One of the components of the Solution Focused Approach that makes it so different from other approaches to psychotherapy is the brevity with which treatment is completed. However, to view Solution Focused Brief Therapy as simply focusing on completing therapy in few sessions is incomplete, in fact, it is inaccurate.
The word “brief” was so often misunderstood that in the early days of my teaching this approach I referred to the model as SFT, leaving off the “B” for brief. I made this choice because so many people confused this word for meaning that this approach is trying to be fast in treating clients, as if this is the purpose of the therapy. This is not true and for years I struggled with how to make this point so I avoided it, I stayed away from it by simply removing the word “brief” and calling the approach simply Solution Focused Therapy.
Then one day something changed, I became aware of the work of Chris Iveson, Evan George and Harvey Ratner. These men are some of the very best teachers of this approach and have been amazing mentors and friends to me. One of the many things I have learned from them is a clear way of explaining the meaning of this idea of brevity. I once heard Evan George explain that brief means no more sessions than are needed to accomplish the client’s goal. This means that if treatment is completed in one session then a second session will not be scheduled, if treatment goals are accomplished in 25 sessions then a 26th will not be scheduled. This idea is very different than traditional problem focused approaches.
The brevity is more of a by product of focusing on what a client wants achieve as opposed to focusing on the removal of a problem. Here is an example, if you went to a restaurant and the server attempted to decipher your meal plans by asking you about what you don’t want, it would take it considerably longer to order your meal. Well, psychotherapy is much the same way. When the therapy is centered around what the client wants to achieve, as opposed to what they would like to remove (a problem), then the process seems to take much fewer sessions.