Solution Focused Therapy: Doing Something Different

Solution-Focused Therapy (SFT) or Solution Focused Brief Therapy is a relatively modern form of therapy that focuses on solutions and the future instead of the past and problems and includes such techniques as the Miracle Question. It relies on the strengths and resources of the client, and looks to build on what’s working. The following are excerpts from the Solution-Focused Therapy book Doing Something Different: Solution-Focused Brief Therapy Practices edited by Thorana Nelson.

Doing Something Different

Solution-Focused Brief Therapy Practices


Chapter 7:  A Convergent Couple Scale

-The couple scale. (25)

-The corners of the room stand for the zero to ten of the scale. (25)

-Placing the couple at corners of the room, noting that the midpoint is what they are aiming for, and asking them to move to where they are now. (26)

-This scale is useful when couples want to be closer or want some form of reconnection. (26)

-For larger groups forming a circle, the edge is the zero of the scale. (27)


Chapter 8:  “Dis-Ease” Free First Session Exercise

-The first session is viewed as high-impact time and may be the only encounter you ever have with these people. (29)

-Find out their names, ages, how they got referred to you, and what happened that made them call you now as opposed to last week, last month, etc.  This provides information about what types of clients they are and their motivation for change. (29)

-Ask the clients if they have ever been to a health care professional (like you) before. (29)

-Ask the clients if they found this past professional or therapy helpful and useful.  The focus at this point is to pay careful, detailed attention to what clients report as helpful, because our job is to do more of this. (30)

-We want to make sure we do not repeat a situation that is not helpful. (30)

-Tell the clients that people who seek out or are brought to the attention of health care professionals are there in your office because they are experiencing their lives as being out of balance.  There is something that is bringing them to you at this time that is requiring attention. (30)

-Hand the clients a clipboard or a pad of paper and a pen. (30)

-Your only request of them is that until the exercise is finished, you want them not to speak or ask questions. (30)

-When the instructions for the assignment have been reviewed with the clients, ask them whether they are ready for you to ask the question.  They will nod, again establishing the “yes” set.  Tell the clients you are going to ask them one question and you would like them to write down one or three answers in response to the question you ask.  One or three—not two.  Tell them what you are interested in is the first thoughts that pop into their minds.  Tell them that their answer or answers can be in any form of a thought, word, or phrase and can be as silly as serious as they like, that they should not limit the answer, just please write down the first things that occur. (31)

-Then you say, “There is something that made you come to this office today.  What do you want?” (31)

-“You came here today because you either want or need something.”  Then repeat, “What do you want?” (32)

-Then ask the clients to sign their names and put the date at the top of the paper.  Congratulations.  You have just created the treatment plan established and created by the client.  (32)


Chapter 12:  Sparkling Moments

-As an intervention, this seemed to me to be amongst the most minimal that I could imagine; merely a description of what each family member hoped for from the therapy, how each would know that what he or she hoped for was happening, and then as an anecdote from each—an account of something that had happened that gave hope that the family could change. (50)


Chapter 16:  Focus on Microprogression in Solution-Focused Conflict Resolution

-A good way to use microprogression is to summarize what has been said, using slightly more positive words. (62)

-Mutualising means summarizing in such a way that all parties can agree with the summary. (63)

-A solution-focused coach addresses a common interest or a common good intention to which all parties say yes. (63)

-Listening to microprogression is a very important skill.  A team member will say something like this:  “Everybody is fed up; nobody wants this.”  This comment is an example of microprogression.  It is a negative comment, which has a positive opposite to it because if nobody wants it like it is now, what does everybody want it to become?” (63)

-It is important not to be too enthusiastic in response to small examples of improvements because, if the solution-focused coach is more positive than the team members, they will feel that the coach is trying to convince them. (64)

-Leap frogging/jumping over a problem (65)

  • Suppose the problem is solved, what will be better then?
  • Suppose the problem is solved, how would you notice that?
  • What is the first thing that would tell you the problem has gone?

