Social Focused Therapy

Solution focused therapy is very goal oriented. Solution focused therapists do not believe in attributing labels to clients (de Shazer,1991; de Shazer, 1985). They believe that there is not a normal way for people to behave, rather that people are intermittently exhibiting or feeling something that occurs and they want to do less of it (Becvar & Becvar,2003; Walter & Peller, 1992). The solution focused therapist believes that the presented problem is not always occurring and that the client always experiences exceptions to the problem (de Shazer, 1991). Once the client recognizes the exceptions they can explore how the exceptions occur and do more of it (Becvar & Becvar; de Shazer, 1988).

The therapy uses measurable goals that can be approximated. The goal description is helpful when it is explained in concrete form (de Shazer, 1994; Nichols, 2010). It is important to the solution focused therapist that the client feels the therapist understands the problem (Walter & Peller, 1992). Clients are encouraged to describe how they will know when the problem is no longer present so that a measurable end goal can be established (de Shazer, 1994; Nichols, 2010).

Clients that come into therapy are measured by their level of motivation (de Shazer, 1988). Three levels of motivation are assigned to the clients: Visitor, Complainant, and Customer. The Visitor does not have a specific problem to work on and is the least motivated to work toward change. The therapist is encouraged to establish a positive relationship with these clients and compliment positive attempts at motivation. Complainant clients bring a problem to session but only want to complain about it, showing unwillingness toward working on a resolution. The therapist is encouraged to ask the client to observe when exceptions have occurred. The Customer can identify a specific problem that needs to be resolved and is motivated to resolving it. The therapist is encouraged to use all solution focused tools with these clients (de Shazer).

Role of the Therapist in Solution Focused Therapy

The goal of solution focused therapy is to find client’s strengths and solutions that are already working and have the client do more of it (de Shazer, 1988; Walter & Peller, 1992). This is done by the therapist being inquisitive and positive (de Shazer, 1988). The therapist believes that the client has the ability to change and has it in himself to find the answers to his problem (de Shazer, 1994). The therapist believes that the client already experiences change daily and that these changes can be expounded upon by the way the therapist interacts with the client (Walter & Peller, 1992).

There are several techniques that help clients identify change that occurs in their life. Formula first session task is when the therapist asks the client to pay close attention to the positives that occur between the first and second session. They are asked to identify what they would like to do more of (de Shazer, 1988). Miracle question helps the client identify what they would like their life to be like if a miracle occurred. The client is asked how they will be acting different and what others will notice that is different about them. The client may be asked what about incremental changes that occurred preceding the miracle (de Shazer, 1994). Exception questions help the client to explore times when they are not experiencing the problem, when they have momentarily resolved the problem, or reacted in a positive way to the problem. The client is then asked to explore how they did it and how to do more of it (de Shazer, 1991). Scaling questions are often used when it is difficult to measure success, such as when goals are abstract. The therapist will use a rating scale (ie. 0-10) that the client self-assesses. The therapist can then assist the client in exploring how they achieved the success and ways to continue (de Shazer, 1994). Coping questions help clients to recognize that they are coping well in a difficult situation, often better than others could. Clients are encouraged to explore how they are doing it (Walter & Peller, 1992). Complimentary questions focus on how the client was able to overcome a task that was difficult (de Shazer, 1985).

Underlying Assumptions in Solution Focused Therap

There is a dichotomy of negotiable and non-negotiable facts that the client brings to the interview. It is very possible for the therapist to negotiate the meanings of the negotiable facts by means of the type of information gathering questions that the therapist asks. If the therapist validates the negotiable facts that are not in the interest of the clients well-being then therapy is greatly restricted (de Shazer, 1994). When the therapist is getting the facts about the client, it is important to leave options open for negotiability (de Shazer, 1985; de Shazer, 1988; de Shazer, 1994).

What the therapist chooses to ask about or to comment on helps to determine how clients construct their experiences and therefore what they report and how they report on it…therapist and client co-construct the therapeutic interview and thus they are co-authors of their shared reality. (de Shazer, 1988, p.12)

Therapy is “nothing but a bunch of talk” (de Shazer 1994, p.3), where the therapist pays interest to those parts of the client’s life the client has shown an ability to change. Then as the therapist asks questions about these incidences, the client’s belief that change is occurring grows and grows until the client achieves the desired change (de Shazer, 1994). Soon the person will begin to see life as not being controlled by the problem. He will see that they have influence in their life and are often times without the problem. He will begin to look at the big picture and see that he is a different person than he thought he was (de Shazer, 1985).

As clients see the big picture, their brain will make instances, in the past and future, stand out. These instances will correspond with the clients new depictions of self. In this way, the past and the future will come into congruence with the client’s new reality (de Shazer, 1988). This reality will be one in which the client is able to recognize and utilize strengths that he has had all along but never paid attention too (de Shazer, 1994). These strengths will assist the client in overcoming the presenting problem and future obstacles in his life (Walter & Peller, 1992).