The Solution Focused Brief Therapy Approach
The Solution Focused Approach is a competency-based approach that owes its origins to Milton Erickson. Holding no theory of pathology, Erickson was interested in what helped people to change – he worked with the innate abilities of each person to bring about the desired changes they envisioned.
Milton Erickson’s work was harnessed by the psychotherapists Steve deShazer and Insoo Kim Berg in the 1970s to create a collaborative approach encouraging people to talk about preferred futures rather than tracing the pathology of the problem – the Solution Focused Brief Therapy Model. The approach allows for future-focused, strengths based conversations to help individuals and groups to create change
“I have started to use the approach to empower patients with anxiety and depression by positive reframing and getting them to articulate coping strategies that have helped so far. When using this approach, I have consciously delayed the decision to start psychotropic medication. I feel it was a skill that was not difficult to learn and I can see multiple potential uses for it”.
Dr Imogen Brunner, GP, London
“A fantastic course that was a pleasure to be a part of. It has provided me with invaluable tools to use in a school environment. The strategies have already been put to good use. I can not thank you enough. Best course I have ever attended, so useful and so much fun”.
Lauren Seal, Head of Year 8, English Martyrs, Leicester
“Right from the start, I felt that the ethos of solution focused intervention would be a brilliant way of working. I particularly felt that the Silent Session and the Visual Session were useful. This is one of the best training sessions I have ever been on. It was so interesting and I came away feeling totally enthused and full of ideas”.
Vicki Manger, Prevention Manager, Leicestershire Youth Offending Service
The Solution Focused Approach is not as stark as the title suggests, “just focusing on a solution to a problem” it is much more than this. It’s a way of working that helps people move forward rather than remain stuck in a problem or in a behaviour. The approach encourages the worker to be “curious” in their work: curious about times, for instance, when the problem behaviour has not been displayed or the individual has dealt with the difficulty differently. The worker is not distracted by the motivation for this exception but focuses on “how” the person achieved this.
Our training equips delegates with the tools and resources of this approach and the confidence to utilize them.
“It is in the Solution Focused conversation that the individual is encouraged to think anew about themselves and their capacity for achievement or change. When human beings are experiencing difficulties, we often get lost in a fog of failure but when someone investigates the exceptions to this, elicits our strengths, asks small, detailed questions about how we achieved – we can regain some experience of any small success and build on this. Phrases like “catching people doing something right” can often be considered as a bit glib or lightweight – but it is a truism that little encourages changed behaviour, increased skill level or new thinking quicker than someone noticing even the smallest of successes and building our confidence in that moment“.
The ethos of our work is about acknowledging what has gone wrong and offering people a new place to start from. People need to be heard and need to have their problems aired – but it would be a sad intervention that kept them there
Our own experience, as practitioners, is that people are more attracted to talking about the start of new behaviour than talking about the stopping of old behaviour. Simple conversations can often be instrumental in helping people move on – Who? What? Where? and When? are not only good journalistic skills, they are extremely effective therapeutic skills.
The focus of our work is always that of collaboration with the client. The client is the expert on what works for them; what worked a little in the past; what might work a little in the future – we strive to harness that expertise in the work towards repair and change.
In addition to Solution Focused Approaches, we use the resources and visuals of the Examine, Repair & Move On Approach (Murphy ’93) which Eileen Murphy first devised when working with challenging young people in 1993. These simple effective tools offer the client the opportunity to identify the change that needs to happen and who can do what to help change take place. We also utilize our Optima Communication Skills (Murphy ’06) – devised over 25 years of working with challenging and disaffected client. We include all three models in our training.
We provide 1, 2 and 3 day inhouse training courses across the UK and also offer specialist staff and project development training programmes.
One of our specialist 7 and 12 day programme, The Prevention & Intervention Programme– a whole-team “unique under Tender Regulations” staff training and project development programme, provides a positive and collaborative framework that has been utilized by local authorities to reduce the numbers of young people and children coming into the care system under Section 20 of The Children Act 1989. Youth Offending, Education and Community groups have also commissioned the programme in their work to bring about a reduction in school non-attendance and youth anti-social behaviour. The programme has been commissioned by twenty four Local Authorities and voluntary organisations to date as a front line resource, making considerable financial savings while attracting social care awards.
