One good conversation can shift the direction of change forever
Area of expertise
Area Of Expertise
- Bio-psycho-social Balance
- Body Image
- Career and Workplace Issues
- Change Management
- Cross-Cultural Communication
- Design Thinking
- Depressive Mood
- Getting Unstuck
- Goal Pursuit
- Health Psychology
- Mental Clarity
- Positive Psychology
- Self-Efficacy & Self-Management
a goal-directed collaborative approach
Solution-Focused Brief Therapy
What is Solution-Focused Brief Therapy?
Solution-Focused Brief Therapy (SFBT), also called Solution-Focused Therapy, Solution-Building Practice therapy was developed by Steve de Shazer (1940-2005), and Insoo Kim Berg (1934-2007) and their colleagues beginning in the late 1970’s in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. As the name suggests, SFBT is future-focused, goal-directed, and focuses on solutions, rather than on the problems that brought clients to seek therapy.
Unlike traditional forms of therapy that take time to analyse problems, pathology and past life events, Solution-Focused Brief Therapy (SFBT) concentrates on finding solutions in the present time and exploring one’s hope for the future to find quicker resolution of one’s problems. This method takes the approach that you know what you need to do to improve your own life and, with the appropriate coaching and questioning, are capable of finding the best solutions.
The entire Solution-Focused approach was developed inductively in an inner-city outpatient mental health service setting in which clients were accepted without previous screening. The developers of SFBT spent hundreds of hours observing therapy sessions over the course several years, carefully noting the therapists’ questions, behaviours, and emotions that occurred during the session and how the various activities of the therapists affected the clients and the therapeutic outcome of the sessions. Questions and activities related to clients’ report of progress were preserved and incorporated into the SFBT approach.
Since that early development, SFBT has not only become one of the leading schools of Brief Therapy, it has become a major influence in such diverse fields as business, social policy, education, and criminal justice services, child welfare, domestic violence offenders, treatment. Described as a practical, goal-driven model, a hallmark of SFBT is its emphasis on clear, concise, realistic goal negotiations. The SFBT approach assumes that all clients have some knowledge of what would make their life better, even though they may need some (at times, considerable) help describing the details of their better life and that everyone who seeks help already possesses at least the minimal skills necessary to create solutions.
When It's Used
SFBT can stand alone as a therapeutic intervention, or it can be used along with other therapy styles and treatments. It is used to treat people of all ages and a variety of issues, including child behavioural problems, family dysfunction, domestic or child abuse, addiction, and relationship problems. Though not a cure for psychiatric disorders such as depression or schizophrenia, SFBT may help improve quality of life for those who suffer from these conditions.
What to Expect
Key Concepts and Tools
All therapy is a form of specialized conversations. With SFBT, the conversation is directed toward developing and achieving the client’s vision of solutions. The following techniques and questions help clarify those solutions and the means of achieving them.
Goal-setting is at the foundation of SFBT; one of the first steps is to identify and clarify your goals. The therapist will begin by questioning what you hope to get out of working with the therapist and how, specifically, your life would change when steps were taken to resolve problems. By answering these types of questions, you can begin to identify solutions and come up with a plan for change. One of the key questions the therapist asks is called the miracle question. This opens up your mind to creative thinking and, again, to setting goals and developing a clear plan that will lead to life-changing solutions.
Looking for previous Solutions
Solution Focused therapists have learned that most people have previously solved many, many problems and probably have some ideas of how to solve the current problem. To help clients see these potential solutions they may ask, “Are there times when this has been less of a problem?” or “What did you (or others) do that was helpful?”
It is a pragmatic approach, in that it draws from what has worked and is working in a person’s life and builds on these successes. The basic tenets that guide and inform the practice of SFBT are:
- If it isn’t broken, don’t fix it.
- If it works, do more of it.
- If it’s not working, do something different.
The emphasis is on finding what works in a given area and co-creating small, workable steps that the client is invested in doing.
Looking for Exceptions
Even when a client does not have a previous solution that can be repeated, most have recent examples of exceptions to their problem. These are times when a problem could occur, but does not. The difference between a previous solution and an exception is small, but significant. A previous solution is something that the family has tried on their own that has worked, but later discontinued. An exception is something that happens instead of the problem, often spontaneously and without conscious intention. Solution Focused therapists may help clients identify these exceptions by asking, “What is different about the times when this is less of a problem?”
