Solution focused therapies are founded on the rationale that there are exceptions to every problem and through examining these exceptions and having a clear vision of a preferred future, client and counsellor, together, can generate ides for solutions. Solution focused therapists are competency and future focused. They highlight and utilise client strengths to enable a more effective future.

Historically, psychotherapeutic approaches of the early-mid 1900s focused primarily on client pathology and problems. By the late 1950s a moderate shift in practitioner direction was occurring. Therapists were shifting from a focus on the past to a ‘here and now’ approach. Nonetheless the focus on client pathology and problems remained.

By the late 1970s, practitioners, particularly family therapist, were taking note of their own biases. Contextual factors became the focus as clinicians began to challenge traditional pathologizing and power-orientated practices (Bertolino & O’Hanlon, 2002).

Solution focused practice emerged with the idea that solutions may rest within the individual and his or her social network. As postmodernism sparked questions about the superiority of the therapist’s position and the idea of a universal truth, the therapeutic relationship began to transform – the client now recognised as the expert in his or her own life.

This created a more collaborative approach to counselling (Bertolino & O’Hanlon, 2002) and established a context in which solution focused practice could flourish.


Solution focused counsellors are more concerned with solutions than how or why a problem originated. For this reason, solution focused practice has a broad application. The solution focused approach can be brief due to its focus on ‘what works’ and its emphasis on action as a significant factor in change. This makes it an approach that can be well integrated into the typically fast-paced lifestyle of the contemporary client.

As such, solution focused therapy has been successfully applied to a variety of client concerns, including drug and alcohol abuse, depression, relationship difficulties, relationship breakdown, eating disorders, anger management, communication difficulties and crisis intervention to name but a few.

In addition, solution focused approaches have been effectively applied to a vast array of client groups, including children, families, couples and mandated clients.


  1. Collaborative in its approach
  2. Focuses on client competencies
  3. Can be brief


  1. Clients expecting depth therapy or analysis may dismiss the solution focused approach for its simplicity.


The solution focused approach provides counsellors with a framework for exploring and utilising clients’ existing resources; their strengths, support networks, ideas and theories of how change occurs. Solution focused counselling seeks to redirect client thinking from being problem-focused to solution-focused.

This can be a difficult task, particularly when the client has lived with a particular concern for many years. Techniques such as the miracle question and exception questions can serve as useful tools for inspiring new ways of thinking and generating ideas for solution building and the establishment of a preferred future.

Click here to learn more about Solution Focused techniques.


  1. Bertolino, B., & O’Hanlon, B. (2002). Collaborative, competency-based counseling and therapy. Needham Heights, MA: Allyn & Bacon.