The Solution Focused Approach

The Solution Focused approach was developed in the 1980’s by Steve de Shazer and Insoo Kim Berg and their colleagues at the Brief Family Therapy Centre in Milwaukee USA. The service provided at the Centre was free and the approach developed was guided by a context that necessitated the importance of being efficient in limiting the number of sessions required and effective in terms of the outcomes achieved.

This led to several revelations in what constitutes effective practice including the importance of the worker identifying ‘what is wanted’ and ‘what works’ for the client and identifying questions that are useful in assisting the worker to elicit these details Since this time the principles and techniques developed in this solution focused approach have been applied to great effect with an increasing number of service user groups and in a great variety of settings.

Why choose the Solution Focused Approach?

Benefits to service users

Solution Focused Practice is respectful of the perceptions and wishes of service users and the worker’s questions are guided by this. It also recognises the strengths each service user possesses and encourages their self-efficacy to identify and devise solutions to the problems they face. No pathological understanding of the cause of the problem is required or encouraged by the practitioner’s questions and hence the service user is not deemed to be abnormal or dysfunctional. Indeed, service users are simply perceived as being ‘stuck’ and best supported by workers asking questions that assist them to describe the details of their preferred future and the progress already made towards this. Overall, the service user should experience being encouraged and facilitated by the worker towards their desired future rather than being left feeling cajoled and, at worst, manipulated towards unwanted change.

Benefits to practitioners

Practitioners new to Solution Focused Practice often experience relief from the usual pressures arising from being perceived as the ‘expert’ by the service user and ‘change maker’ by their employing organisation. In particular, practitioners recognise that they are not responsible for changing service users, or simply telling them how to think and what to do. Training in Solution Focused Practice equips practitioners to draw on assumptions and techniques that frequently lead to desired changes in a shorter period of time.

Benefits to service providers

Service providers are increasingly recognising the benefits for the organisation in having staff trained in a Solution Focused approach. These benefits include being able to be a genuinely service user led organisation and being better able to achieve key performance indicators. Anecdotally it has been found that levels of staff satisfaction increase and levels of staff sickness and disciplinary issues reduce. Recent studies have demonstrated that training in Solution Focused Practice reduces the risk of staff burnout. Savings can be made as a result of a reduction in the number of meetings with service users required to achieve good outcomes. Solution Focused Practice skills and knowledge can also be applied in other organisational tasks including supervision, team meetings and strategy and policy development.

Where is The Solution Focused Approach used?

The Solution Focused approach is found to be relevant to practioners in various settings, including:

  • Educational Psychology
  • Child Psychology
  • Adult Mental Health Crisis Services
  • Adult Mental Health In-Patient Service
  • Child & Adolescent Mental Health Crisis Services
  • Substance Misuse Services
  • Child Protection Social Work
  • School Counselling
  • Counselling services for Colleges of Further Education
  • Adult Counsellors
  • Adult Mental Health Counselling Services
  • Older Adults Services
  • Occupational Health
  • Outward Bounds Activities
  • Business Development
  • Organisational Development
  • Team Development
  • Probation / CRC

Who is The Solution Focused Approach used by?

The Solution Focused Approach is used effectively by many different practitioners, including:

  • Educational Psychologists
  • Child Psychologists
  • Adult Mental Health Workers
  • Approved Mental health Workers
  • Residential Child Care Workers
  • Adult Mental Health In-Patient Service
  • Child & Adolescent Mental Health Crisis Services
  • Substance Misuse Practitioners
  • Nurses
  • Social Workers
  • General Practitioners
  • Child Protection Social Workers
  • Child and Family Social Workers
  • School Counsellors
  • Colleges of Further Education Counsellors
  • Adult Counsellors
  • Adult Mental Health Counselling Services
  • Occupational Therapists
  • Outward Bounds Activities Workers
  • Business Coaches
  • Organisational Development Coaches
  • Team Development Coaches
  • Probation Officers
  • CRC Workers
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