Solution Focused Therapy

Solution focused therapy is a branch of psychotherapy which focuses on the positive outcomes clients want to achieve rather than on the problems that they currently face. In other words, the focus is on the solution and not the problem. The role of the therapist is to skillfully question the client in terms of his or her goals in order to determine a sequence of changes that can be made to begin moving towards a positive outcome.

One method of steering the client towards thinking in terms of positive outcomes is to ask the client at the beginning of a session to talk about something they enjoy doing or a skill that they possess. Doing this helps the client to think in terms of what he or she wants to change for the better in his or her life. For clients who are stuck focusing on problem or on perceived reasons as to why they will not achieve a positive outcome, the ‘miracle question’ can be used. The ‘miracle question’ is a questioning method used to help the client envision a future where the problem no longer exists. In order to bypass any doubts as to how the positive outcome can be achieved, the question is posed in such a way to make it appear as a miracle. For example, the client is asked to imagine that the problem exists upon going to bed but that, upon waking up the next morning, the problem has magically disappeared. The client is then asked to describe the situation and how it would be different to wake up with no problem. What would be the first thing that he would notice? How would he know that the problem was no longer present? By doing this, a goal can be proposed with smaller, more manageable steps planned out to help the client improve the chances of success.

Solution focused therapy was developed in the 1980s by the social workers Steve de Shazer and Insoo Kim Berg of the Brief Family Therapy Center in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.


Macdonald, A. J. (2007). Solution-Focused Therapy: Theory, Research & Practice. Los Angeles: SAGE.