Present and future-focused questions versus past-oriented focus
The questions asked by Solution Focused therapists are usually focused on the present or on the future. This reflects the basic belief that problems are best solved by focusing on what is already working, and how a client would like their life to be, rather than focusing on the past and the origin of problems. For example, they may ask, “What will you be doing in the next week that would indicate to you that you are continuing to make progress?”
Compliments are another essential part of solution focused brief therapy. Validating what clients are already doing well, and acknowledging how difficult their problems are, encourages the client to change while giving the message that the therapist has been listening (i.e., understands) and cares. Compliments in therapy sessions can help to punctuate what the client is doing that is working. In Solution Focused therapy, compliments are often conveyed in the form of appreciatively toned questions of “How did you do that?” that invite the client to self-compliment by virtue of answering the question.
Inviting the clients to do more of what is working.
Once Solution Focused therapists have created a positive frame via compliments and then discovered some previous solutions and exceptions to the problem, they gently invite the client to do more of what has previously worked, or to try changes they have brought up which they would like to try – frequently called “an experiment.”
Miracle Question (MQ)
This unusual sounding tool is a powerful in generating the first small steps of ‘solution states’ by helping clients to describe small, realistic, and doable steps they can take as soon as the next day. The miracle question developed out of desperation with a suicidal woman with an alcoholic husband and four “wild” children who gave her nothing but grief. She was desperate for a solution, but that she might need a ‘miracle’ to get her life in order. Since the development of this technique, the MQ has been tested numerous times in many different cultures. The most recent version is as follows:
- T: I am going to ask you a rather strange question . . . that requires some imagination on your part . . . do you have good imagination?
- C: I think so, I will try my best.
- T: Good. The strange question is this; After we talk, you go home (go back to work), and you still have lots of work to do yet for the rest of today (list usual tasks here). And it is time to go to bed . . . and everybody in your household are sound asleep and the house is very quiet . . . and in the middle of the night, there is a miracle and the problem that brought you to talk to me about is all solved. But because this happens when you are sleeping, you have no idea that there was a miracle and the problems is solved . . . so when you are slowly coming out of your sound sleep . . .what would be the first small sign that will make you wonder . . .there must’ve been a miracle . . .the problem is all gone! How would you discover this?
- C: I suppose I will feel like getting up and facing the day, instead of wanting to cover my head under the blanket and just hide there.
- T: Suppose you do, get up and face the day, what would be the small thing you would do that you didn’t do this morning?
- C: I suppose I will say good morning to my kids in a cheerful voice, instead of screaming at them like I do now.
- T: What would your children do in response to your cheerful “good morning?”
- C: They will be surprised at first to hear me talk to them in a cheerful voice, and then they will calm down, be relaxed. God, it’s been a long time that happened.
- T: So, what would you do then that you did not do this morning?
- C: I will crack a joke and put them in a better mood.
These small steps become the building block of an entirely different kind of day as clients may begin to implement some of the behavioural changes they just envisioned. This is the longest question asked in SFBT and it has a hypnotic quality to it. Most clients visibly change in their demeanour and some even break out in smiles as they describe their solutions. The next step is to identify the most recent times when the client has had small pieces of miracles (called exceptions) and get them to repeat these forgotten experiences.
Scaling questions (SQ) can be used when there is not enough time to use the MQ and it is also useful in helping clients to assess their own situations, track their own progress, or evaluate how others might rate them on a scale of 0 to 10. It is used in many ways, including with children and clients who are not verbal or who have impaired verbal skills. One can ask about clients’ motivation, hopefulness, depression, confidence, and progress they made, or a host of other topics that can be used to track their performance and what might be the next small steps.
The couple in the following example sought help to decide whether their marriage can survive or they should get divorced. They reported they have fought for 10 years of their 20 years of marriage and they could not fight anymore.
- T: Since you two know your marriage better than anybody does, suppose I ask you this way. On a number of 1 to 10, where 10 stands for you have every confidence that this marriage will make it and 1 stands for the opposite, that we might just as well walk away right now and it’s not going to work. What number would you give your marriage? (After a pause, the husband speaks first.)
