10 SFBT Therapy Activities & Exercises to do with your Clients in Therapy

The collaborative approach of Solution-Focused Brief Therapy (SFBT) emerged through the contributions of Milton Erickson, Insoo Kim Berg, Steve de Shazer, and other pioneers, as a powerful and empowering treatment modality (Seligman, Reichenberg, 2010). In SFBT, counselors work hand-in-hand with their clients to explore and identify the skills, knowledge, and resources they already possess to navigate their problems and challenges (Seligman, Reichenberg, 2010). Continue reading to discover 10 SFBT therapy activities and exercises that can be integrated into your sessions with clients.

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During SFBT sessions, counselors engage in the task of helping clients identify moments when the problem or challenge was absent or less severe (Seligman, Reichenberg, 2010). These instances are then explored to uncover the factors that made them different and examine the client’s approach to facing the challenge.

Essential skills employed in solution-focused brief therapy encompass active listening, empathy, posing open-ended questions, providing explanations, offering reassurance, and suggesting possible solutions (Seligman, Reichenberg, 2010). Confrontation and interpretation are rarely employed by SFBT counselors and therapists (Seligman, Reichenberg, 2010).

Counselors utilizing solution-focused behavioral therapy should actively engage clients during sessions, convey acceptance, propose actions that foster change, and employ solution-focused language to create an environment conducive to effective application of solution-focused brief therapy.

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Why SFBT?

Solution-Focused Brief Therapy (SFBT) is a highly effective therapeutic approach that may be chosen for several compelling reasons:

  1. Focus on Solutions: SFBT is solution-oriented, emphasizing clients’ strengths, resources, and capacity to identify and implement solutions to their problems. It shifts the focus away from dwelling on the problem itself and encourages positive change.
  2. Efficiency: SFBT is brief and goal-oriented. It often produces results in a shorter time frame compared to some other therapeutic approaches, making it an efficient option for individuals seeking timely relief and change.
  3. Collaborative and Empowering: SFBT is a collaborative process in which the therapist and client work together as equal partners. Clients are empowered to take an active role in setting goals and identifying solutions, fostering a sense of ownership and self-determination.
  4. Flexibility: SFBT is highly adaptable and can be used to address a wide range of issues, including relationship problems, substance abuse, anxiety, depression, and more. It can be applied to individual therapy, couples therapy, family therapy, and group therapy.
  5. Strength-Based: SFBT recognizes and builds upon clients’ strengths and resources, helping them recognize their own resilience and ability to overcome challenges.
  6. Client-Centered: SFBT is client-centered and respects the individual’s unique experiences, values, and goals. It tailors therapy to the client’s specific needs and preferences.
  7. Positive and Future-Focused: SFBT encourages clients to envision a future where their concerns have improved or been resolved. This positive orientation can be motivating and inspiring.
  8. Effective Communication Skills: SFBT equips clients with effective communication skills that can improve relationships and interpersonal interactions.
  9. Well-Being and Self-Esteem: By focusing on solutions and successes, SFBT can boost clients’ self-esteem and overall sense of well-being.
  10. Reduced Stigma: SFBT may appeal to individuals who are hesitant to seek therapy or are concerned about the stigma associated with mental health treatment, as it emphasizes practical problem-solving rather than dwelling on psychological issues.
  11. Transcultural and Multicultural Application: SFBT can be used with clients from diverse cultural backgrounds, as it does not require an in-depth exploration of the client’s cultural identity or history.
  12. Long-Lasting Effects: Clients often report sustained improvements and the ability to continue applying SFBT principles to various life challenges after therapy has concluded.

While SFBT offers numerous benefits, it is essential to consider an individual’s specific needs and preferences when selecting a therapy approach. SFBT may be particularly suitable for those seeking a positive, future-oriented, and collaborative therapeutic experience that promotes rapid change and personal growth.

Mental Health Concerns That Can Benefit from Solution-Focused Brief Therapy

Solution-focused brief therapy can be applied effectively to a range of mental health concerns (Seligman, Reichenberg, 2010). With an encouraging and empowering nature, most clients respond well to SFBT and solution-focused behavioral therapy exercises.

Solution-focused behavioral therapy can be an effective treatment approach for clients who are experiencing communication challenges, anxiety, substance misuse and abuse, behavioral problems, and other relationship challenges. Additionally, it can be helpful for individuals who are struggling with their self-esteem.

Similar to other treatment modalities, solution-focused behavioral therapy is not appropriate for every client. Clients who experience severe mental health concerns including active mania, schizophrenia, and major depressive disorders would likely not benefit from solution-focused behavior therapy.

Additionally, solution-focused behavioral therapy focuses on the present and future moments. It does not incorporate a person’s past, which some clients benefit from exploring and processing. This can include individuals who are carrying shame and guilt and some trauma-related mental health concerns. Keep reading to to learn 10 SFBT therapy activities.

SFBT Therapy Activities 

If you have decided to use solution-focused brief therapy exercises in your sessions, you have a variety of options to choose from. Solution-focused behavioral activities provide clients with an opportunity to explore their own resources and strengths, as well as identify changes that they would like to work towards in their life. SFBT activities can also provide Clinicians and Therapists with an opportunity to introduce new skills and perspectives that can support clients and their goals.

