My core counselling training is in the humanistic-existential orientation and, more specifically, is predominantly of the person-centred approach (the ‘PCA’). This type of therapy is ‘non-directive’; the idea is that the counsellor does not tell the client what they should do in their situation, or what areas they should explore in their therapy. I have heard it said that solution focused brief therapy (SFBT here on in) is just the opposite of the person-centred approach, and that the two are vastly different.
During my continuing professional development training I came into contact with an SFBT practitioner, and was intrigued when he stated that in his mind, SFBT is just the PCA “with a twist”. Further training in the style allowed me to see that SFBT, while directional is not necessarily directive. I incorporate elements of the solution focused approach occasionally into my counselling work, and often it has very positive effects.
For an SFBT practitioner, going backwards into the reasons for and origins of difficult issues is not the aim of therapy. The focus is on the future, and on solution-building, not problem-solving. The difference is subtle, but key. Sometimes clients are so stuck in what has happened to them that they are almost imprisoned in what has gone before and therefore struggle to see a way forward. The theory goes that while driving a car, although glances in the rear-view mirror are useful, it is better to look forward through the windscreen at what is to come. SFBT works by looking for exceptions, and building on them. An exception is a time when the problem (which, remember, is not the focus of the therapy), is not occurring. If a client is struggling with a particularly low mood, an exception could be when they feel lighter, and when things don’t seem to be as negative or troublesome. Examination of what is happening when that exception occurs can lead to the discovery of how to build a solution for the future, rather than solve a problem from the past. Doing more of what helps, helps.
SFBT is not in my experience the way that all clients wish to conduct therapy. It can however be a useful set of skills employed to help move a client on in a situation which seems unresolvable. On several occasions both the client and I have realised that what is required is to simply walk away from what was, and into what is and what can be.
~ Rob Oglesby MBACP B.A. (Hons) BSc | Ashwood Therapy
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