TwitterThe Psychological Therapies Unit

Solution Focused Practice

Solution Focused Practice -What is it?
The central assumptions of SFP are that the only meaningful goals are those defined by the person that wants change to happen (in therapy, the client) and that this person has the resources within themselves to implement that change. In SFP the client is the expert on their own lives and the practitioner helps the client to draw on and develop their existing strengths and abilities to make the changes they want to see in their lives. This is a radically different from a situation where the therapist is expected to be the expert whose role is to impart the knowledge or understanding that the client needs before they can “move on”.

Solution focused practice moves away from the “medical model” approach to psychological therapy and is often a far more a fitting approach to the wide range of non-medical, social and interpersonal problems faced by people in their day-to-day lives.

Research suggests that it is frequently something outside the therapy room that enables a person to move on – something that they grasp for themselves, increasing their sense of autonomy and independence. In SFP the practitioner’s role is therefore to encourage the client to focus on what is wanted, rather than what is not wanted, in order to help a person (or indeed organisation) to find out ‘what works’ for them and do more of it – a deceptively simple but truly creative and collaborative psychological intervention!.

A hallmark of SFP is that it is also highly adaptable, seeking to develop the client’s existing abilities into deeper and more widely transferable skills, not losing sight of the situation the client is in, but encouraging the client to seek many possible solutions based upon opportunity and ability. This approach mirrors the way that successful people and organisations work in their everyday lives, hence solution focused practice has applications both within and beyond the field of psychological therapy.

Who does it? The Solution Focused Practitioner
Solution focused practitioners can be found in increasing numbers in health service psychological therapy services, in GP surgeries, in schools, further and higher education and in private practice. Increasing numbers of medical clinicians, speech and language therapists, occupational therapist, nurses, coaches, management consultants and counsellors use solution focused approaches as part of their practice. Many of these practitioners are members of our Association.

However, SFP is not restricted to working with distressed individuals. It is increasingly being taken up by local authorities, as well as commerce, industry many other organisations, as an effective tool in non-health related arenas. Its very nature enables it to fit into the everyday life of everyone enabling effective psychological growth without the stigma attached to other forms psychological therapy. SFP is well placed to accept the challenges of cost effectiveness, telephone or internet therapy.

The evidence base
One important finding is that sufficient improvement is often achieved within 3-5 sessions and 25% of clients need only one session.

Effectiveness data from 30 studies of more than 2,200 cases show a success rate of exceeding 60% using an average of 3-5 sessions of therapy time (30 – 60 minutes duration). Research knowledge so far produced shows that SFP compares favourably with other psychological therapies. The worldwide efficacy of psychotherapy exceeds 60% (dependent upon a range of other variables) (Lambert 2004). SFP compares favourably to this estimate, but requires less time and fewer resources. There is evidence that it reduces the strain on the therapist.

Research has also shown that educational and socio-economic factors do not affect the outcome from SFP and clients are less likely to drop out of therapy, unlike all other psychological therapies. Long term unemployment studies and similar studies from business, also show effectiveness for solution focused approaches.