Solution-Focused Brief Therapy & Addiction Treatment

Reviewed by Carrie Carlton, Clinical Director (LCSW)

With Solution-Focused Therapy, also referred to as Solution-Focused Brief Therapy (SFBT), individuals focus on their personal strengths and develop sustainable strategies to accomplish goals. This therapy can lead to patients finding resolutions and making positive changes more quickly than other treatments based on pathology and past life events.

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Focus on Solutions

Rather than zeroing in on the problems themselves, SFBT places a strong emphasis on discussing solutions. SFBT works to address the present and future, guiding a person toward a path of finding positive, actionable steps.

This approach was created by Steve de Shazer and Insoo Kim Berg, who noticed that most therapy sessions dedicated time and attention solely to discussing symptoms and problems. In contrast, SFBT reroutes and reframes discussions toward specific solutions.

Berg and de Shazer believe the solutions are usually found in the “exceptions” to a problem: times when the issue isn’t affecting a person. This approach can be effective for addiction treatment.

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Putting Solutions-Focused Therapy to Work

In an SFBT session, a therapist will ask questions rather than suggesting answers. In turn, the individuals can unpack and reflect on potential solutions they arrive at themselves. The therapist will also reinforce positive qualities, strengths, and the individual’s ability to solve problems.

SFBT empowers a person with the tools needed to successfully tackle any obstacles. If a patient is aware of an issue, they are also aware of the exceptions or times when that particular issue isn’t a problem.

The therapist will pinpoint positive behaviors and work with the patient to brainstorm new approaches to challenges they face. Ultimately, an action plan and strategy are developed based on the individual’s specific situation.

Find Exceptions to the Problem

Therapists work with individuals to find exceptions to problems, and to identify how those exceptions are different from typical experiences with the problem. Then, the therapist and patient work together to set goals and execute the solution in a positive, sustainable manner.

Address Default Problem Patterns

SFBT identifies negative default solutions and problem patterns that determine the way a person usually experiences an issue and their coping mechanisms. The solution-focused model is based on positive psychology that counters problem-oriented approaches.

Solution-focused therapy targets the default solutions—in the case of addiction, using drugs or alcohol—and replaces those solutions with problem-solving tools.

women talking to counselor about solution focused brief therapy techniques

Solution-Focused Therapy and Addiction

Solutions to problems may have nothing to do with the actual problem. For example, in treating addiction, addressing life experiences or behaviors unrelated to drinking or using drugs can result in a resolution. The SFBT solution is connected to the root cause of addiction, which depends on the individual and their experiences. Anxiety, depression, bipolar disorder, trauma, and a range of emotional issues can result in a person coping by abusing substances.

SFBT doesn’t look at problematic behavior in a vacuum—drinking or using, for instance—but rather the root problem underlying the behavior. A solution is identified by discussing the exceptions to this problem and recognizing an individual’s ability to implement that solution to stop addictive behavior.

Learn More about Solutions-Focused Therapy at Beachway

Contact us at 877-959-3830, or fill out this form and one of our counselors will get in touch with you. All calls are confidential.