Solution Focused Brief Therapy — MNCLHD Alcohol and Other Drugs Service

Last updated 1 PM, 1 May 2024


This page contains additional resources following the Solution Focused Brief Therapy training. The page will be updated throughout the two years of the Solution Focused project, so you may want to come back here every now and then.

The first time you come here after Solution Focused training, please click the link to the online feedback form.

Training feedback

We would be grateful if you would complete the brief online feedback form about the training. This will provide feedback to Michael and to David and the LHD.

Introductory training. The feedback form is available   HERE  . When you click "Submit", you will be returned to this page.

Consolidation training. The feedback form is available  HERE . When you click "Submit", you will be returned to this page.


Additional Solution Focused resources

Click on each button to download the PDF file (you may need to right-click and choose "save file"). By clicking on any of the download links, you are agreeing that you will not distribute or share the documents.


Additional notes from Michael's presentation   DOWNLOAD PDF 

Beginnings — a chapter from Michael's forthcoming book   DOWNLOAD PDF

Post-traumatic success — a chapter from Michael's forthcoming book    DOWNLOAD PDF   

At your best — a paper from our colleagues at BRIEF in London about the use of description   DOWNLOAD PDF

Focused description development — the "theoretical" paper by my colleagues in London about the use of extensive description of the preferred future  DOWNLOAD PDF 

A blog post by Michael on the experience of being a Solution Focused client   LINK

The paper by Frances Huber and Michael Durrant about clients' experiences of "the break" and the "end-of-session summary"  DOWNLOAD PDF

Paper by Frank Thomas on compliments in SFBT   DOWNLOAD PDF

Webinar (on YouTube) by Haesun Moon discussing Solution Focused use of language   LINK  


Different thoughts about using Solution-Focused ideas

Link to an online post by Evan George about the question "How does that make you feel?"    LINK

Link to a blog post from Michael that reflects on the use of the question "How did you do that?" (Note: This blog post is about working with the effects of trauma. However, the main point is about the power of the question "How did you do that?".)  LINK

Link to an interview with David Hains, mental health nurse, about using Solution Focused ideas in the Emergency Department    LINK  

Articles related to alcohol and other drugs

de Shazer & Isebeart — The Bruges model: A Solution Focused approach to problem drinking   DOWNLOAD PDF  

Lewis — Solution Focused therapy and Motivational interviewing  DOWNLOAD PDF 

McCollum — Solution Focused group therapy for substance abuse   DOWNLOAD PDF  

Nelle — Solution and resource-oriented addiction treatment with the choices of abstinence or controlled drinking   DOWNLOAD PDF  

Pichot — Co-creating solutions for substance abuse   DOWNLOAD PDF  

Smock — Solution Focused group therapy for level 1 substance abusers    DOWNLOAD PDF  


Solution Focused groups

Paper by Banks on Solution Focused groups with adolescent "bullies" —  DOWNLOAD PDF 

Froerer — Solution Focused groups with people diagnosed with HIV/AIDS    DOWNLOAD PDF  

McCollum — Solution Focused Group Therapy for Substance Abuse   DOWNLOAD PDF  

Hardenberg — Solution Focused group work in mental health   DOWNLOAD PDF  

Research on SFBT

There is now a comprehensive, searchable database of SFBT research    HERE  .


Ratner, H., George, E. & Iveson, C. (2012). Solution Focused Brief Therapy: 100 key points & techniques. London: Routledge.  AVAILABLE HERE

Shennan, G. (2014). Solution-Focused practice: Effective communication to facilitate change. London: PalgraveMacmillan.  AVAILABLE HERE

Recommended book about working with suicide. Fiske, Heather (2008) Hope in action: Solution-Focused conversations about suicide. New York: Routledge. Available as an E-book on Amazon for Kindle HERE 

Michael's new book

Michael's book, Solution Focused practice: How do you do that? will be published soon. Sign up on our home page to receive an email when it is available and to receive special prepublication discount.

Australasian Solution Focused Association

Link to web site HERE

The new page for the Journal of Solution Focused Practices is  HERE 

Feedback Informed Treatment

A few people have asked how Feedback Informed Treatment fits with Solutuon-Focused Brief Therapy.

I have written some thoughts about this (and canvassed comments from other Soilution-Focused practitioners). It is available as a PDF file  HERE .

