What is Solution Focused Counseling?

Solution Focused Counseling, also known as Solution Focused Brief Therapy, is a form of cognitive therapy.  The focus is on helping you figure out what positive changes you want to make in your life that will lead to better functioning, success, better relationships, and  better health.  Unlike many other forms of counseling, it does not focus on understanding the root cause of your problems. And does not delve into your history to get to the root of the problems.  Rather, it skips over this step and gets to building solutions.   We often make the distinction of “solution  building” rather than “problem solving”.  Problem solving refers to the idea that you have to understand how the problem started in order to fix it.  In traditional therapy, understanding why you do problematic behavior is necessary for you to choose to do something more healthy.  In solution building, it is not necessary to have a thorough understanding of why you do something in order to do something healthier. And in some cases, approaching a problem from the problem solving approach limits your ability to come up with alternative solutions.

Beginning the Process

We often start a Solution Focused counseling session with the question, “Imagine a year from now the problems that brought you to counseling are solved and you could see yourself one year into your future.  What are some things that will be different then that aren’t happening right now?”  Describing a future without the problem is the start of creating new ideas that will solve your problem.

Solution Focused counseling works well with many common concerns such as depression, anxiety, relationship problems, addiction, recovering from trauma, etc. Most people who try solution focused therapy leave sessions feeling of empowered and encouraged. They leave with concrete ideas to try out that will address their concerns.    The counselor asks questions to help you decide what you can do about it rather than just talking about it.

Effectiveness of Solution Focus Counseling

Most clients see gains by the second session as the therapist tends to get right to work.  I have  had several clients who came from a different therapist prior to seeing me. They comment that they appreciate a therapist who engages in solution talk rather than just encouraging them to vent.  They want to work on a problem and get specific ideas about what to do.

Does It Work For Everything?

There are drawbacks to all forms of therapy, however. One of the drawbacks to Solution Focused therapy is that even though clients solve their problems and their lives are on track again, sometimes clients still want to know why they were doing problematic behavior in the first place.  It can bother them to not know the answer to that question.’’  Sometimes they worry that the problem will resurface if they don’t know why it occurred in the first place.  However, I’ve never seen this happen in my practice. But if you’re the type of person who wants to know why you think or behave the way you do, you might prefer working with a psychoanalytic therapist.

Gary Watson is a Solution Focused Therapist in Grand Rapids Michigan.  He provides counseling for couples, teenagers, and adults.  He can help with anxiety, depression, stress, college and work stress, relationship problems, and more.  For more information, please visit the website at