Our training includes a framework that provides workers with a reminder that successful outcomes rely on establishing what works for the client; what doesn’t work for the client; what attracts; what repels and what the client’s preferred future looks like. Solution Focused Workers ensure that we use our expertise in collaboration with the expertise of the individual – the real expert on how they live their life. Below are some examples of the Solution Focused language along with our own resources that included in our training:
Steve deShazer’s 1-10 Scaling Question is a useful therapeutic tool to gauge where the client currently places themselves in relation to their desired outcomes. Taking the scaling up in quarters gives both the worker and the individual the opportunity to hear small, practical, real details of any changes or progress that has already been made and how further progress or change would look higher up the scale.
The approach encourages a curiosity about that small difference and encourages discussion about further moves towards a better outcome for the individual.
Steve deShazer’s use of “Reframing” offers an opportunity to allow the client a new viewing of themselves and their behaviour. If we only work on the label a client has for themselves, or has been given by others, as “stubborn” for instance – we would miss the opportunity to reframe to “determined”. This reframe can lead to discussions about “how determined the person is to make progress in their lives”.
Harnessing Steve deShazer’s focus on preferred futures and visualisation in small detail about tomorrow rather than tracing the pathology of yesterday – this method allows for all to examine what change would look like; what the benefits will be, including physical, emotional and practical. Asking about what is working today and what would a better outcome look like tomorrow is helpful to the client in the move forward.
THE SILENT SESSION (Murphy ’06)
Eileen Murphy developed the Silent Session framework when working with extremely resistant clients, including young people who had been referred through statutory services. Since then, many clients have made use of it as a non-intrusive way to be guided on a journey of change. These Silent Sessions do not , of course, take precedent over safeguarding practices – it is a tool to engage and to offer an opportunity for reflection before the move towards action tasks. All of our training courses now include a slot on this tool and its benefits. The Silent Session harnesses Solution Focused language; NLP, neuroscience findings, the specific resources of the Examine Repair & Move On Approach (E.Murphy ’93) and the Placebo principles of “expectation”.
Having spent many years working with young people to encourage them to protect themselves around drug misuse; inappropriate sexual relationships; gang recruitment etc – Eileen started “asking” rather than “advising”, i.e. “given that you will come into contact with lots of people who may offer you drugs – how do you keep yourself safe around that?”
The presumption is always that they are doing so and young people often proceed to tell exactly how – for instance a young man recently told us “I just say I had a bad trip last time – they give you less hassle if you have had a bad experience rather than if you just don’t want to get involved“. When he was asked if this strategy worked for him all the time – he replied that he had just thought about it in that moment and had in fact not used it before but would now as it seemed a good idea to him.
The “presumptions” strategy allows for people to think more deeply about issues affecting their lives and can certainly reduce the “I don’t knows…..” than can occur when young people are trying to avoid the question. Eileen maintains that she doesn’t mind, if all else fails, if the young person is “making up the answer” because, she says, “he would only make it up from his own ingredients – and this alone can offer a starting point of change“.
VISUALS AND MONITOR CHARTS (Murphy ’93):
The Consultancy have devised very effective visuals for use with clients across all fields but these are especially useful with young people. The safety of the child is paramount in all of our work and the Change Balloon (Murphy ’93) ensures that children, especially, are given the opportunity to be heard. The Monitor Chart allow for a simple, recording for the individual on how they reached their goal? Who else did what to help? What difference did it make? Especially valued in schools is The Notice Board – for use in the Staff Room or delivered direct to staff’s email, this simple, cost-free resource kick-starts the “catching pupils doing something right” strategy in schools. These visuals and Charts are always uniquely tailored to the individual.
The language and collaborative ethos of the three methods we use in our training, allows for its application across diverse fields – the menu bar gives further information about our specialist training and development programmes.
For further details, please contact us on Tel: 0208 947 8093 or 07779 242 289 or email