What Is Solution-Focused Brief Therapy?

Katelyn Hagerty FNP

Reviewed by Katelyn Hagerty, FNP

Written by Our Editorial Team

Published 01/04/2022

Updated 01/05/2022

Maybe you can relate to this one. You’re overwhelmed. You’re handling life’s challenges well, but you could use some extra help. You decide it’s time to give therapy a shot.

What kind of therapy should you seek out?

As men, we know there’s a stigma to admitting that you need a helping hand. 

But, today, we recognize that our mental health challenges are both common and important, and that we should address them with care, compassion and consistency.

There’s a number of therapeutic means to help you help yourself, and picking the method that’s best for you may be a job left to both you and your chosen mental health provider.

One newer form of therapy, for instance, is Solution-Focused Brief Therapy, or SFBT.

What is this new therapeutic approach to mental health? What are some of the other options at your disposal? Let’s dig in.

What Is Solution-Focused Brief Therapy?

SFBT is a form of therapy whose aim is to quickly enhance one’s quality of life with solution-focused practices by creating a positive framing to present and future life experiences. 

First developed in the 1980s, Solution-Focused Brief Therapy is a therapeutic methodology that emphasizes the patient construct a solutions-focused approach to tackling their dilemmas and maladies.

By design, a patient’s past does not come under the same microscopic scrutiny as it typically would in a traditional psycho-therapeutic dynamic.

That’s not to say that the past bears no weight at all. None of us can totally shake our histories. 

What a solution-focused therapy like SFBT does, however, is try to create better balance between one’s past with focusing on the fact that the patient has lots of life to live — focusing, even, on the control a patient has in constructing their future into one that’s bright and optimistic.

Adding a wrinkle to the uniqueness of this practice is the “B” for “brief” in SFBT — it’s there for a reason. The point of SFBT is to typically last for less than ten sessions

Does Solution-Focused Brief Therapy Work?

While researchers are still studying SFBT to learn where its place in modern mental health belongs, so far, things seem positive.

In one study, researchers analyzed 15 different studies to glean confidence as to whether SFBT was an effective treatment. 

While the researchers concluded they could not definitively express full confidence that SFBT worked, they concluded nevertheless that solution-focused therapy like SFBT bore an encouraging degree of effectiveness.

The same study found that SFBT was better than no treatment and standard psychological treatments alike.

Another study offered more encouraging data and conclusions when it comes to SFBT’s effectiveness.

In the study, therapists used SFBT in treating 30 patients with breast cancer suffering from excessive stress and depression.

Researchers found that when SFBT was administered to cancer patients, the SFBT resulted in reduced rates of anxiety and depression in patients. 

By having patients focus on the future — constructing their own sunny future — they were able to better emotionally withstand and confront their cancer.

Though the sample was decidedly small and it’s clear more research needs to be conducted before we can say anything definitively, the results so far are promising.

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How Does SFBT Work?

There are a number of ways to think of SFBT when employed in real-life scenarios. 

To give a more full-bodied glimpse into SFBT and how it works, here’s an example of how therapy sessions were constructed in this aforementioned study. 

First Session

Understand the purpose of this new brand of therapy, and then construct a list of concrete, attainable goals that aren’t necessarily positive in outcome, but positive in process.

Second Session

Understand how different psychological methods assist patients in coping with their problems. 

Third Session

Eliminate the idea of a perfect therapeutic outcome, otherwise known as “The Miracle Question.” Instead, focus on the here and now: how can you make it better right now?

Fourth Session

Find situations that cause you trouble, and then construct solutions within those situations to decrease the trouble they cause you. 

Understand that there are positive elements to any problem one finds themselves in. As a result, focus on the positive.

Fifth Session

Better understand your strengths — as well as your agency — in solving problems. 

Sixth Session

Focus on this word: instead.

Break down your problems by using instead when analyzing trying scenarios. By putting a different interpretive spin on a situation causing distress, anxiety or depression, the purpose of this exercise is to give the patient a better sense of control over their lives.

Seventh Session

Get an understanding of the progress you’ve made by employing SFBT. Give yourself a pat on the back, even — shoot, you’re beginning to see that this stuff is really working!

Is SFBT Effective?

It may be. Researchers have found that the description of one’s goals to their therapeutic practice is an effective way to glean a better mental health state. 

