, we’ve partnered with pioneering names in mental health.
Note: We collaborate with top-tier mental health companies and we earn a commission if you purchase services through our ads.

Online Therapy

Discover a path to emotional well-being with BetterHelp – your partner in convenient and affordable online therapy. With a vast network of 30,000+ licensed therapists, they’re committed to helping you find the one to support your needs. Take advantage of their Free Online Assessment, and connect with a therapist who truly understands you. Begin your journey today.

Relationship Counceling

Whether you’re facing communication challenges, trust issues, or simply seeking to strengthen your connection, ReGain’s experienced therapists are here to guide you and your partner toward a healthier, happier connection from the comfort of your own space. Get started.

Therapist Directory

Discover the perfect therapist who aligns with your goals and preferences, allowing you to take charge of your mental health. Whether you’re searching for a specialist based on your unique needs, experience level, insurance coverage, budget, or location, our user-friendly platform has you covered. Search here.

About the author

Eliana Galindo
Eliana is a dedicated psychologist from Colombia who has gained extensive experience and made significant contributions in child development, clinical psychology, and rehabilitation psychology. Her work as a rehabilitation psychologist with disabled children has been transformative and compassionate. In the child development field, she creates nurturing environments through assessments, interventions, and collaboration with families. In clinical psychology, she supports individuals overcoming mental health challenges with empathy and evidence-based approaches. Inspired by her experiences, Eliana is motivated to write about mental health, aiming to raise awareness and advocate for a compassionate and inclusive approach to well-being.

You might also be interested in


In some articles, we include products we think are useful for our readers. When you buy through these links on our site, we may earn an affiliate commission at no cost to you.

Information on our website is for educational and informational purposes only. You should not rely on this information as a substitute, nor does it replace professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment.

If you have any concerns or questions about your health, you should always consult with a mental healthcare professional.

If you need an immediate assistance:

Medical Emergency (US) – 911
Medical Emergency (Global) – 112
Suicide & Crisis Lifeline – 988
Full List of Emergency Resources 

Online Therapy, Your Way

Discover the ease of starting therapy with BetterHelp. Complete the assessment and connect with a licensed professional therapist online.
Note: We earn a commission if you purchase services through our ads.