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Inbetween—Neither Inside nor Outside: The Radical Simplicity of Solution-Focused Brief Therapy

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Abstract

Summary In this paper we attempt to set out some crucial ways in which we see the practice of Solution-Focused Brief Therapy (SFBT) as differing from other forms of therapy. We propose that these differences may have arisen because of the ways in which Steve de Shazer was introduced to therapy. Chief amongst the differences are the ways in which we act as if humans are neither driven from the inside by some kind of mentalistic or molecular framework, nor are they driven from the outside by systems or social forces. With good research evidence for the efficacy of SF practice, we propose that for nearly thirty years we SFBT practitioners have talked about what we do and the time has now come to be clear and explicit about what we do not do and what assumptions we do not use. This paper is based on conversations at the EBTA 2007 conference in Bruges. We hope that it will stimulate discussions within the SF field. We intend to produce another version of these ideas for a wider audience as soon as possible.
... As van der Kolk wrote: "The challenge of trauma treatment is not only dealing with the past but, even more, enhancing the quality of day-to-day experience" (van der Kolk, 2015, p. 73). Preferred future focus is exactly about day-to-day experiences of a life not dominated by the problem (trauma) (McKergow & Korman, 2009). The picture also shows possible areas for co-creating a preferred future with clients based on Harry Korman's model for thick descriptions of preferred future (Zatloukal & Tkadlčíková, 2020). ...
... For SFBT therapists, the idea of the social construction of reality is important (de Shazer, 1994;de Shazer et al., 2007). Meanings are not fixed, but co-created in conversations (McKergow & Korman, 2009), and the "uncertainty principle" is applied to the meaning-making processes (O'Hanlon & Weiner-Davis, 2003). There are many ways to change the meaning of problems in psychotherapy, including "trauma." ...
... SFBT emphasizes the role of language in co-constructing reality (Berg & De Jong, 1996;McKergow & Korman, 2009;McKergow, 2016), and is a change-oriented/ difference-oriented approach. When clients present for therapy, they are inherently asking the therapist to help them to change or do something different. ...
... In SFBT, therapy focuses primarily on the client's preferred outcome and their strengths and resources (Berg & Jong, 1996;McKergow & Korman, 2009). This focus on change, resources, and problem-free talk distinguishes SFBT from many therapeutic models that promote exploring and expanding upon the issues that bring clients to therapy. ...
Article
A commonly stated critique of Solution Focused Brief Therapy (SFBT) is a lack of attention to the client's emotional experience and the use of emotion as a mechanism for producing meaningful change. We review and define the current research regarding emotion, feeling, and affect and its value and relevance to the clinical application of SFBT. We also provide a brief history of the SFBT model and its documented emphasis on cognitive and behavioral change versus emotional change. In embodying the spirit of this approach for examining what works and doing more of it, we propose a next step of SFBT to more overtly attend to the emotional language of clients and to purposefully create emotional experiences with our clients. We demonstrate this by providing clinical examples for how SFBT practitioners can incorporate and build upon clients' emotional language to create emotionally‐changing experiences to more broadly and effectively co‐create long‐lasting change.
... Although SFC has roots in therapeutic change methodologies originating in the 1960s, it fundamentally adopts a non-pathological approach to behaviour change (Grant, 2011b;Jackson & McKergow, 2007). Indeed, the crux of SFC is the identification of possible solutions to resolve problems and realise desired future outcomes, even when causal understanding of such problems is limited (Grant, 2012;McKergow & Korman, 2009). The antithesis of a SFC approach is a problem-focused coaching approach which prioritises appraisal of the root cause of a problem; however, both coaching methodologies still adopt an explicit focus on increasing goal-directed behaviour (McKergow & Korman, 2009). ...
... Indeed, the crux of SFC is the identification of possible solutions to resolve problems and realise desired future outcomes, even when causal understanding of such problems is limited (Grant, 2012;McKergow & Korman, 2009). The antithesis of a SFC approach is a problem-focused coaching approach which prioritises appraisal of the root cause of a problem; however, both coaching methodologies still adopt an explicit focus on increasing goal-directed behaviour (McKergow & Korman, 2009). Both SFC and problem-focused coaching approaches can be administered in a coaching context in two forms: (a) as the framework for an in-depth conversation between a coach and coachee or (b) using written SFC or problem-focused coaching questions that can be self-administered and completed without the guidance of a coach. ...
Article
Mental contrasting with implementation intentions (MCII) and solution-focused coaching (SFC) questions are self-coaching interventions that share similar theoretical constructs and stimulate constructive thinking in terms of idealised future outcomes and realistic appraisal of one’s current situation. However, no research has compared the efficacy of these two self-coaching methodologies. This experiment aimed to compare the effect of MCII and SFC questions on goal-directed outcomes. We conducted an online experiment where 113 undergraduates described an important personal problem, completed pre-intervention assessment, performed a brief computer-guided intervention of MCII or SFC questions, and then completed post-intervention assessment. We found that MCII and SFC questions increased perceived goal progression, self-efficacy, and positive affect, and decreased negative affect, to a similar extent. Levels of problem clarity and solution-focused thinking were comparable at post-intervention between MCII and SFC questions. We observed two main differences between the interventions: (a) self-insight was higher following MCII than SFC questions and (b) expectations of success increased from SFC questions but remained unchanged from MCII. Our results suggest that coaches seeking to integrate evidence-based self-coaching methodologies into their coaching practice have scope to recommend either MCII or SFC questions as take-home exercises to help their clients maximise goal attainment.
