Unpacking the Power of Solution-Focused Brief Therapy for Children and Adolescents

– Emma Spencer, Clinical Psychologist

In the complex landscape of child and adolescent mental health, finding effective therapeutic approaches is crucial to good mental health outcomes. For many practitioners, time becomes a limiting factor when working with young clients, and focussing on using therapeutic approaches that are known to have good outcomes where time constraints are a consideration, is important. Solution Focused Brief Therapy is one such approach that has good evidence supporting therapeutic outcomes in relatively short time-frames. Unlike traditional therapeutic methods that delve extensively into problems, SFBT shifts the focus to solutions and strengths, making it particularly well-suited for young minds.

Understanding SFBT:

Solution-Focused Brief Therapy was originally developed by Steve de Shazer and Insoo Kim Berg in the late 20th century. SFBT operates from the core tenant that clients already possess the resources and abilities to create positive change in their lives, and as such is recognised as a powerful, client centred approach. SFBT requires the therapist to collaborate with their client to identify goals, amplify strengths, and devise practical solutions to achieve desired outcomes. What a powerful approach, whereby the client themselves experiences what it is to be in the driver’s seat, with the support of the therapist.

Applications of SFBT in Child and Adolescent Therapy:

Children and adolescents present to therapy with a range of issues inclding anxiety, academic challenges, friendship issues, family related stress and more. SFBT offers a therapeutic context that emphasizes resilience, creativity, and optimism. A young child struggling with fears, might be encouraged to envision a future without these worries (“miracle question”) and from here be able to identify actions and steps they can take to make this a reality. A teenager having difficulty with family relationships might be supported to explore moments of connection with family members (“exceptions”) to assist them in building more positive relationships with those they long to connect with.

How does using SFBT with younger clients differ to its application with adults?

While the core principles of Solution-Focused Brief Therapy (SFBT) remain consistent across age groups, there are notable differences in how this approach is applied when working with adults as opposed to children and adolescents. Therapists must adapt their approach to suit the developmental stage, communication style, and unique needs of their clients, whether they are adults or children. Flexibility, creativity, and a deep understanding of child development are essential when applying SFBT techniques in work with young clients.

Benefits for the Therapist:

Solution-Focused Brief Therapy (SFBT) offers several benefits for therapists, which contribute to its popularity and effectiveness in clinical practice. In particular it offers therapists an efficient approach to achieving client outcomes. Outcomes are achieved through a focus on empowerment and supporting the client to find solutions to their problems. SFBT is very flexible in its application, easily adapted across a variety of settings and presentations. With strengths-based approach, the therapist is energized and uplifted as they are able to adopt a positive and hopeful outlook for their client. With its emphasis on innovation and creativity, utilising SFBT can invigorate therapists' practice, inspiring them to continually refine their skills, experiment with new approaches, and stay engaged in their work. These advantages contribute to therapists' job satisfaction, professional growth, and ability to make a meaningful difference in the lives of their clients.

In the practice of psychology, where so often time constraints intrude on health outcomes, Solution-Focused Brief Therapy offers an opportunity to make positive and lasting change in as little as one session with a client. Further to this, by harnessing the innate strengths and resilience of young clients, SFBT empowers them to navigate life's challenges with confidence and optimism. We are excited to be presenting training focussed on upskilling clinicians working with younger populations.

If you are interested in learning more about SFBT, please join me in a FREE webinar exploring the fundamentals of SFBT and its application with children and adolescents. Alternatively, join me for an in depth 2 days training either face to face OR online. Head over to our Training page for more information.

FREE SFBT webinar: 12th June 2024 @ 2pm https://forms.office.com/r/8LeniPubEt

• De Jong, P., & Berg, I. K. (2012). Interviewing for solutions (4th ed.). Thomson Brooks/Cole Publishing Co.
• Franklin, C., Trepper, T. S., Gingerich, W. J., & McCollum, E. E. (2012). Solution-focused brief therapy: A handbook of evidence-based practice. Oxford University Press.
• Kim, J. S., & Franklin, C. (2019). The efficacy of solution-focused brief therapy: A meta-analysis. Research on Social Work Practice, 29(1), 17-28.