Solution-focused brief therapy was developed by Milton Erickson, Insoo Kim Berg, Steve de Shazer, and others as an augmentative treatment (Seligman, Reichenberg, 2010). Counselors work in partnership with their clients to explore and identify the skills, knowledge, and resources they need to work on their problems and challenges (Seligman, Reichenberg, 2010). Read on to learn 10 solution-focused brief therapy exercises and activities you can do with your clients.
During SFBT sessions, Counselors work to help the client identify times when there is no problem or problem and when it is less severe (Seligman, Reichenberg, 2010). These moments are then explored to see what is different about them and how customers approach the problem.
Skills often used in solution-focused brief therapy include active listening, empathy, open-ended questions, explanations, reassurance, and suggestions (Seligman, Reichenberg, 2010). SFBT Counselors and Therapists rarely use confrontation and interpretation in their work (Seligman, Reichenberg, 2010).
Counselors using solution-focused behavioral therapy should actively participate during sessions, communicate acceptance, suggest actions that promote change, and use solution talk to create an environment in which solution-focused brief therapy can be used effectively.
Mental Health Concerns That Can Benefit from Solution-Focused Brief Therapy
Solution-focused brief therapy can be effectively applied to a range of mental health problems (Seligman, Reichenberg, 2010). Because of its motivating and reinforcing nature, most clients respond well to SFBT and solution-oriented behavior therapy training.
Solution-focused behavioral therapy can be an effective treatment approach for clients experiencing communication problems, anxiety, substance abuse and misuse, conduct problems, and other relationship problems. It can also be helpful for people struggling with self-esteem.
Like other treatment methods, solution-oriented behavior therapy is not right for every client. Clients experiencing serious mental health problems, including active mania, schizophrenia, and major depressive disorder, are unlikely to benefit from solution-oriented behavioral therapy.
In addition, solution-oriented behavior therapy focuses on present and future moments. It does not include a person’s background, which some clients benefit from researching and processing. This can include individuals with feelings of shame and guilt and some trauma-related mental health issues.
Solution-Focused Brief Therapy Activities
If you have decided to use solution-focused brief therapy exercises in your sessions, you have a variety of options to choose from. Solution-focused behavioral activities allow clients to explore their resources and strengths, as well as identify changes they want to work on in their lives. SFBT activities can also provide Clinicians and Therapists with new skills and perspectives that can support clients and their goals.
Examples of solution-oriented behavior therapy treatment activities include:
- Clients who feel overwhelmed when researching various problems or challenges can often benefit from breaking the problem down into smaller pieces. This may include identifying what the problem is, what is contributing to it, what is contributing to the distress, and what is compounding the difficulty the individual is experiencing. TherapyByPro offers Problem and Solution Worksheet can act as a guide for this in therapy sessions. Allow time in future sessions to monitor the client’s ability to engage in behaviors that will help overcome the identified problem.
- The Miracle Question is a popular and simple Solution Focused Behavior Therapy exercise that you can incorporate into your session. With this, you can ask your client to imagine a miracle happening tonight that solves their problem or issue while they sleep. What will their lives be like tomorrow? There are many ways to phrase the magic question, so find a way that feels natural and authentic to you and your counseling style. The Wonder Question can help clients explore the benefits of changing their behavior and the obstacles that might prevent them from moving toward their goals.
- Setting goals and working towards them can often be overwhelming for our clients. As consultants, we can help our clients break down goals that feel like a lot into smaller, more digestible chunks. This may involve exploring different behaviors that the client can incorporate into their working day to achieve their goals. Provide customers with a similar worksheet Goal Setting Action Plan Worksheet Offered by TherapyByPro, it can serve as a reminder outside of sessions about what they can do to make progress. Allow time in future sessions to assess progress toward the client’s discussed goal.
- The use of measuring questions is another SFBT technique that can be used in sessions. Scaled questions can be used to measure their current practices according to the objectives. For example, you could ask your client on a scale of 1-10, how willing are they to change their behavior today? Measurement questions can be used to examine the progress they are making, the intensity of their distress, and the level of impairment they are experiencing. Using the same scale question in subsequent sessions can help both parties develop an understanding of the progress that has or has not been made.
- Identifying strengths, skills, and attributes can help clients recognize their ability to perform challenging tasks. The Overcoming challenges with strengths At TherapyByPro, the worksheet begins by asking your client to take a different perspective and explore what others might say about their strengths and skills. With this shift in perspective, there may be a shift in clients’ ability to understand how to support their overlooked strengths as they work toward their goals.
- Looking for exceptions can help clients gain a new perspective on their own thoughts and concerns. For example, if a client struggles with being able to exercise every day, ask them to describe a day when they were able to exercise. How was that day different from the others? And how did they feel that they could exercise that day? Exception questions can be helpful in breaking black-and-white thinking patterns that act as barriers for our clients.
- A Negative Habits Worksheet it can be helpful for those struggling with unhealthy behaviors (ie nail biting) and those looking to add new behaviors to their routine (exercise). You can explore what their lives would look like if they changed their behavior and the benefits they would get. Follow up in subsequent sessions regarding changes your client may have made.
- Ask your client to identify 3 goals for the next month to focus on progress. Work with them to specifically identify the steps they need to take to reach their goals and ensure their expectations are realistic for them. An example of an unrealistic goal would be to lose a significant amount of weight in 4 weeks. Explore how the client’s strengths and skills can support them as they work toward this goal and how this goal will impact their overall well-being. Allow time to check in on their progress over the next month.
- A simple Solution-Focused Behavior Therapy exercise will simply look at the advantages and disadvantages of changing a client’s behavior. Exploring the pros and cons of change can lead to further discussion about the barriers they face and how they can work to overcome them. If you use worksheets in your therapy sessions, TherapyByPro suggests Motivation and ambivalence worksheet you can use during therapy sessions.
- One SFBT exercise that can be used for a variety of concerns and topics would be the use of homework exercises. Homework exercises ask the client to continue working on something discussed during the session outside of therapy sessions. Examples of homework include keeping a difficulty log while lifting on a scale of 1-10, practicing a new coping skill 3 times before the next session, or completing a specific worksheet given in the session. Time should be spent in the next session working on homework skills and related practices.
Final thoughts on choosing activities for SFBT
Solution-focused brief therapy can be an effective strategy when working with clients with a range of concerns. This form of treatment provides results in fewer sessions than other treatment methods. It is an effective option for clients who want to make behavioral changes in their daily routines.
Some SFBT exercises, such as homework, can be used in conjunction with other treatments. For example, a clinician providing psychoeducation on mindfulness skills for a form of behavioral therapy might ask their client to practice using a certain number of skills before the next session.
If you believe that solution-oriented behavior therapy activities will be effective for the population you work with, you may want to look for continuing education credits and other training that focuses on this treatment method. Supervision can be a great resource in determining your readiness to use new treatment skills and techniques in your clinical work.
TherapyByPro is a program online mental health directory connecting mental health professionals with clients in need. If you are a mental health professional, you can Join our community and add your experience listing here. We have templates for assessments, practice forms, and worksheets that mental health professionals can use to facilitate their practice. Look at all of us mental health worksheets here.
Seligman, L., & Reichenberg, LW (2010). Theories of Counseling and Psychotherapy:
Systems, Strategies, and Skills (3rd ed., pp. 220–225). Pearson Education, Inc.