... (Kogan, 1998, p. 247) As is evident from Kogan's comments, this is a relatively critical text based on certain assumptions whereby the therapist should significantly reflect the discourses associated with power and inequality, and perhaps even introduce his or her own reflections in the therapeutic conversation. Most solution-focused therapists will probably not agree with such an assumption, as it contradicts the very principles of the solution-focused approach (De Jong & Berg, 2008;McKergow & Korman, 2009). On the other hand, such an analysis reveals the potential weaknesses of the given approach and its theories, as it opens up new valuable opportunities for developing client resources that could otherwise be easily overlooked. ...
Article
This paper introduces discourse analysis in psychotherapy research as it is performed namely within the context of solution-focused brief therapy. It has the character of an overview study with a closer emphasis on several examples from the solution-focused context in relation to Discourse Analysis in individual, couple, or family therapy. In this text, the authors introduce examples of contemporary research that deal with the role of formulations in psychotherapy and counseling; the therapist pursuing a therapeutic agenda; and the process of change, as well as the broader psychotherapeutic discourse.
... This is because SFBT is used to find solutions to problems faced by individuals (Fajriani & Yulizar, 2020). As stated by Korman (in Mckergow & Korman, 2009) Research on the effectiveness of a counseling technique or approach to improve academic hardiness is hard to find. Sumarwiyah, Zamroni, & Hidayati, (2015) tested the effectiveness of reality group counseling to improve student academic hardiness by using the pretestposttest control group design, and obtained the results that the experimental group got a higher academic hardiness score than the control group, likewise, experimental research using Solution-Focused Brief Therapy (SFBT). ...
Article
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The background of the research is the importance of increasing competence for the younger generation as the nation's successor. This competence is related to the ability to face challenges, carry out commitments, and proper control in the midst of globalization which has positive and negative impacts. This capacity development can be developed through guidance interventions based on Solution-Focused Brief Therapy (SFBT). The purpose of this study was to analyzed the description of academic hardiness possessed by high school students in Aceh, and measured the effectiveness of guidance based on Solution-Focused Brief Therapy (SFBT) in developing academic hardiness of high school students in Aceh. This study used a quantitative approach with a quasi-experimental method (non-equivalent control group design). Data were collected using the modified Academic Hardiness Scale (AHS) from Benishek & Lopez based on three aspects of academic hardiness, specifically commitment, challenge, and control. The population of this research is 154 the MAS Imam Syafii students. The research sample consisted of 60 students who were divided into experimental and control groups. Based on the results of the paired samplet-test, there is a significant difference between the pre and post test results of students after being given SFBT-based guidance, but the results of the N-Gain analysis show that SFBT has a low effect in increasing the academic hardiness of MAS Imam Syafii students. To get a significant increase in academic hardiness, SFBT can also be given individually/group.
Chapter
A strength‐based perspective to reduce intimate partner violence (IPV) with men has historically been anathema to the field of practice. This chapter begins with a rationale for changing the traditional treatment approach to a strengths‐based paradigm by summarizing gaps in the existing evidence. This is followed by an overview of the strengths perspective and the application of the strengths perspective to IPV. Batter Intervention Programs are usually led by trained group facilitators who assist, direct, and challenge a group of men toward full accountability to stop abusive and controlling behavior. The chapter concludes with a summary of the application of solution‐focused practice and narrative therapy and their role with men in group treatment for violence against partners. Solution‐building and narrative therapy provide unique methods to help men be more engaged and proactive to end all violence against intimate partners.
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In this study, narrative therapy and solution-focused brief therapy, which are the postmodern psychotherapy methods, are compared in terms of similarities and differences. In the study, primarily theoretical information about narrative therapy and solution-focused short-term therapy, which differs from traditional psychotherapy methods, the techniques used, and information about therapeutic application processes are given. Then, narrative therapy and solution-focused short-term therapies are compared in terms of similarities and differences. As a result, although narrative therapy, which is a postmodernist and social constructivist psychotherapy method, and solution-focused short-term therapy, which is a postmodern, inductive, and constructivist psychotherapy approach, have great similarities in terms of both theoretical and therapeutic processes; they also seem to have some differences.
