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

Program Overview

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.

Program Goals

The goals of Solution-Focused Brief Therapy (SFBT) are:

  • Decrease substance use and substance abuse related problems
  • Decrease trauma-related problems

Essential Components

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

Program Delivery

Parent/Caregiver Services

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

Recommended Intensity:

Typically, 45- to 60-minute weekly counseling sessions, but it can vary

Recommended Duration:

Typically 5-8 sessions or about 3 months, but it can vary

Delivery Settings

This program is typically conducted in a(n):

  • Community Agency
  • Outpatient Clinic

Homework

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.

Languages

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

Education and Training

Prerequisite/Minimum Provider Qualifications

Minimum Bachelor’s degree and Master’s Degree preferred

Education and Training Resources

There is a manual that describes how to implement this program , and there is training available for this program.

Training Contact:
Training is obtained:

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

Knekt, P., Lindfors, O., Harkanen, T., Valikoski, M, Vitala, E., Laaksonen, M. A., … Helsinki Psychotherapy Study Group. (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, 689-703. doi:10.1017/S003329170700164X

Type of Study: Randomized controlled trial
Number of Participants: 326

Population:

  • Age — Mean=31.6-33.6 years
  • Race/Ethnicity — Not specified
  • Gender — 24.2% Male
  • Status — Participants were individuals from psychiatric hospitals.

Location/Institution: Finland

Summary: (To include comparison groups, outcomes, measures, notable limitations)
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.

Length of postintervention follow-up: 1 year and 3 years.

Kim, J. S., Brook, J., & Akin, B. (2018). Solution-Focused Brief Therapy with substance-using individuals: A randomized controlled trial study. Research on Social Work Practice, 28(4), 452-462. doi:10.1177/1049731516650517

Type of Study: Randomized controlled trial
Number of Participants: 64

Population:

  • 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.

Location/Institution: Oklahoma

Summary: (To include comparison groups, outcomes, measures, 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., 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. doi:10.1177/2516103219829479

Type of Study: Randomized controlled trial
Number of Participants: 276 (175 adults) (101 children did not did not receive intervention services)

Population:

  • Age — Parents: Mean=30.8 years; Children: Mean=3.10 years
  • Race/Ethnicity — Parent: 62.9% White, 11.4% African American, 10.9% American Indians/Alaskan Native, 1.1% Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islander, and 13.7% Mixed Race; Children: 54.5% White, 14.9% African American, 9.9% American Indians/Alaskan Native and 20.8% Mixed Race
  • Gender — Parents: 22% Male; Children: 59.4% Male
  • Status — Participants were individuals from substance use and mental health clinics who had their children removed by the child welfare agencies.

Location/Institution: Tulsa, Oklahoma

Summary: (To include comparison groups, outcomes, measures, notable limitations)
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.

Length of postintervention follow-up: 3 months.

Additional References

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.

Contact Information

Johnny S. Kim, PhD
Agency/Affiliation: University of Denver
Website: www.du.edu/socialwork/facultyandstaff/facultydirectory/appointed/kim.html
Email:
Phone: (303) 871-3498

Date Research Evidence Last Reviewed by CEBC: April 2019

Date Program Content Last Reviewed by Program Staff: February 2019

Date Program Originally Loaded onto CEBC: February 2017