Solution-oriented brief therapy (SOBT) is a cousin to CBT (cognitive-behavioural therapy). It’s less famous, but is in my view it is more inspiring and more life-affirming than CBT. Perhaps as a result, it is proved by research to be as successful as CBT but in half the time.
I’m a huge fan of the solution-oriented brief therapy school. Their premise is simple: you already know how to solve your own problems. SOBT therapists may not even ask you what the problem is; they may never find out! They ask, if you made the first tiny step towards solving it, what would you do? If a miracle of the human heart occurred inside you and the problem vanished, what is the first step you would take? When you are at your best, what is different? – and in general just step right past the problem and focus on your innate ability to solve it.
This is a hugely refreshing change from a century of Western problem-oriented psychology. I make extensive use of SOBT, and totally share their view that people have inside them all that they need for happiness. In a way I’d call my work ITOBO – “Inner treasures oriented brief therapy”. Even when I am not searching for “solutions” – specific everyday behaviours – I am searching for “inner treasures”, the joy, strength, beauty, acceptance, aliveness and inner peace which are in the essence of every person, however manifested.
Treat people as if they were what they ought to be, and you help them to become what they are capable of being. Goethe
Strengths of solution-oriented therapy
Very action-oriented; amazing how much SOBT achieves with such simple tools (puts some therapies to shame); especially good in schools, families and other “system” settings; works very well with children; wonderfully respectful, optimistic and empowering philosophy which creates the success of the method; impressive range of application. SOBT is unique in that it is popular both with difficult public-sector clients and as a high-level staff development tool in organisations.
Weaknesses of solution-focused therapy
Limited access to the unconscious mind; does not work with emotions; reduction in the therapist’s role is in my view excessive and dogmatic; willfully avoids giving the client new tools and information; does not always get to the emotional heart of the matter; wrongly assumes that no problems have hidden roots; in the end too simple for many issues much of the time. May well more support action-oriented strengths above relaxation-oriented ones such as letting go. Despite all of this, Solution-oriented Therapy is a unique beacon of effectiveness with an empowering vision which deserves the highest respect.