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Solution Focused Brief Therapy (SFBT)

Solution focused brief therapy (SFBT) was developed by Steve de Shazer, Insoo Kim Berg, and their colleagues at the Brief Family Therapy Center, Milwaukee, in the 1970s (de Shazer et al., 1986). It is based on the work of psychiatrist and noted hypnotherapist Milton H. Erickson. SFBT differs from problem-based therapies. SFBT focuses on finding solutions and attends only minimally to defining or understanding presenting problems. It is typically very brief—in the order of three to five sessions. The questioning style explores the client’s preferred futures (goals) in the context of the client’s current resources and behaviors. Therapeutic elements may include ‘problem-free talk’ as well as the ‘miracle question’ and ratings of progress scales (Ratner, George, Iverson, 2012). Read more
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Motivation and Ambivalence

Motivation is a necessary precursor to change, yet many clients are ambivalent about the process of change. The Motivation And Ambivalence worksheets ...

Problem Solving (CYP)

Effective problem solving is an essential life skill and this Problem Solving worksheet is designed to guide children and adolescents through steps wh ...

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Guides and workbooks

Information (Professional)

  • The miracle question (Steve de Shazer) | Brief Family Therapy Center | 2000
  • SFBT handout | Vinnicombe
  • The miracle question and follow up questions | Pennsylvania Child Welfare Training Program
  • Solution focused communication handbook | Fletcher Peacock
  • Solution focused interviewing skills | The Pennsylvania Child Welfare Training Program
  • Solution-focused interventions for prolonged grief | Macdonald

Treatment Guide

  • Solution Focused Therapy treatment manual for working with individuals | Bavelas, De Jong, Franklin, Froerer, Gingerich, Kim, Korman, Langer, Yee Lee, McCollum, Smock, Jordan, Trepper | 2013
  • Solution focused practice: a toolkit for working with children and young people | NSPCC | 2015

Recommended Reading

  • Iveson, C. (2002). Solution-focused brief therapy. Advances in Psychiatric Treatment, 8, 149-156
  • Kim, J. S. (2007). Examining the effectiveness of solution-focused brief therapy: A meta-analysis. Research on Social Work Practice

What Is Solution Focused Brief Therapy?

Assumptions of SFBT

  • Clients are competent at conceptualizing a future that is more satisfying and understanding upon which of their strengths and resources they can draw to achieve change.
  • The client is the expert of their problems.
  • You cannot change clients, they can only change themselves.
  • Exploring and affirming the client’s perceptions in the terms that the client describes them is a helpful way of bringing about change.
  • It is the therapist’s job to learn the language of the client.
  • Change is constant and inevitable.
  • One cannot change the past and so one should concentrate on the future.

Procedures and Techniques of SFBT

  • listening for and highlighting client strengths, successes, achievements, and resources (looking for what is right and how to use it);
  • co-construction of goals framed in concrete and positive terms (i.e., what the clients wants to be present, rather than a description of the absence of problems);
  • the miracle question as a future-focused way of envisioning a more satisfying life;
  • exception-finding questions that listen for and attend to client’s successes through exceptions to the problem;
  • scaling questions that help to move clients away from entrenched ‘on’ or ‘off’ thinking;
  • coping questions that can help to engender a sense of hopefulness and control.


  • De Shazer, S., Berg, I. K., Lipchik, E., Nunnally, E., Molnar, A., Gingerich, W., & Weiner‐Davis, M. (1986). Brief therapy: Focused solution development. Family Process, 25(2), 207–221.
  • Ratner, H., George, E., & Iveson, C. (2012). Solution focused brief therapy: 100 key points and techniques. New York: Routledge.