- H: I would give it a 7. (the wife flinches as she hears this)
- T: (To the wife) What about you? What number would you give it?
- W: (she thinks about it a long time) I would say I am at 1.1.
- T: (Surprised) So, what makes it a 1.1?
- W: I guess it’s because we are both here tonight.
This question is a powerful reminder that all clients engage in many useful things even in times of overwhelming difficulties. Even in the midst of despair, many clients do manage to get out of bed, get dressed, feed their children, and do many other things that require major effort. Coping questions such as “How have you managed to carry on?” or “How have you managed to prevent things from becoming worse?” open up a different way of looking at client’s resiliency and determination.
Consultation Break and Invitation to Add Further Information
Solution focused therapists traditionally take a brief consultation break during the 2nd half of each therapy session during which the therapist reflects carefully on what has occurred in the session. Some time prior to the break, the client is asked “Is there anything that I did not ask that you think it would be important for me to know?” During the break, the therapist or the therapist and a team reflect carefully on all that has occurred in the session. Following that, the client is complimented and usually offered a therapeutic message based on the client’s stated goal. Usually this takes the form of an invitation for the client to observe and experiment with behaviours that result in positive movement in the direction of the client’s identified goal.
The Solution Focused approach has become a highly effective model in education, coaching, consultancy and organizational development.
works with families and couples in intimate relationships
What Is Family Therapy?
We all start this life with a family, whether that family is composed of blood relatives, adopted parents, or a foster family. This family that we acquire when we are born influences every aspect of our lives, from our first moments to our last.
Our family affects who we are and who we become, both for the better and for worse. We learn our vocabulary, our habits, our customs and rituals, and how to view and observe the world around us.
We also learn how to love, and how to interact with others from these first important relationships. If we are born into a healthy family with healthy relationships, we are likely to learn how to maintain healthy relationships. If we are born into a dysfunctional family that struggles to connect, we may also struggle to connect with others.
While it is certainly unlucky to be born into the second kind of family, it’s not an unchangeable situation. Nearly all families deal with some sort of dysfunction at one time or another, yet most families retain or regain a sense of wholeness and happiness.
Family therapy offers families a way to do this – a way to develop or maintain a healthy, functional family. It can be used to help a family through a difficult period of time, a major transition, or mental or behavioural health problems in family members
Family Therapy helps also individuals to break an unhealthy cycle from past generation. Some Cycles reoccur in families until they are identified and addressed.
helping people cope with loss
Grief and Loss Counseling
Guiding you through grief and loss
Grief and loss take many forms. One of the most significant traumas that anyone can ever experience is the death of a loved one. Yet grieving and loss may also accompany the loss of a job, a cherished relationship or friendship, the death of a pet, or a life-altering event such as injury, fertility issues or menopause, illness, and moving house or even countries.
Grief and loss are deeply personal experiences that may be felt and expressed in different ways. In grief, it is common to feel completely alone, and that no-one can understand the depth of your pain. You might prefer solitude as you deal with your loss, or crave the company and support of your friends and family. There is no right or wrong way to grieve. However grief affects you, counselling is a safe and supportive way to effectively process your grief, come to terms with your loss, and find ways to cope in drastically changed life circumstances.
Common responses to grief
Grief often presents itself in unusual and even disturbing ways. This presentation may dominate other emotions, leaving you feeling emotionally drained, and/or fixated on a certain train of thought.
Some common emotional responses to grief include:
- Changes in appetite
- Disrupted sleep patterns
- Loss of concentration
- Mood swings/constant tearfulness
- No interest in daily life
These grief-related feelings, thoughts and behaviours can seriously affect your capacity to function in daily life. Grief counselling is crucial to the healing process, as it explores and addresses your personal needs at your own pace. It is important to spend any time spent grieving by focusing on yourself, and clarifying what you need to feel supported in the present moment.
Stages of grief
Grieving is not a process that can be rushed or accelerated: there are usually a number of stages that you’ll experience before coming to understand and accept your grief. The intensity of grief and loss can often feel extremely overwhelming, and may interfere with your ability to think clearly. Elizabeth Kübler-Ross identified five stages of grief that create a framework of learning to accept loss. There is no order to the stages – often people will cycle through all five stages at various points in their grieving process, sometimes revisiting a stage if there are still unresolved feelings. Other people only go through a few of the stages – it is important to remember that your grieving process is as unique as you are.