Thesis
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Bu araştırmada öğretmenlerde çözüm odaklı düşünme ile mutluluk ilişkisinde sürekli umut ve yaşam doyumunun aracı etkisinin belirlenmesine yönelik bir modeli test etmek amaçlanmıştır. Araştırmanın örneklemini 2020 - 2021 eğitim öğretim yılında Muş İl Milli Eğitim Müdürlüğü'ne bağlı Muş merkez ve ilçelerinde bulunan okul öncesi, ilkokul, ortaokul, lise ve Rehberlik ve Araştırma Merkezleri'nde görev yapan 479'u kadın, 307'si erkek olmak üzere toplam 786 öğretmen oluşturmaktadır. Araştırmada toplanan veriler, Çözüm Odaklı Düşünme Envanteri, Sürekli Umut Ölçeği, Yaşam Doyumu Ölçeği ve Oxford Mutluluk Ölçeği Kısa Formu ile elde edilmiştir. İlişkisel tarama modelinde yürütülen araştırmada verilerin analizi için SPSS Statistics 25 ve AMOS 24 programları kullanılmıştır. Araştırma kapsamında önerilen model, yapısal eşitlik modellemesi ile test edilmiş ve kabul edilebilir uyum değerleri ile doğrulanmıştır. Araştırma kapsamında yapılan fark istatistiklerine göre öğretmenlerin çözüm odaklı düşünce ve tüm alt boyutları, sürekli umut, yaşam doyumu ve mutluluk düzeyleri istenilen sosyal ilişkilere sahip olma durumuna göre farklılaşmıştır. Öğretmenlerin çözüm odaklı düşünce alt boyutlarından problemden ayırma, kaynakları harekete geçirme boyutları ile yaşam doyumu düzeyleri cinsiyetlerine göre istatistiksel olarak anlamlı düzeyde farklılaşmıştır. Modelde, çözüm odaklı düşünce ile mutluluk ilişkisinde erkek örnekleminde sürekli umut ve yaşam doyumunun kısmi aracılığı, kadın örnekleminde ise tam aracılık rolü saptanmıştır. Buna göre araştırmada öğretmenlerin çözüm odaklı düşünce düzeyinin sürekli umut ve yaşam doyumu düzeyleri üzerinde, bunların da mutluluk üzerinde anlamlı birer yordayıcı olduğu belirlenmiştir. Çözüm odaklı düşünce ile mutluluk arasında modelde belirlenen dolaylı etkinin anlamlı olduğu bulunmuştur. Bulgular alanyazın kapsamında tartışılmış araştırmacı ve uygulayıcılara çeşitli öneriler sunulmuştur.
Article
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Theory development by Steve de Shazer from the early 70's till his death in 2005. Both before solution focused therapy and through the changes.
Book
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Solution Focused Brief Therapy (SFBT) methods have been around for well over thirty years, and have become used in many fields including coaching, education, social work, healthcare and organisational change. This efficient and effective approach has remained somewhat unappreciated; the pragmatic ‘not-knowing’ stance of practitioners treating every client as an individual can seem odd to those accustomed to conventional diagnosis and treatment. How is one supposed to treat mental illness with an approach that appears to discuss neither ‘mental’ nor ‘illness’? Mark McKergow reviews the development of SFBT from its origins in the 1950s through the landmark work of Steve de Shazer, Insoo Kim Berg and colleagues at the Brief Family Therapy Center, Milwaukee to more recent shifts in practice. He shows how this tradition has always been changing and continues to change. In this book he shows how a newly coherent form of SF practice has appeared in the 21st century based on ‘focused description development’. This offers both clarity to the practitioner and a new picture of how the practice works to build change by ‘stretching the world’ of the client. This fresh take on SF work shows how practitioners can bridge the apparent gap between focusing on their clients (to the apparent exclusion of theory) and having a story about how it works. New ideas from enactive cognition show precisely how skilled attention to the client and their words can immediately open new possibilities for attention and action. The book includes detailed session transcripts with commentary to show how these ideas appear in the nitty-gritty of practice. Practitioners from all fields will find fresh perspectives on why they do what they do, and how they might do it even better.
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This article expresses concern about the indiscriminate acceptance of the solution-focused brief therapy (SFBT) model by some social workers and social agencies in spite of the dearth of empirical support for its claims to provide clients with more rapid and more enduring change than other treatment models. The article reviews the core assumptions and techniques of SFBT and outlines the strengths and limitations of the model in the context of the findings of psychotherapy process and outcome research and from the perspective of mainstream social work. The authors argue that social workers should avoid rigid adherence to narrow models of therapy and that social work students need to be exposed to multiple theories and techniques to be adequately prepared for practice. Agencies are encouraged to offer services based on a variety of treatment models in order to more adequately serve their clients and also to better position themselves to contribute to research that would further inform the profession about the combinations of model, client, and worker characteristics that lead to the most efficient and effective outcomes.
Article
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The author describes the successful use of Solution-Focused Brief Therapy intervention with an 11-year-old female who had been hospitalized for two weeks because she could not walk. He raises some ethical questions about the use of diagnosis “if, or when, we know different and maybe faster and simpler ways to find out what can be helpful?”
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We dedicate this article to the memory of Steve de Shazer, who was the University's External Examiner for the doctoral dissertation on which this article is based. His comments were both generous and influential, as they were on many other occasions. We would also like to thank Ron Chenail (as Editor of JMFT) and Dora Fried Schnitman (as Editor of Sistemas Familiares) for coordinating the simultaneous review and publication of this article in English and Spanish.
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