How I Became A Solution Focused Therapist

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A funny thing happened to me on the way to becoming a licensed Marriage and Family Therapist. While I was in graduate school, I took a course in Solution-Focused Therapy (also known as Solution Focused Brief Therapy). Wow. This approach was so different from what I had been learning, I remember thinking. In SFT, we didn't delve into the details of client's problems. Rather, we asked about clients' best hopes for therapy and what they wanted for their future. Wait. What? I became really curious. I asked my professor a lot of questions. I wanted to know everything about the approach. How did it start? What motivated the early Solution-Focused scholars and practitioners to develop it? How did this approach help clients change? How could I learn it?

Little did I know at the time, but my curiosity and question asking would plant a seed in me. Throughout my career as an MFT intern I learned a lot of different approaches to therapy. Once I became licensed, I did a lot of soul-searching about who I was as a therapist, what my values are. I dusted off my textbooks on Solution-Focused Therapy. I began formal study and training. I started connecting with a community of Solution-Focused professionals all over the world. I found my home in SFT and I realized that my training and education in SFT practice would be ongoing. What a gift.

And my curiosity is entirely Steve de Shazer's and Insoo Kim Berg's fault! Though they are both gone now, they remain the pioneers of Solution Focused Brief Therapy. Steve and Insoo and their colleagues began the early work of developing SFBT in a lab in Milwaukee, WI in the 1970's. They spent countless hours conducting therapy sessions. They observed the sessions and discussed findings with their colleagues. They didn't stop there. They kept on refining their work and rethinking their assumptions. They learned what questions and activities led to client progress, and which did not.  

They developed a set of principles that remain the foundation of SFBT to this day. These principles are guideposts for therapy as I practice it with my own clients. Some of these include:

·       Listening For What The Client Wants. Clients come to therapy because they want something to be different. As a result, they expect to talk about their problems at length. Why else would they be coming to see us? As a SFT therapist, I am curious to hear what has brought you to my office. I am even more curious to hear how you would like things to be different in the future.

·      Paying Attention To What Has Worked. When you walk through my door for the first time, I will assume that you bring strengths and resources with you. I will assume that you have resilience. How else could you have arrived at my door? You may be feeling so down or stressed that you cannot see these assets of yours. But it is likely that they are there, and I will be on the lookout for them.

·       Highlighting When The Problem Is Not A Problem. No matter how big or small the problem is that brought you to therapy, there are usually exceptions. For example, if things feel tense and distant in your relationship right now, chances are that hasn't always been the case. There are usually exceptions, and they may be difficult to see when you are feeling angry, sad or worried. In SFT, I help you notice these exceptions.

These are but a few of the key principles of Solution-Focused Therapy that have inspired me in the work that I do. I have learned to see therapy in a way that both honors a client's past and a client's hoped-for future. I have learned to see all my clients as amazing people with compelling stories. Solution-Focused therapy, then, involves the client's discovery of these qualities within themselves. Discovering solutions that work for you means moving forward. And if moving forward means you don't need therapy anymore, then the mission is accomplished!

To find out more about my services as a Solution Focused Therapist, click here Solution Focused Therapy

Diana M. Pash, MA, LMFT is a certified Solution-Focused therapist in private practice in Rancho Cucamonga, CA. To find out more about Diana click here: Diana Pash Therapy