Denial is the first stage of grief. You’re likely to still be in shock at this stage: denial is a psychological survival and coping mechanism in the face of extreme trauma. Denial can be a useful stage in the grieving process, as it helps to regulate the emotional and cognitive load of grief that might otherwise be overwhelming: by blocking out reality, there is a temporary reprieve from the pain of loss. Denial often fades as you accept the reality of the loss you have suffered.
Anger is the second stage of grief, and many people report feeling overpowered by their seemingly endless anger. You may feel anger at being left behind, unemployed, or frustrated that major life events beyond your control have happened. Anger provides form and structure to grief, because it is so targeted. Often anger is self-directed and accompanied by a sense of guilt. Dealing with this stage of the grieving process can diminish your feelings of anger, yet also serve to strengthen your fond memories and feeling of connection to the person, life possibilities or sense of self you are grieving.
Bargaining is the third stage of grief, yet it often appears prior to loss – especially so in the case of terminal illness. This is the ‘if only’ stage of grieving, when we react to feelings of vulnerability and helplessness by seeking to regain control of the situation. “If only I’d seen the doctor sooner… if only I’d been home that night when they called… if only I’d put in more of an effort at work” – the list of alternate choices is infinite. This stage is steeped in self-recrimination and regret, and a longing to return to the way things were. Numbing activities, such as oversleeping, eating, drinking and taking stimulants are common in this stage; anything to avoid feeling the loss, pain and guilt.
Depression is the fourth, and frequently the longest stage of grieving. Depression is a completely normal, appropriate response to the trauma and devastation felt in the wake of death. Life has lost its lustre, and things will never be the same. You may feel as though you no longer wish to live yourself, withdrawing from friends and family into the depths of despair and mourning. This is a very common response to grief and loss. Yet support is essential when moving through this stage of the grieving process. Although you may feel like isolating yourself, it’s vitally important to reach out to family and friends. Even if you don’t feel you have the strength to seek counselling for yourself, letting your loved ones know that you are struggling increases the chances that arrangements can be made to get you the help you need to deal with grief-fuelled depression.
Acceptance is the fifth and final stage of grieving. This stage involves learning to live with grief and loss, and is characterised by a realistic acknowledgment of what has happened. Acceptance isn’t about feeling okay with your loss, or feeling better about it – it’s simply a stage of grieving that affirms that life goes on. You may grieve your loss for the rest of your life, yet it becomes a quiet, private grief, tempered by other life experiences as you change, evolve and grow as a person.
Those who are grieving someone’s passing may feel this shift in living as a betrayal of their loved one, but acceptance is attained by learning to hold your grief in a way that allows space for other emotions. By fully recognising and accepting the reality that your loved one has gone, you eventually adapt to life without them, secure in knowledge that you once had the privilege of sharing your life with them.
Coping with grief and loss
Some days, you may feel as though the weight of grief is finally lifting and you are able to function normally. On other days, you may feel crushed by the loss and unable to cope. Not feeling completely consumed by grief may evoke feelings of guilt and shame. Yet having other life experiences – whilst still honouring your grieving process in whatever ways feel meaningful for you – is essential for your health and wellbeing.
- Grief counselling will help you with:
- Working through painful memories and emotions
- Making your grief manageable
- Learning to enjoy life again, without guilt
Improve the Performance of the Employees
EAP - EMPLOYEE ASSISTANCE PROGRAM
The EAP Program is a holistic, customer-focused and quality-assured service delivered within a contemporary health and well-being framework. The People Assist program offers a flexible service model that can be adapted to the changing needs of the workplace environment meeting the needs of all target audiences within the work environment. It provides strategies and support to employees and managers, across the spectrum of personal and work-based issues that have the ability to impact on their effectiveness.
It is a short-term and solutions focused counselling which aims to support and empower employees and members of their families through a variety of best practice counselling approaches and frameworks to assist in resolving personal and work-based issues.
Counselling approaches used in the People Assist Program and related streams implement the core counselling skills of attending, questioning, paraphrasing, summarising, reflection of content and feeling, and confrontation. Short-term, solutions focused approaches including Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT), Acceptance and Commitment Therapy and Positive Psychology are supported in conjunction with other therapies as required.