Some examples of SFBT Therapy activities include:

  1. Identifying strengths, skills, and attributes can help clients recognize their ability to accomplish challenging tasks. The Overcoming Difficulties with Strengths worksheet at TherapyPatron.com begins by asking your client to take a different perspective and explore what others may say are their strengths and skills. With this shift in viewpoint, clients may experience a change in their ability to recognize how the strengths that they may have overlooked can support them as they work towards their goals.
  2. A Negative Habits Worksheet can be helpful for clients who are struggling with unhealthy behaviors (ie. biting nails), and those who would like to add new behaviors to their routine (ie. exercising). You can explore how their life would look if they were to change their behavior and the benefits that they would gain from doing so. Follow up in later sessions regarding changes that your client was able to engage in.
  3. To focus on making progress, ask your client to identify 3 goals for the next month. Work with them to specifically identify the steps needed to achieve their goal and ensure that their expectations are realistic for them. An example of an unrealistic goal would be to lose a significant amount of weight in 4 weeks. Explore how the client’s strengths and skills can support them while they work to achieve this goal, and how this goal would impact their overall well-being. Allow for time to check in on their progress over the next month.
  4. Identifying and working towards goals can often feel overwhelming for our clients. As Counselors, we can help our clients break down goals that feel like a lot into smaller, more digestible, pieces. This can include exploring different behaviors that the client can incorporate into their day that work towards accomplishing their goals. Providing clients with a worksheet, similar to the Goal Setting Action Plan Worksheet offered by TherapyPatron.com, can act as a reminder outside of sessions regarding what they can do to make forward progress. Allow for time in future sessions to assess any progress made toward the client’s discussed goal.
  5. A simple Solution Focused Behavioral Therapy exercise would simply look at the advantages and disadvantages associated with a change in the client’s behavior. Exploring the pros and cons of a change can lead to further discussion about barriers they are experiencing, and how they can work to overcome them. If you use worksheets in your therapy sessions, TherapyPatron.com offers a
  6. Motivation and Ambivalence Worksheet that you can use during therapy sessions.
    The Miracle Question is a popular and simple Solution Focused Behavioral Therapy exercise that you can incorporate into your session. With this, you can ask your client to imagine that while they are sleeping tonight, a miracle occurs that has their problem or challenge resolved. What would their life be like tomorrow? There are many ways that the miracle question can be worded, so find the way that feels natural and authentic for you and your counseling style. The miracle question can help clients explore the benefits of changing their behaviors, and barriers that may be preventing them from making progress toward their goals.
  7. A SFBT exercise that can be used for a variety of concerns and topics would be the use of homework exercises. Homework exercises ask your client to continue working on something discussed during the session, outside of their therapy sessions. Examples of homework would include keeping a journal of their distress while raising it on a 1-10 scale, using new coping skills 3 times before their next session, or completing a specific worksheet provided in the session. Time should be spent in their next session following up on their ability to complete their homework assignment, and processing their experience with it.
  8. Clients who feel overwhelmed when exploring various problems or challenges they have can often benefit from breaking the problem down into smaller pieces. This can include identifying what the challenge is, what has contributed to it, what helps the concern, and what compounds the distress the individual experiences. TherapyPatron.com offers a Problem and Solution Worksheet that can act as a guide for this in therapy sessions. Allow for time in future sessions to follow up about the client’s ability to engage in behaviors that would help them move past their identified problem.
  9. Looking for exceptions can help clients gain a new perspective on their thoughts and concerns. As an example, if a client is struggling with their ability to exercise each day, ask them to describe a day when they were able to exercise. What was different that day compared to the others? And how did it make them feel that they were able to exercise that day? Exception questions can be helpful in breaking black-and-white thinking patterns that act as barriers for our clients.
  10. The use of scaling questions is another SFBT technique that can be used in sessions. Scaling questions can be used to gauge their current experiences as they relate to goals. As an example, you may ask your client on a scale of 1-10, how prepared do they feel to make a change in their behavior today? Scaling questions can be used to explore the progress they have made, the intensity of their distress, and the level of impairment they are experiencing.  Using the same scaling question in later sessions can help both parties develop an understanding of progress that is, or isn’t, being made.

Final Thoughts On Choosing Activities for SFBT

Thank you for reading this resource on 10 SFBT Therapy activities and exercises you can do with your clients. Solution-focused brief therapy can be an effective strategy when working with clients who present with an array of concerns. This form of treatment is intended to yield results in fewer sessions than other treatment modalities. This makes it an effective option for clients who are looking to make a behavioral change within their daily routine.

Some SFBT exercises, such as homework assignments, can be used in conjunction with other treatment modalities. As an example, a clinician who is providing psychoeducation about mindfulness skills for a form of behavioral therapy may ask their client to practice using a set number of skills before their next session.

If you feel that solution-focused behavioral therapy activities would be effective for the population that you work with, you can seek out continued education credits and other training that focuses on this treatment modality. Supervision can be a great resource when determining your readiness to utilize new treatment skills and modalities in your clinical work.

TherapyPatron.com helps mental health professionals better serve their clients. Our (editable, fillable, printable PDF) therapy worksheets can help you streamline your practice, effectively deliver different types of therapy, and support your clients be the best version of themselves.

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View all of our Solution-Focused Brief Therapy Worksheets

Resources:

Seligman, L., & Reichenberg, L.W. (2010). Theories of Counseling and Psychotherapy: Systems, Strategies, and Skills (3rd ed., pp. 220–225).  Pearson Education, Inc.

Kayla VanGuilder, MA, LCMHC
Author: Kayla VanGuilder, MA, LCMHC

Kayla is a Mental Health Counselor who earned her degree from Niagara University in Lewiston, New York. She has provided psychotherapy in a residential treatment program and an outpatient addiction treatment facility in New York as well as an inpatient addiction rehab in Ontario, Canada. She has experience working with individuals living with a variety of mental health concerns including depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, borderline personality disorder, and trauma.

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