Solution focused therapy

Solution-focused therapy is a therapy that focuses on the client’s present and future, as opposed to the past. Normally as a therapist, I will be a strong advocate of an exploration of the past to understand the problems of the present, and solution-focused therapy has the benefit of either working independently of that premise, or in conjunction with it. It is a very versatile technique.


The aim of solution-focused therapy is for the therapist to present the client with a form of therapy that offers them the ability to develop the client’s own vision of the future that they wish to obtain. To do this the therapist will offer them support and provide the skills, resources and abilities needed to help the client shape the future into what they want to do, with the overarching goal of promoting good mental health.

Solution-focused therapy was developed in the latter half of the 20th century and it was designed specifically to assist not only clients, but also therapists in promoting effective therapy. Like most therapies, it is one that is constantly evolving and it has proved for the past 40+ years to be effective across both Western and Eastern hemispheres. It can be very effectively applied in a multitude of situations, such as places of employment and schools.

The therapy is designed to function by offering stability to the client by giving them some simple grounding techniques, allowing them to stabilise the present moment, and then allow them to use a variety of tools to promote their vision for the future. The way in which the therapist will encourage the promotion of the vision of the future is to find and acknowledge all successes that the client is having. For example, if we have a client who is agoraphobic, the acknowledgement and positive reinforcement of taking a step outside of their home is a massive achievement, and as such it will promote further successes. The next session may involve the client actually moving from the front door to their gate, and then down the street to the shops. Solution-focused therapy is a therapeutic model that highlights the sheer power of positivity and how it can overcome negativity.

The miracle question

The 'miracle question' establishes within the client’s mind what the situation would look like without the problem. Let us place this into a little bit of context:

Imagine that you have spent a great deal of time and effort to organise a move to a new property. It’s the house of your dreams; when you went to view it, it was excellent. But when you finally get there you realise you might as well have moved into a cesspool. This creates a range of emotions; anger, disappointment, sadness, despair - and they are all going to flood onto you. A 'miracle question' in this situation would be: 'what do you want your house to look like in the future?' Now, this poses the question of 'what will it look like without the filth, the detritus and the emotional trauma thereof?'. This allows the client to build their own perception of what the house would be like and then they can take small steps to achieve that goal by working backwards. So, we have on one side of the equation; the messy house, and on the other; the perfect house. Therefore you work through the steps that are needed to get from one to the other, such as cleaning, maybe a bit of decorating, any electrical or plumbing work that needs doing, and then gradually move towards your ideal home.

Solution-focused therapy is very good at promoting a system whereby the client feels empowered to take charge of the situation and therefore look towards finding a speedy resolution rather than being held back by negativity.

Integrative approach

There are some downsides to solution-focused therapy. For example, solution-focused therapy does discard a lot during its treatment modalities. For example, when looking from the current situation to the improved situation it does not examine any maladaptive thoughts or reasons as to why there may be that link. These are not typically explored within a solution-focused session. However, they can be explored with alternative forms of therapy, or with an integrative approach; whereby the therapist will use solution-focused goals to promote one area of therapy, after the exploration of a more in-depth issue.

Research is still on-going into this modality, as it is with every single psychological modality. However, statistically speaking, it has been recognised that the people who enter into this form of therapy often have greater benefits than people who do not seek therapy. Again, results will be dependent upon the individual and whether that is the right treatment for them, hence why more research is needed to gain more concrete facts behind such a claim.

The views expressed in this article are those of the author. All articles published on Counselling Directory are reviewed by our editorial team.

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Normanton, West Yorkshire, WF6 2DB
Written by Brian Turner, BA (Hons.) MNCS Snr Accred / Supervisor. (Prof. Dip PsyC)
Normanton, West Yorkshire, WF6 2DB

I am a psychotherapist that works with anxiety depression and suicidal issues. I use a diverse and wide spectrum of techniques to ensure that my clients feel empowered and confident, so they are able to achieve what they wish to achieve when presenting with a broad range of issues.

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