Solution-Focused Brief Therapy has had a significant impact among the school counselling profession internationally — indeed, there are probably more professional books written about Solution-Focused approaches in school counselling than there are about any other application of the approach (for example, Durrant, 1993; Rhodes & Ajmal, 1995; Murphy, 2000, Davis & Osborn, 2000).

There are various different projects around the world exploring different ways of incorporating ideas from the strengths perspective, Positive Psychology, the Solution-Focused approach or a focus on resilience more broadly within the school — taking the ideas OUT of the counselling room and into the classroom, the playground and the Principal's office! Here we will include information about some of these.

The Strengths in Schools team have personal involvement, or collegial contact, with all the programs mentioned here.


BRIEF's work in schools

BRIEF, the pre-eminent Solution Focused centre in the UK — possibly in all of Europe. Practical, REAL work in schools has always been an important part of their work.

Harvey Ratner and Denise Yusuf wrote Brief Coaching of children and young people: A Solution Focused approach (2015).

This is possibly THE most useful and most accessible resource for introducing Solution Focused ideas to teachers. Harvey and Denise have been working in some TOUGH, inner-London schools. They used to call what they did "Brief (or Solution Focused) counselling"; now, they call it “Brief (or Solution Focused) coaching”. Exactly the same Solution Focused work but, “Oh, yeah, I’ve got to go and see the coach” carries a lot less stigma!

The book discusses PRACTICAL questions, such as, “How do you work with a student where the school has major concerns but the parents don’t think there’s a problem?, “What about the adolescent who refuses to talk to you?”, and so on.


Yasmin Ajmal (who previously worked as part of the BRIEF team, is a former primary school teacher and an educational psychologist and who now works as an independent Solution-Focused coach, trainer and consultant) and Harvey Ratner wrote Solution Focused practice in schools: 80 ideas and strategies (2020).

Quoting Yasmin: “It was principally written as a guide for all school staff about the basics of a Solution Focused approach in relation to their work with individuals, groups, whole classes and organisational developments. Alongside our (the authors) own experiences, the book draws on numerous examples of creative ways in which staff themselves have adapted the SF framework to support each other and the everyday activities of teaching and learning in the classroom. However it would also be relevant to other professionals who work in a supportive capacity in schools.


Finally, Denise Yusuf has edited the book, The Solution Focused approach with children and young people: Current thinking and practice (July 2020). This is a collection of chapters on different ideas or examples of using Solution-Focused therapy with children and adolescents.

Dr Harry Korman, Solution Focused elder statesman from Sweden says,This book is useful not only for Solution Focused practitioners but for anyone wanting to develop their work with children and young people. For practitioners already using the Solution Focused approach with children and young people, it is, in my view, essential reading.”

Adam Froerer, Associate Program Director of the Family Therapy Program at Mercer University, USA says, "This book is a Solution Focused treasure! There isn’t another book that captures how to use the SF approach with such a wide range of issues that confront children and young people. Yusuf has compiled amazing contributions from across the globe that give practical, cutting-edge tools for working with children, teens and young adults. This book is a valuable resource for all practitioners interested in creating hope and optimism with their young clients."



Faced with a significant increase in drug & alcohol problems, and incidences of violence, within the student population, La Cima Middle School (Tucson, Arizona) adopted a resiliency-based approach to all its activities. Over 5 years, its average rate of exclusions reduced, its average level of academic performance increased and its level of staff attrition dropped significantly.

More information available here soon.



FKC (Centret för Lösningsinriktad Arbetsmodell) is a therapy and educational organisation in Sweden and a centre for Solution-focused approaches. For many years, FKC operated two special schools, one in Stockholm and one in Götenberg, for students aged 7–16 displaying various school behaviour difficulties. The FKC school program was developed almost exclusively along Solution-Focused lines.

Our colleagues, Kerstin Måhlberg and Maud Sjöblom, previously FKC Special Education teachers, have published "Solution-Focused Education" — their account of their use of the ideas in the learning process itself. Their view of Solution-Focused Education devotes a great deal of focus to DIALOGUE as an educational tool — the kinds of conversations we have with students and the language we use are central!

"A solution-focused teacher uses the solution-focused model in her classroom work, her management of the curriculum, as well as a direct means of engaging with pupils, parents and colleagues. This means that the teacher builds solutions jointly with her pupils, fostering their individual resources and goals. The teacher focuses particularly on pupils' positive behavior rather than the negative, and supports them through encouragement and positive feedback. One always assumes that change is possible, and keeps looking for the smallest sign from the pupil that success is imminent." (SFE Måhlberg & Sjöblom, 2004)




Sue Young, a behaviour support teacher and consultant in the UK, has developed a Solution-Focused approach for using in schools — particularly primary schools — for dealing with bullying and its effects on students.

Prominent UK Solution-Focused practitioner and trainer, Guy Shennan, describes Sue's work as "what I have long considered to be the best account of an application of the solution-focused approach outside of the therapy room". He describes his reaction to reading Sue's work. "I was blown away, by the simplicity, elegance and sheer radical solution-focused-ness of her ... approach — as well as being most impressed by its effectiveness. It's also an approach that is relatively simple to learn and use."




Gonzalo Garza Independence High School is an "alternative" high school in Austin, Texas. The school was founded in 1998 and implemented ideas from Solution-focused Brief Therapy as an integral part of the development of the school. The founding Principal set out specifically to design a "different" school culture and the Solution-Focused Alternatives for Education (SAFED) Project is a practice and research project conducted jointly with the University of Texas, under the leadership of renowned Solution-Focused researcher, Professor Cynthia Franklin.

"Imagine a high school where students are in control of their destiny. Imagine a high school that believes that a student's environment and past history does not have to decide their future. Imagine a high school that teaches that a student's family problems, and poor neighborhood do not have to dictate their personal success in school or work. Imagine a high school that considers a student's personal adversities and life difficulties as strengths that they can harness for their personal betterment. Imagine a high school that inspires hope and teaches that the small steps that a student takes can lead to big changes in their life. ..."

Unlike the other resources on this page, the Garza project is almost about how to train teachers to be therapists rather than how to incorporate Solution-Focused ideas into "normal" classrooms.




WOWW — Working on What Works — is a Solution-Focused program for working with challenging students , but developed for working with one class at a time instead of with one child at a time, thus creating realistic and practical solutions in the classroom.

Developed in conjunction with Insoo Kim Berg (one of the founders of the Solution-Focused approach) and piloted by special education teachers at the New Rivers Middle School (Fort Lauderdale, Florida), the WOWW program is an innovative program that is easy to learn and immediately brings positive responses from students.

The program has shown time and time again that having a "consultant" — who may be an external person, or may be another teacher from within the school — who observes the class in a normal lesson and then gives them feedback about ANYTHING he.she noticed that was evidence of strength, co-operation, successful behaviour, etc. can have a transforming effect on students in the class.

Solution-Focused "scaling questions" then allow the whole class to begin to establish class goals for behaviour.

Arnoud Huibers, from Solutions Centre in The Netherlands, produced a video showing Insoo Kim Berg working with a primary/elementary school class. You can see it HERE.


Michael's book

ONE of the first books about using Solution Focused ideas in schools was Michael Durrant's book Creative strategies for school problems: Solutions for psychologists and teachers (1995).

The book introduces Solution Focused ideas in ways that are relevant to teachers and uses REAL classroom examples. The book includes ideas about how consultants or senior teachers can consult to teachers having struggles in class


Email us ( if you have a project, school or organisation that should be listed here!