Solution-Focused Brief Therapy (SFBT)
About This Program
Target Population: Parents who have had their children removed from their custody and into foster care by Child Welfare Services (CWS), have been referred by CWS for substance use and mental health treatment, and have a case plan goal of family reunification
For parents/caregivers of children ages: 0 – 17
Solution-Focused Brief Therapy (SFBT) is a therapy model that asserts the importance of building on the resources and motivation of clients because they know their problems best and are capable of generating solutions to solve their own problems. Central to SFBT is client strengths and resiliencies, clients’ prior ability to develop solutions, and exceptions to problems. Discussion of exceptions and movement towards future adaptive behaviors allows the clinician and client to focus on solutions to the client’s problem, rather than dwelling on the problem itself. The emphasis of SFBT is on the process of developing an image of a realistic solution rather than dwelling on the past manifestation of the problem, with the focus being on identifying past successes and exceptions to the problem in an effort to accomplish set goals.
The goals of Solution-Focused Brief Therapy (SFBT) are:
- Decrease substance use and substance abuse related problems
- Decrease trauma-related problems
The program representative did not provide information about a Logic Model for Solution-Focused Brief Therapy (SFBT).
The essential components of Solution-Focused Brief Therapy (SFBT) include:
- Focus on solution-building rather than problem-solving
- Focus on client’s desired future rather than past problem
- Focus on increasing current useful behavior
- Focus on exceptions to the problems which can be used to construct solutions
- Focus on co-constructing alternatives to current undesired behaviors
- Focus on small changes which can lead to larger changes
- Assumes that solution behaviors already exist in clients
- Assumes solutions are not directly related to any identified problem by the client or therapist
- Focus on conversation skills that invite building solutions rather than diagnosis and treating client problems
Solution-Focused Brief Therapy (SFBT) directly provides services to parents/caregivers and addresses the following:
- Substance use problems including alcohol/drug use, medical status problems due to substance use, employment/self-support problems due to substance use, family/social relationship problems due to substance use, psychiatric status problems due to substance use, and legal status problems due to substance use; and trauma-related symptoms including anxiety, depression, dissociation, sexual abuse trauma, sexual problems, and sleep disturbances
Typically, 45- to 60-minute weekly counseling sessions, but it can vary
Typically 5-8 sessions or about 3 months, but it can vary
This program is typically conducted in a(n):
- Outpatient Clinic
- Community-based Agency / Organization / Provider
Solution-Focused Brief Therapy (SFBT) includes a homework component:
Homework is identified in the counseling session and is individualized. It usually involves small, concrete tasks the client can do help move towards their identified goals.
Solution-Focused Brief Therapy (SFBT) has materials available in languages other than English:
Chinese, Dutch, French, German, Hungarian, Japanese, Korean, Mandarin, Norwegian, Polish, Swedish
For information on which materials are available in these languages, please check on the program's website or contact the program representative (contact information is listed at the bottom of this page).
Resources Needed to Run Program
The typical resources for implementing the program are:
SFBT clinicians, individual therapy rooms
Manuals and Training
Prerequisite/Minimum Provider Qualifications
Minimum Bachelor’s degree and Master’s Degree preferred
There is a manual that describes how to deliver this program.
There is training available for this program.
- Solution-Focused Brief Therapy Association
Onsite or participants can attend various training workshops at the training centers. There are a number of other trainers around the US, Canada, and Europe that provide SFBT trainings.
Number of days/hours:
Varies but recommend a minimum of 2 full days of SFBT training as well as follow up clinical supervision, if possible
Relevant Published, Peer-Reviewed Research
Kim, J. S., Brook, J., & Akin, B. A. (2018). Solution-Focused Brief Therapy with substance-using individuals: A randomized controlled trial study. Research on Social Work Practice, 28(4), 452–462. https://doi.org/10.1177/1049731516650517
Type of Study:
Randomized controlled trial
Number of Participants: 64
- Age — Mean=31.3 years
- Race/Ethnicity — 56.3% White, 14.1% African American, 9.4% American Indians/Alaskan Native, 1.6% Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islander, and 8.8% Mixed Race
- Gender — 43.8% Male
- Status — Participants were individuals from substance use and mental health clinics who had their children removed by the child welfare agencies.
(To include basic study design, measures, results, and notable limitations)
This study examined the effectiveness of Solution-Focused Brief Therapy (SFBT) intervention on substance abuse and trauma-related problems. Participants were randomized into either the SFBT or control condition. Measures utilized include the Addiction Severity Index-Self-Report (ASI-SR), the Trauma Symptom Checklist-40 (TSC-40), and the Child and Adolescent Mindfulness Measure (CAMM). Results indicated pretest and posttest scores on the substance use and related problems showed slight improvements for both the SFBT and control groups based on the ASI-SR in all subscales, except for the family/relationship status subscale for control group which showed an increase in mean score and small effect size in the opposite desired direction. Trauma-related problems, as measured by the TSC-40, showed that both the SFBT and control group clients improved in the desired direction. Limitations include small sample size, lack of random assignment of clinicians to see which ones are selected to receive the SFBT training, and clients in both study groups were also receiving multiple sources of support from various community providers and, therefore, it is difficult to fully account for those possibly additional contributions to the clients’ substance use and trauma-related problems.
Length of postintervention follow-up: None.
