Let me start by saying I find this topic one of the most difficult to write about. Over the past few years I have started many times on a blog about this subject only to scrap it paragraphs in for one reason or another. What makes this topic so difficult for me to discuss is not because my own thoughts are unclear on the matter, in fact my thoughts are quite clear, what does make it hard is figuring out how to express these thoughts clearly. This is because it is hard to discuss being an SFBT purist without sounding as though I am saying this is the way all should be or without saying this is how SFBT should be done. I do not believe either of those things and simply wish to say what it means to be a purist and why my own practice has developed in this way. This is such an important subject and clearly one that people are interested in judging from the questions I am asked as I travel and lecture. So I will try something a bit different this time, I will be dividing this topic into segments in hopes that this will allow me to express my thoughts more clearly and perhaps make this post more digestible for those reading it. The first segment will be on how I became I purist.
From the earliest time of my work as a psychotherapist, even before being introduced to the Solution Focused Approach, I would have said I was a purist. The very first position I held as a psychotherapist was working as a Multi-Systemic Therapist (MST is a evidenced program based on Cognitive Behavioral Therapy) that worked with “at risk youth”. I loved this job and believed very much in the program and very much considered myself a purist of this approach.
I have always held the belief that therapy was just a helpful conversation and I was so excited to have this job that I could not have imagined doing anything else. I enjoyed very much working with these kids and their families that I never really stopped to question whether or not this CBT based method fit me. In fact, I was not aware that “fit” was important or even something that I could seek out. I was surrounded by many other CBT therapists so I was not aware that other people practiced other approaches. I truly wanted to become the best therapist I could so this meant learning about and practicing MST as much as I could as closely as I could. No one ever told me there was anything else out there.
It was at this time that I was introduced to the Solution Focused Approach. I will never forget that first encounter, hearing about SFBT blew me away and I instantly knew that I was hearing about something that made absolute, complete and total sense to me. It felt as though someone had captured all that I was wanting to be as a psychotherapist and put it into a nice neat package for me, just for me. However, there was a problem, though this method made instantaneous sense to me, my skills at applying it needed serious work. So, I made my first decision that would lead towards SFBT purism, I left the MST job, in part because my supervisors and colleagues expressed their significant displeasure with this new approach I was learning. I eventually ended up opening my psychotherapy practice so I could hone my skills in the way that I believed in.
To this very day I am not sure why I did not attempt to mix approaches in the very beginning but I can say I am glad I did not. Psychotherapy is a hard job and becoming proficient in just one approach takes intense focus and years of disciplined practice and learning, I can’t imagine how I would go about this if I were attempting to become proficient in multiple approaches. I have been able to apply myself in this way to the Solution Focused Approach and as a consequence have grown in my proficiency. I have this belief about all approaches and thus don’t believe that SFBT is different in this way. To get good at anything takes focus, psychotherapy is no different. However, since this approach engages in solution building and not in traditional problem solving strategies of other methods of psychotherapy, being a purist may be more advantageous for those looking to become proficient.