Solution-focused family therapy (SFFT) is not traditional therapy, which focuses on what is "wrong" with the client family. SFFT works to help the family identify its strengths and to reach a concrete solution in a brief period of time.
Therapeutic Focus Described
Solution-focused (family) therapy is a psychotherapeutic approach that works to find, develop and work on solutions based on the family's resources, rather than working on problem-solving, which is based more on what is wrong with the family (their issues). According to Chris Iveson, solution-focused family therapy is intended to be brief in duration, covering no more than three to five sessions. Iveson goes on to say that solution-focused family therapy is a good "preliminary intervention" and is helpful used in conjunction with other treatment modalities. Iveson points out that, whatever the problems confronting the family, there are areas, or exceptions, which hold the "seeds" of the family's solutions to resolving their problems. The family is active in establishing the goals of their therapy so they know when the therapy will come to an end.
Client families address their ideal solution in the initial therapy session. Instead of focusing on what the problem is that brought them into therapy in the first place, this is minimized. The family's therapist might ask questions such as these: "What are your goals from our working together? Tell me about the times the problem is not as big. When do these 'good times' happen? What would your family or spouse notice if you moved just a little bit toward the life you want to have?" In this way, the therapist and family are developing a picture or scenario of the desired solution; they are also identifying possible solutions and resources to achieve the family's goal. Solution-focused family therapy has changed the emphasis from the "client's" view of the "problem" to wanting, visualizing and working toward something which is more beneficial to the family.
Strengths Versus Weakness
Families come in with specific mind-sets which help to place them in different status groups. These are "visitor", where the individual family members say a problem exists, but they are not the source of the problem; "complainant", where the family acknowledges a problem, but says the therapist is the one who has to fix it; "customer", where the family acknowledges a problem and takes responsibility for (owns) the problem. They also say they don't know how to fix their problem. (See Ref. 2, paragraph 12)
As the family keeps in mind that their therapy will be brief, their therapist will frequently ask them if things are getting better. As she works to keep her clients focused on their successes, she will help them to explore each good time or success thoroughly. She will ask questions such as, "What was different? Who was a part of that change? How did the success take place? What strengths did the family member(s) use to make the change possible? Who realized the change was happening? What would be the next positive sign that change was taking place?" If things got worse, instead of focusing on what went wrong, the therapist will concentrate on what family members did to keep working toward the goal.