Kim, J. S., Brook, J., & Akin, B. A. (2021). Randomized controlled trial study of Solution-Focused Brief Therapy for substance use disorder affected parents involved in the child welfare system. Journal of the Society for Social Work and Research. Advance online publication. https://doi.org/10.1086/715892
Type of Study:
Randomized controlled trial
Number of Participants: 179
- Age — Parents: Mean=31.1 years; Children: Not specified
- Race/Ethnicity — Parent: 12.6% American Indian/Alaskan Native, 12.0% African American, 1.1% Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islander, 61.1% White, and 13.1% mixed race; 5.2% reported Hispanic ethnicity; Children: Not specified
- Gender — Parents: 22% Male; Children: Not specified
- Status — Participants were child welfare involved parents.
Location/Institution: Tulsa, Oklahoma
(To include basic study design, measures, results, and notable limitations)
This study used the same sample as Kim et al. (2018, 2019). The purpose of this study was to examine the effectiveness of Solution-Focused Brief Therapy (SFBT) on child well-being and family functioning outcomes for child welfare involved parents. Participants were randomized into either the SFBT or treatment as usual (TAU) control condition. Measures utilized include the Addiction Severity Index-SR (ASI-SR) and the Trauma Symptom Checklist-40 (TSC-40). Results indicated both groups decreased on most of the ASI-SR and on all the TSC-40 measures indicating improvements. Between-group effect sizes for two ASI-SR subscales favored the control group while they favored SFBT for the TSC-40 subscale measures, though none were statistically significant except for the TSC-40 subscale depression. Limitations include generalizability due to sample that was specific to child welfare involved families of children in foster care due to substance abuse, reliance on self-reported measures, and comparing SFBT with a control group that received some evidence-based interventions.
Length of postintervention follow-up: 1 year.
The following studies were not included in rating SFBT on the Scientific Rating Scale...
Knekt, P., Lindfors, O., Harkanen, T., Valikoski, M, Virtala, E., Laaksonen, M. A., Marttunen, M., Kaipainen, M., & Renlund, C. (2008). Randomized trial on the effectiveness of long- and short-term psychodynamic psychotherapy and Solution-Focused Therapy on psychiatric symptoms during a 3-year follow-up. Psychological Medicine, 38(5), 689–703. https://doi.org/10.1017/S003329170700164X
This study examined the effectiveness of the Solution-Focused Therapy (SFT) [now called Solution-Focused Brief Therapy (SFBT)] intervention on treatment of mood and anxiety disorders. Participants were randomized into either SFT or short- and long-term psychodynamic psychotherapy. Measures utilized include the Beck Depression Inventory (BDI), the Hamilton Depression Rating Scale (HAMD), the Symptom Check List Anxiety Scale (SCL-90-Anx) and the Hamilton Anxiety Rating Scale (HAMA). Results indicated significant reduction of symptoms was noted for BDI, HAMD, SCL-90-Anx, and HAMA during the 3-year follow-up. Short-term psychodynamic psychotherapy was more effective than long-term psychodynamic psychotherapy during the first year, showing lower scores for the four outcome measures. During the second year of follow-up, no significant differences were found between the short-term and long-term therapies; and after 3 years of follow-up, long-term psychodynamic psychotherapy was more effective with lower scores for the outcome variables. No statistically significant differences were found in the effectiveness of the short-term therapies. Limitations include lack of nontreatment control group and possible therapist effects due to nonuse of treatment manuals. Note: Since this study did not look at direct outcomes specified in the Substance Abuse Treatment (Adult) topic area definition, this study was not used in the rating/review process.
Kim, J. S., Akin, B. A., & Brook, J. (2019). Solution-Focused Brief Therapy to improve child well-being and family functioning outcomes with substance using parents in the child welfare system. Developmental Child Welfare, 1(2), 124–142. https://doi.org/10.1177/2516103219829479
This study examined the effectiveness of Solution-Focused Brief Therapy (SFBT) on child well-being and family functioning outcomes for child welfare involved parents. Participants were randomized into either the SFBT or treatment as usual (TAU) control condition. Measures utilized include the Behavior Rating Inventory of Executive Function- Parent Report (BRIEF-PR), Child Behavior Checklist-School Age Form (CBCL-SA), Center for Epidemiologic Studies-Depression Short Form (CES-D SF), and Adult- Adolescent Parenting Inventory (AAPI-2). Results indicated SFBT to be an effective intervention for helping families improve child well-being and family functioning. While there were no statistical differences between SFBT and control group, both groups improved from pretest to posttest on the overall outcome measures and on many of the subscales. The biggest improvements for both the SFBT and the control group were shown in family functioning around depression and parenting behaviors. Results on child well-being measures showed improvements for both groups on the BRIEF-PR measure. Results on family functioning outcomes also showed improvements for both groups on parenting and child rearing attitudes. Limitations include generalizability due to sample was specific to child welfare involved families of children in foster care due to substance abuse, reliance on self-reported measures, and length of follow-up. Note: Since this study did not look at direct outcomes specified in the Substance Abuse Treatment (Adult) topic area definition, this study was not used in the rating/review process.
Kim, J. S., & Franklin, C. (2015). The importance of positive emotions in Solution-Focused Brief Therapy. Best Practices in Mental Health, 11(1), 25-41.
SFBTA. (2013). Solution-Focused Therapy treatment manual for working with individuals (2nd ed.). Available from www.sfbta.org.
- Johnny S. Kim, PhD
- Agency/Affiliation: University of Denver
- Website: www.du.edu/socialwork/facultyandstaff/facultydirectory/appointed/kim.html
- Email: Johnny.Kim@du.edu
- Phone: (303) 871-3498
Date Research Evidence Last Reviewed by CEBC: April 2020
Date Program Content Last Reviewed by Program Staff: April 2021
Date Program Originally Loaded onto CEBC: February 2017