Solution-focused approach

AThe method was developed by Steve de Shazer and Insoo Kim Berg, the two founders of Solution-Focused Brief Therapy in the 1980s in the United States. The success of the method is confirmed by research worldwide in non-therapeutic settings also. 

The Solution Focused Approach is based on a paradigm shift: it works with solution-building interventions rather than problem interpretation. It is based on the premise that each client is an expert in his or her own life – that is, the facilitator’s job is to be present with trust and build on the client’s strengths to help him or her to develop and find his or her own solutions. To focus attention on the desired direction of change and on the resources that already exist, and bring to the surface internal resources and strengths during the support processes.

In their work in family therapy, Steve de Shazer and Insoo Kim Berg analyzed what led to success in most cases in their practice in the lives of families with so-called “many problems”. They have found that the families who turn to them actually need to start thinking differently about difficulties and find new, creative solutions. In their experience, asking clients where they would like to go, what they would like instead of the current problematic situation, supporting them to look for the small things they are already doing that point towards a solution, expressing non-judgmental acceptance of the family’s situation, acknowledging the family’s efforts to change the situation, reflecting on their resources, which are their own and can and are building on them, were the most helpful. This allows them to change the way they think about the problem, which can lead to new, creative solutions. 

So in their discussions, in their facilitation work, they shifted the focus from problems to solutions. Instead of working consciously to solve the problem, the client imagines, point by point, his own changed behavior, the reaction of his loved ones, friends, colleagues to this changed behavior, so that the creation of the details of a desired future contributes to the reduction of the problem. The beginnings of solution-focused work can be traced back to 1978, to the birth of the therapeutic method known as Solution Focused Brief Therapy. Since then, solution-focused tools have been used successfully in other areas, such as coaching, counseling, organizational development and as a leadership tool.

An important feature of a solution-focused approach is that it builds on existing competences and strengths and continuously recognises signs of progress. It focuses the customer’s attention on what is already working well. This helps to make the client aware of what makes things work well and how they can apply the skills and knowledge they already have in the future, more often, in different places and in different ways. 

 

In the course of our work in the Association we regularly meet people, children and youth with difficult circumstances, where it is especially true that as helpers we cannot be experts in their lives, because what do we know about their difficulties, traumas, extreme poverty, growing up in children’s homes and how to live with these situations? Our advice would not be credible, it would not even fit into their lives, their environment, their reality, and it would only perpetuate an apparent relationship of inferiority and superiority that society is so inclined to generate over and over again for some reason, as if we who are born into a fortunate situation are somehow more valuable than the other who has been struggling from perhaps the first moment of his life. There are usually few opportunities to meet them, and these are typically short, so it is not typical to have the chance for a longer therapeutic process with a well-trained therapist. We’re there (trainers, volunteers) we are the ones who can have some kind of impact and so in these few and short sessions, based on our experience so far, it seems useful to talk about their resources, how much they can already do even with this package and their past, what they’ve been able to achieve, what they’re good at, what brings them joy, what helps them, what they can recharge from, what successes (even the smallest ones) they’ve had and how did they do it. Honest acknowledgement and reflection of their resources, their efforts and their life situation will help to find the foundations on which to build. Like a first-aider, who is the first to arrive to help a person in trouble.

Sources

BERG I K (2015). Konzultáció sokproblémás családokkal; Budapest: Animula Kiadó

DE SHAZER S (1988) Clues:Investing Solution in Brief Therapy New York: Norton

IVESON C – GEORGE E – RATNER H (2014) Brief Coaching. Megoldásközpontú megközelítés. Budapest, SolutionSurfers

MACDONALD J. A (2011) Solution-Focused Therapy. Thero, research and practice. London, Sage

MCKERGOW (2021) The next generation of solution focused practice. Stretching the world for new opportunities and progress. London and New York, Routledge

YOUNG S (2018) Megoldásközpontú iskolák. A bántalmazáskezelésen túl. Budapest, SolutionSurfers

YUSUF D (2021) The solution focused approach with children and young people. London and New York, Routledge

YUSUF D – RATNER H (2015) Brief coaching with children and young people. London and New York, Routledge