What makes Solution Focused Practice so special?

Dear reader,

today is such a special day for me. I am officially finished with my PhD. Today my husband is submitting it on my behalf and the thesis is ready to be defended in a couple of months and then I’ll be a doctor. This has been on my mind for the past 6 months at least and all of a sudden I cannot believe it’s over.

Now I am fully up and present to move on, no rest. Doing one SF training in Wales in a couple of days, then another one in early January in Brighton and by the end of January, another one in Stratford upon Avon. Teaching people and agencies how to use Solution Focused Brief Therapy in their line of work, is an enjoyable experience, especially when working with experienced professionals who are looking for techniques and models to enhance their practice.

A legit question that often arises from such professionals is:

Why should I attend a training in SF? What benefits will it have for my practice? What makes SF special?

A shortest answer I can offer is, that what makes SF so special is, that there is nothing grand about it. SF is very simple. One can learn it as quickly as four days of intensive training. One can use it immediately in wide variety of settings – therapy, coaching, training, groupwork, counselling, etc. There is absolutely nothing special about it. No grand theories, explanations, revelations. Only small questions, which have over time with extensive research been proven to lead to rapid change. SF was born “bottom – up” – from empirical need to do something that works, especially in crisis situations. This was more than 30 years ago. Since the first model of Steve de Shazer, Insoo Kim Berg and their colleagues, it has spread and developed across the world differently. The model that I personally value most, has taken it to the core of minimalism, following the principle of “less is more” and Occam’s razor which has been developed by BRIEF in London.

Let me share a personal story. 10 years ago, I used to work at the university as a coordinator of supporting services for disabled students. In doing so, I had to manage a couple of tutors and was often in contact with students themselves. We have received basic training in various approaches, including CBT, NLP, transactional analysis, as well as various motivational techniques. Then we had lots of inputs on psychological theories about different human conditions, with special focus on mental health issues. So I was “well equipped” and have also done lots of research and reading myself. Yet somehow, it all came to an end, when I was sitting together with a student, feeling hopeless because we were both trying really hard and no or very little progress. I “understood” everything the student was going through and came up with brilliant advice, still nothing. I listened to their stories, often heartbreaking and I couldn’t sleep at night because I cared too much and seemed not to have found something that would work for the student to have a better future. Not to be misunderstood – we still delivered good service, but it was a long, often painful process with lots of tasks and assessments.

Then coincidentally, I ran across SF. I did not know about it as in my home country it was widely unknown. It happened on my research visit abroad and the first time I saw it, I couldn’t believe it. It was exactly what I was looking for – it was brief, simple, future focused and (here comes the best part) it wasn’t at all about explanation. All of a sudden it was not me, who had to come up with an idea of what a student should/might do. All of a sudden I could let go and do away with all the explanations about why something’s happened, what that means and where it would lead to. Nothing. And yet, it seemed to work. So I stayed with this clinic and got extensive training in SF. Soon I could not do it any other way and my students loved it, but university did not, so I left and started on my own. Ever since, I have continued to be interested in new approaches, yet it all comes back to SF and I’ve not yet met any other approach who would view and work with clients in the same way. Not even appreciative inquiry, as one of SF closest relatives.

In order to fully see what SF has to offer, one has to see it in practice. In therapy. Real work. When we say, that in therapy our clients are the experts, we really mean it. And this is not easy. SF may be simple, but is far from easy. You know, it is easy to write a 370 pages of a dissertation, but explain what it is about in a couple of sentences, that’s something else. That’s why I would always strive towards showing my work with real clients in my trainings. People I’ve worked with have often had longterm problems, addictions or mental health conditions, yet our sessions are full of laughter, hope, joy and most important, our work ends soon as the client achieves what they want quicker. Yet still seems to have long lasting results. So different to my old practice which never felt quite right, yet I did not know any better.

So what SF has to offer for experienced professionals who are already doing a good job, is on one hand simple tools, techniques and powerful questions one can add to their current ways of working, especially, if one is looking for ways how to become even more efficient and considerably briefer. Or it can totally transform your professional life because when embracing SF mindset and truly let the clients expertise shine, one cannot (and I’ve done my own research on that among EU youth trainers), really, cannot burn out.

To sum up – if “newer” approaches, that are more focused towards the future, instead of the past or are making shift from problems towards solutions are of interest to you, then I would wholeheartedly recommend giving SF a go. I only wish I knew about it years ago, however that does not change my gratitude and pleasure I am having now in my clinical and training practice.

Happy December 3rd!



I sincerely hope you think I am nuts and that it cannot be that simple. That’s exactly how I felt when I first read about SF. Then I saw it. And that made all the difference.

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