-Focus on what the client wants to change (65)

  • What is it that you would like to change?
  • What do you want to be different?  What would you like to be different?

-Exploring the desired success for the client (65)

  • What would you want instead of (the problem)?
  • How would you like things to be different?
  • What could you do when the problem was solved?


Chapter 18:  Opening for Brief Coaching Sessions

-In brief coaching sessions, the first task of the coach is to negotiate a goal for the session with the client. (74)

-To identify the issue the client would like to wok on, use a question such as one of the following: (74)

  • What needs to happen in our conversation today so that it will turn out to be really useful for you?
  • What do you want to be different as a result of coming here?

-Be sure not to miss anything.  (What else?) (75)

-Protocol used in coaching (75)

  • Problem description:  “How can I be of help to you?”
  • Check how the issue is a problem for them:  “How is this a problem for you?”
  • Explore attempted solutions:  “What have you tried in the past?  Was it helpful?”

-In a follow-up session, ask the client, “What is better?” and “When you do X, what will be different for you?” (75)


Chapter 27:  Engaging the Imagination

-The underlying theme of the solution-focused model is associated with the future of co-construction between the therapist and the client of a picture of what life might look like if the problem were solved or being dealt with more effectively. (119)

-Gives the client the opportunity to give a description of life without the problem/presenting issue in as much detail as possible through a lens that fits the client’s worldview. (120)

-The words that ultimately make a difference are the words a client hears himself or herself say.  The coach’s job is to ask the questions that release these words. (120)


Chapter 38:  Supervision E-Mail from the Future

-As a starter, could you send me an ‘e-mail from the future’?  Pick a point in time 6-24 months from now and send an e-mail letting me know in what ways supervision has been useful and what the key factors were from your part and mine? (163)

-Regardless of how they have used the e-mail, supervisees have been surprised at how close their achievements have been to the original e-mail. (164)


Chapter 40:  Circle Exercise

-“What did you accomplish last year that you are pleased about?  It can concern small successes or big successes both in your work and in your private life.  It can also concern a problem that you solved or a difficulty you overcame; that is also a success.” (172)

-“What would you like to achieve by the end of the coming year in your work or your private life?  You can mention small, practical goals or bigger ones that need more time.” (173)

-“What number would you give on a scale of 0 to 10 at this moment, with 10 meaning that you have reached your goal?  What tells you that you are on a 4 or 5 or 6?  How would you know that you have climbed one number on the scale?  What will then be different?” (173)






Chapter 44:  A 10-Minute Solution-Focused Interview Training Exercise (184)


Outline:  A 10-Minute Solution-Focused Conversation (184)

  • What are your hopes?
  • Suppose that you… [achieve those best hopes].  What will be different?

ü  What else?

ü  Who else will notice?

  • On a scale from 1 to 10, if 10 stands for…[finish scaling question about person’s goal]

ü  Where are you now?

ü  Where do you want to be?

ü  What will be different when you are one step higher on the scale?

  • What are you already doing that is on track?

ü  What else are you doing that is on track?

  • What is the next small step?
  • Anything else?
  • [Complement]


Chapter 45:  Workplace Training Exercises

-Participants think of a colleague with whom they find interaction difficult.  Participants are then asked to list in 3 minutes as many ways as possible that they have something in common with this person. (185)


Chapter 46:  Four Constructive Conversations

-In the first condition, the counselor begins with, “What you should do is…”  In the second condition, the counselor begins with, “I wonder what would happen if you…” (187)


Chapter 51:  Psychiatry Should Be a Parenthesis in People’s Lives

-What happens in therapy should never be an important subject in the therapy sessions.  It’s what happens between the sessions that contains what is important to talk about. (212)


Chapter 67:  Favorite Questions, Quotes, and Ideas (275)

-“What’s better?”

-“What would you like to see different or better as a result of our meeting?”

-If it works, do more of it; if it doesn’t work, try something else.

-“What else?”

-“What do you do that already works?”

-“How did you do that?  That couldn’t have been easy!”



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