Better yet, the determination of a patient’s goals in their therapy session gave them a concrete sense of when their therapy session would end and, as a result, how to palpably measure the results of the therapy itself.

In theory, the goal of concrete solutions forces patients to neglect any kind of Miracle Question — thus the hope of any Miracle Cure — for their problems, and instead focus on what they could control in the present.

SFBT chooses to focus on the tactical, positive gains and insights one gleans from the therapy itself.

Proponents of SFBT believe that coupling analytical rigor (i.e., “How have I made changes since therapy began, and how effective have these changes been?”) with the building of positive, consistent habits of mind, forms a snowball effect. 

This very snowball effect, researchers believe, leads to consistent, positive results. 

Further, and to the relief of patients, by giving the patient the analytical and verbal tools they need in addressing their mental health needs, they simply don’t need to be in therapy as long as they initially believed.

Whether it’s severe depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, alcohol abuse or other challenges — the effects of solution-focused therapy are encouraging.

Are There Other Kinds of Therapy Out There?

There’s a wide variety of therapy and therapeutics to get you on the proverbial good foot.

We’re going to list a few to give you a better sense of what’s out there.

Some may be for you, others might not — and that’s okay!

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)

CBT is one of the most commonly practiced forms of psychotherapy. In CBT, the patient understands how they think, behave and feel. 

After that analysis, the patient comes to understand how their life experiences — their thoughts and feelings — are interconnected, and then learns ways to analyze, frame and improve the way they think, behave and feel.

Psychodynamic Therapy

Psychodynamic therapy’s focus is on the unconscious, the past’s influence on the unconscious and how the past and the unconscious influence our present behavior.

Think of Psychodynamic Therapy as a counterpoint to SFBT.

Behavioral Therapy

Behavioral therapy takes the stance that our behaviors influence our mental well-being. 

Behaviorists believe that scrutinizing and changing our behaviors is the point-of-entry when it comes to improving our mental well-being. If we can change the way we behave, we can change the way we feel.

Group Therapy

Although daunting to confront your challenges in a group setting, group therapy has been shown to be an effective means of improving mental well-being.Group therapy is just how it sounds: you enter into a group of people, typically with shared reasons for their being in group therapy, and then work with a professional to improve your personal mental health state together.

Interpersonal Therapy

Interpersonal therapy focuses on attachment bonds and communication in understanding a patient’s mental health state. 

Interpersonal therapy believes a patient’s relationships are the critical way by which we can understand a patient’s mental makeup.

Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT)

DBT is a holistic approach to mental healthcare, most commonly used to treat patients with borderline personality disorder (BPD) or to resolve conflicts between multiple parties. 

DBT combines a wide range of therapies, including one-on-one therapy and group therapy, to achieve a lasting, positive result in patients.

Supportive Therapy

Supportive therapy, or supportive psychotherapy (SP), lacks a coherent clinical theory. 

Instead, it’s an amalgamation of multiple forms of therapy, such as self-psychology, attachment theory and others.

It’s important to note that psychologists and psychiatrists both can employ these methods in their treatment programs for their patients. 

However, only psychiatrists can prescribe medication in conjunction with these types of treatments.

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Solution-Focused Brief Therapy: In Conclusion

There are so many effective ways for you to find the mental health treatment you need and deserve. 

What’s important is you find what works for you and stick with it.

Solution-Focused Brief Therapy is an increasingly popular form of therapy that takes a proactive approach to finding immediate solutions to present problems in the here and now.

While the research is still emerging on solution-focused therapy or a solution-focused approach to therapy, it appears that SFBT may be helpful in the treatment of issues like depression and anxiety. 

Doesn’t sound like your speed? That’s okay, because there are plenty of alternatives out there.

Whether it’s psychological or psychiatric care, hims offers plenty of resources to help you help yourself. 

There’s help out there for you right now. Don’t be afraid to get it.

12 Sources

Hims & Hers has strict sourcing guidelines to ensure our content is accurate and current. We rely on peer-reviewed studies, academic research institutions, and medical associations. We strive to use primary sources and refrain from using tertiary references.

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This article is for informational purposes only and does not constitute medical advice. The information contained herein is not a substitute for and should never be relied upon for professional medical advice. Always talk to your doctor about the risks and benefits of any treatment. Learn more about our editorial standards here.