Solution-focused therapy, also known as solution-focused brief therapy (SFBT), is a short-term therapeutic approach that is based on positive psychology.

Solution-focused therapy focuses on developing solutions to meet a patient’s goals, as opposed to problem-solving. Within this framework, patients are encouraged to pinpoint strategies that are currently helpful for them, as well as what they can do in the future to achieve their goals.

In addition to other types of therapy, SFBT is an effective approach for helping patients with a history of substance abuse recognize and use their personal strengths. It can also help people focus on specific goals, which may or may not be directly related to their substance abuse.

To learn more about solution-focused therapy and its benefits for treating addiction, continue reading below.

How Does Solution-Focused Therapy Work?

Solution-focused therapy is a goal-oriented, patient-driven approach that is intended to boost patients’ self-esteem and their sense of empowerment.

Many people overcoming addiction have struggled with feeling powerless about their situation. Solution-focused therapy aims to help people feel more in-control by pointing out how they can use their personal strengths to reach their intended goals.

Upon beginning SFBT sessions, the patient and counselor will discuss the patient’s expectations and goals for treatment. Within an addiction program, this may include broader goals of staying sober and continuing treatment. Patients may also bring up more specific goals. This can include anything from finding a job after treatment to figuring out effective ways to deal with certain triggers.

The general process of SFBT is as follows:

  • discussing and defining the patient’s goals for treatment
  • identifying solutions that have worked in the past, are currently working and may be effective in the future
  • developing strategies for overcoming any potential barriers to achieving the patient’s goals
  • ensuring appropriate aftercare to make sure the patient continues receiving the treatment they need

Solution-focused brief therapy is a short-term therapy approach, intended to last between three to ten sessions. This is meant to help patients focus their attention in specific areas, and benefit from their therapy in a short amount of time.

This approach has shown to be effective for treating substance abuse and other mental health problems, such as trauma – a struggle that is common among people with addiction.

Basic Principles Of Solution-Focused Therapy

The formal approach of solution-focused therapy involves several basic principles that describe the goals and values reflected in this type of treatment.

Some of the basic principles of solution-focused therapy include:

  • maintaining a focus on the positive
  • focusing on the future, with less focus on past problems
  • emphasis on building solutions rather than solving problems
  • less focus on building skills than embracing skills that patients already possess, and using them to develop effective solutions
  • celebrating all signs of progress, even the smallest successes
  • finding alternative solutions to unhealthy coping strategies (e.g. abusing drugs or alcohol)
  • encouraging continued use of coping strategies are working for them now or have been useful in the past

The Miracle Question

In addition, one of the concepts that solution-focused therapy is most known for is posing what is called the miracle question.

This miracle question poses a hypothetical situation in which a person goes to sleep and wakes up the next day with their problem(s) miraculously solved. The question then is what changes the patient would notice upon waking to indicate that their problem has been solved.

The answer the patient gives to this question can then serve three important purposes:

  • can help patients imagine specific details about what their life would look like without the problem they’re working to overcome
  • patients can recognize aspects of their current life that already resemble this ‘miraculous’ future
  • can serve as a basis for the goals the patient will be working on in therapy

What Are The Benefits Of Solution-Focused Therapy?

Solution-focused brief therapy offers a number of benefits that can be helpful in treating substance abuse and addiction:

  • Positive reinforcement: Counselors are encouraged during SFBT sessions to highlight the successes and strengths of patients. Those who struggle with drug and alcohol abuse often experience feelings of depression, hopelessness, and guilt. This can make people feel less confident in their abilities, especially when it comes to success in their recovery. Solution-focused therapy aims to help people recognize their successes, no matter how small, as well as their resilience.
  • Goal-oriented: The greatest emphasis in SFBT is encouraging patients to focus on identifying their goals and how they can achieve them. These goals can be directly related to substance abuse or other aspects of their lives that they wish to work on. The following sessions are then based around plans to achieve these goals.
  • Highlights the future: Many people struggling with substance abuse and addiction have difficulty envisioning what their future holds. For many, recovery itself can seem like something far away or unreal. In solution-focused therapy, counselors ask patients questions that largely focus on their present and future. This provides patients the space to consider what they want for their future and how they can get there.
  • Patient-driven: Although SFBT counselors guide the therapeutic process, one of the focuses of SFBT is allowing patients to determine their needs and their goals. This gives patients a more active role in finding their motivation for change and developing solutions that suit their abilities and needs.

Solution-Focused Therapy At Vertava Health

Solution-focused therapy is just one of the approaches we offer within our inpatient and outpatient addiction programs. This type of therapy is rarely used alone but has nonetheless shown to be beneficial for many of our patients in addition to other treatment services.

Solution-focused therapy is an effective therapy for helping patients realize their strengths, plan strategies for dealing with triggers and gain personal empowerment during the treatment process. Although some people worry that entering treatment will take away their control, our programs wish to highlight the ways in which they are actually regaining control over their lives.

Addiction is a complex disease that requires more than simple solutions. By working with our treatment professionals, you can collaborate with professionals that value your well-being and your success in your recovery.

Contact us today to learn more about our addiction treatment programs and find a rehab program that meets your needs.