PRACTICE ISSUES (from our online supervision sessions)

Things clients say — and how we might respond

 “I need to understand why I’m drinking”.

Okay. My experience is that there are LOTS of reasons why people keep drinking too much, and it is not always easy to figure out exactly why a particular person keeps drinking too much. It MIGHT be related to something that happened earlier in your life … or it might not. It MIGHT be related to particular stresses in your life … or it might not. So, you’re thinking that you need to understand why you keep drinking in order to be able to stop. As I said, I’m not sure how easy it is to figure out exactly why you keep drinking; but I’m interested that you seem really clear that you want to stop. How come?

How are you hoping that stopping drinking will make a difference?


“The doctor told me that you’d be able to give me some tips and strategies to stop drinking”

Okay, and I’m very happy to tell you some of the things that some others of my clients have said worked for them. But I’m interested that you’re wanting some strategies to stop drinking. How come?

So, you’ve already decided you should stop. How did you make that decision?

Before we discuss particular strategies, how are you hoping that stopping drinking will make a difference? (Get AS MUCH DETAIL as possible. Lots of, “How else will that make a difference?”  and, “What will your wife notice?” questions.)

Then, you might go on and discuss/suggest strategies, but do it tentatively and ask lots of, “How do you think that would make a difference for you?”


“I need you to tell me how to cope with the cravings”

Okay, and I’m happy to tell you some of the things that other people have told me helped them cope with the cravings. But, before we do that, what are some of the things that you have done to cope with the cravings — even just a little bit?


Writing notes in a Solution Focused way

When I worked in a large public hospital, I would write notes in patients’ medical record. I would use subheadings:

  • Problem that lead to the patient attending
  • How they would know that our service has been helpful
  • Strengths, exceptions, resources
  • The preferred future (how the patient would like her life to be)
  • Scaling

I’m sure lots of other people thought these notes were stupid; however, that was not of great concern to me (there were lots of ways in which they thought I was stupid!).

Remember, they are called “Progress notes”, so you should expect to write about progress and not just about the problem.


How do we do an assessment in a Solution-Focused way?

Remember, from a “purist” Solution-Focused perspective, the fundamental assessment is “how does this person want things to be?”

However, you are required to assess various aspects of the problem (details of the drug or alcohol use, etc.)

First, Brett has flagged that you need to have a discussion, as a service, at some point in the future, about whether or not you need to think about your drug & alcohol assessments differently.

Second, remember my example from the Introductory training about the inpatient detox program whose assessment was “how will the judge know when you don’t need to be here anymore?”

Third, remember the SF scale that I included in the notes from the SECOND training. The scale is available HERE.


Second, third, fourth (etc) sessions

I read recently that Steve de Shazer once said that the single most important question in Solution-Focused Brief Therapy is, "What's better?"

In subsequent sessions, we want to explore ANY difference or improvement and ask how they did that, how it made a difference, how it might make a difference in the future, etc. Be persistent with, "How did you do that?". "Was it hard or was it easy?" (If they say it was easy), "How did you make it easy? You've told me that you've struggled with drinking for years; so, this week. how did you manage to make it easy to stop?" (If they say it was hard), "So, how did you manage to stick at it?" "What were the challenges you faced in not using? How did you deal with those challenges?"


When people miss sessions

If they subsequently re-engage and come to a session, begin with, "What's better?". If anything is better, just proceed as above and you might never explore what contributed to their missing the last session.

OR, you might explore how they managed to come back. "I know you missed our last scheduled session, and it's up to you whether or not we talk about what led to you missing the session, but firstly I'm interested in how you decided to come back. How did you do that?"

If clients do not re-engage, you might reach out to them but, ultimately, it is up to them whether or not they come (unless they are court-ordered). I have a colleague who would write to clients who missed a session.

               I noticed that you didn't come to the session we had scheduled last week.
               I hope that's because you decided that you didn't need to come back. If
               that's so, I'd be interested to hear what's been better and how things
               have been better. If that's not the reason you didn't come, give me a
               call and we can schedule another appointment.

If clients have missed a number of sessions, you need to decide (as a service) how long you can keep the case open. In which case you might add a sentence that says,

               If I haven't heard from you in the next two weeks, we will have to assume that you
               have decided you do not require our service any more.


Motivational interviewing

I have added a paper on Solution Focused therapy and Motivational interviewing  DOWNLOAD PDF 

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