In recent months I have been giving a lot of thought to what makes using Solution Focused Brief Therapy in couples sessions different from other common approaches to this work such as Sue Johnson’s Emotionally Focused Therapy (EFT) and John Gottman’s Gottman Method. Though I have attended trainings in the past by Sue Johnson, I would not consider myself an expert on either approach. However, I have become very interested in these two ways of working with couples. This is because I have been able to observe the amazing impact of solution building conversations in couples therapy during the past years, and my curiosity has grown regarding how this approach compares to traditional methods of couples work.
Around the time I was first introduced to the solution focused way of working, it was made very clear to me that there was an interest amongst SFT practitioners to demonstrate the efficacy of this modality when compared with other approaches to psychotherapy. This movement has continued to this very day, and I have developed friendships with the researchers that have taken on this challenge. The research amassed in the past 10 years is astounding and shows that SFT compares quite favorably to traditional therapy, except in one area where it usually surpasses, it’s more brief. The mantra I have heard several times when talking to other researchers is that “SFT is not better than other approaches, just more brief”. Meaning, the clinical results accomplished when using SFT are essentially identical to traditional psychotherapy except the outcomes of SFT are accomplished in far fewer sessions. (If you are interested in this research, look up the names Johnny Kim and Wally Gingerich).
These results caused me to wonder, does SFT compare as favorably in couples sessions as it does in other session when compared to traditional ways of working? This of course led to a curiosity into EFT and the Gottman Method. I am currently working on research to compare SFT in couples therapy with other leading methods of couples therapy. Hopefully, this study, and others to follow, will shed further light on the dynamic impact of this approach in couples therapy. In truth, I am still amazed at the reported changes from the couples sessions in my office. It is still, just as amazing to me as when I first began doing this work years ago. Couples often come to my office having no idea that therapy can go this way and that outcomes can be reached in such a short amount of time. I think this is an important development in the field of Marriage and Family Therapy and will add another paradigm of working in such a difficult setting to conduct therapy.
It doesn’t matter where I am in the world or the experience level of the audience I am speaking with, I frequently hear someone say that they do not work with couples because the work is too hard or too trying on the therapist. Once I am able to show them this new way of working with couples, that hesitation turns to excitement. That is because this approach is enjoyable and involves hope filled language that drastically changes the dynamics in the room, even with the most challenging of couples.