FAQs About Solution-Focused Brief Therapy

By The Understood Team

At a glance

  • Solution-focused brief therapy defines problems and focuses on goals that may lead to solutions.

  • In this kind of therapy, the patient becomes the problem solver.

  • Kids who are depressed or anxious or who have low self-esteem may benefit.

Kids with learning and attentions issues may struggle with loneliness or lack the confidence to try new things. Solution-focused brief therapy (SFBT) is a form of short-term counseling that may be useful in situations like these. Here are answers to some frequently asked questions about SFBT.

What is solution-focused brief therapy?

SFBT is a form of therapy that focuses on solutions instead of on problems. Therapists do this by helping their patients identify what’s bothering them.

For example, a child might say, “I have trouble making friends.” He and his therapist then work together to set a goal. This might be, “I want to have a group of friends to hang out with.” The counselor then helps him identify a series of steps that can make this goal a reality. One step in this case could be, “I want to introduce myself to three people this week.”

An important part of SFBT is helping the patient identify what has and hasn’t worked in the past when dealing with a particular challenge. The therapist then encourages the patient to do more of “what works” as he moves toward his goal.

How is SFBT different from traditional therapy?

In traditional therapy, patients typically explore their past so they can better understand their present problems. SFBT focuses on what’s happening now. It helps patients come up with solutions that can make life better in the future.

In SFBT, patients work together with their therapist, instead of relying on the therapist as the expert. SFBT is “brief” as compared to traditional long-term counseling. Research shows that SFBT can bring positive results after an average of three to five sessions. Traditional long-term therapy can continue for months or years.

What are the benefits of SFBT?

SFBT actively works toward solutions. It helps patients identify what they do well. It then encourages them to use their strengths to reach their goals. Because SFBT is goal-oriented and short-term, it can be less costly and less time-consuming than long-term therapy.

What children are best suited for SFBT?

SFBT may be helpful for children and teens with depression, anxiety and self-esteem issues. Some research shows SFBT has also helped kids improve their classroom behavior.

“Solution-focused brief therapy actively works toward solutions. It helps patients identify what they do well.”

SFBT may be most effective with older children and teens. This is because older kids may be more willing and able to work with a therapist and set goals. Children with severe or complicated emotional challenges may need the ongoing support of long-term therapy.

How can I find a solution-focused counselor?

Some school counselors are trained in SFBT. Your child’s school may also be able to refer you to a therapist who used SFBT. If not, contact the Solution-Focused Brief Therapy Association for counselors in your area. You may also want to explore other types of therapies that can be helpful for kids with learning and thinking differences.

Key takeaways

  • SFBT is a form of short-term therapy that focuses on finding solutions to problems.

  • This kind of therapy does not put an emphasis on past experiences.

  • It may be best suited for children who are in middle school or older.

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    About the author

    About the author

    The Understood Team is made up of passionate writers and editors. Many of them have kids who learn and think differently.

    Reviewed by

    Reviewed by

    Molly Algermissen, PhD is an associate professor of medical psychology at Columbia University Medical Center and clinical director of PROMISE.