Solution-Focused Therapy Questions

Find a handy guide when working with clients in exploring their goals and solutions with our helpful list of solution-focused therapy questions.

By Gale Alagos on May 15, 2024.

Fact Checked by Ericka Pingol.

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What is solution-focused therapy?

Solution-Focused Therapy (SFT) is a therapeutic approach that emphasizes knowing and maximizing clients' resources and strengths to find solutions to their problems. Unlike traditional therapeutic models that dive into the roots of psychological issues, SFT draws from positive psychology principles and concentrates on exploring the client's present and future desires, helping them move towards their goals.

The key aspects of solution-focused therapy that make it different from other forms of therapy are the following:

  • Goal orientation: SFT starts by helping the client in goal setting. These goals provide direction for the therapy sessions and a way to track progress.
  • Resource activation: This therapy is founded on the principle that individuals possess the skills and resources necessary for change. The therapist’s role is to help clients discover and use these resources to help them find personal growth and achieve their goals.
  • Future focus: The approach is future-oriented. Therapists steer conversations from past problems toward future possibilities, encouraging clients to envision a future where the issue is resolved or significantly improved.
  • Brief and flexible: SFT is often brief, with some clients experiencing significant progress in as few as one to five sessions. Its flexible nature allows it to be adapted to a wide range of contexts and populations.

Printable Solution-Focused Therapy Questions

Download this Solution-Focused Therapy Questions to help put forward client strengths, resources, and abilities to bring about change.

Solution-focused techniques

Solution-focused therapy offers a refreshing and empowering alternative to traditional therapeutic approaches, aligning well with clients seeking efficient and goal-oriented solutions to their concerns. Here, we discuss some core techniques that define SFT and how they facilitate positive outcomes in therapy.

The miracle question

The Miracle Question invites clients to imagine a scenario in which they wake up tomorrow, and the problem that brought them to therapy is resolved. This exercise helps clients express their goals and desires, which can help reveal pathways and solutions they might not have previously considered.

Exception questions

These questions help in guiding clients to reflect on times when the problem did not occur or before they experienced these difficult circumstances. Exploring these "exceptional" periods helps clients and therapists discover what was different and how these successful strategies can be applied to current challenges. This technique highlights the belief that clients already have the resources for change and that these have already been effectively used before.

Scaling questions

A scaling question asks clients to rate their progress or the severity of their problem on a numeric scale, often from 1 to 10. This technique provides a concrete method for evaluating progress and challenges and can help clients recognize improvements they might have overlooked. It also assists in setting goals and identifying what steps might be needed to move up the scale.

Presupposing change

Attention is directed toward even the slightest positive shifts that have occurred, reinforcing the client's ability to effect change. Acknowledging and building on these positives encourages further positive developments.

Goal development questions

Defining clear, actionable goals is crucial. Through conversation, clients express their aspirations, which become a blueprint for the therapeutic journey, outlining steps for achievement.

Pre-session change questions

Each session starts by identifying any positive developments since the last meeting. This sets a constructive tone and maintains momentum by drawing strength from the success of their progress.

Coping questions

A coping question recognizes the client’s resilience and resources by exploring how they have managed to keep going despite their difficulties. This approach validates the client's existing coping mechanisms and strengths reminding them of their competence and resilience.

Looking for previous solutions

Recalling past resilience and problem-solving instances shows a client's ability to navigate current challenges. This reflection helps build confidence in their skills and resources for finding solutions and overcoming present challenges.

What is solution-focused therapy most suited for?

Solution-Focused Therapy (SFT) is commonly used for its adaptability and effectiveness when applied across different contexts. Its foundational belief in cultivating clients' strengths and resources to construct potential solutions makes it a valuable approach for different issues. Here, we highlight where SFT is most suited to improve the potential for positive outcomes.

Mental health disorders

SFT has shown promise in treating a range of mental health disorders. Its goal-oriented nature is particularly beneficial for clients with depression and anxiety. The SFT process helps them improve their well-being by focusing on achievable goals using their personal strengths. The approach's emphasis on client empowerment and autonomy aligns well with recovery models for these conditions.

Educational and career challenges

In educational and career counseling, SFT assists clients in setting and achieving specific, measurable goals. Whether addressing academic performance, career transitions, or work-related stress, SFT's techniques can help individuals clarify their objectives and take actionable steps toward their desired outcomes.

Behavioral and lifestyle changes

For clients seeking to make behavioral or lifestyle changes, such as adopting healthier habits or improving time management, SFT offers a supportive framework. Identifying exceptions and scaling questions helps clients better understand their capabilities and how they can use this to achieve a desired outcome.

Substance use and recovery

SFT's focus on client strengths and resources is particularly impactful in the context of substance use and recovery. Through SFT, we can allow clients to envision a future free from substance dependence and reflect on small, achievable steps toward this. This can be a source of motivation and empowerment on their recovery journey.

Adapting to life transitions

Whether anticipated or sudden, life transitions can disrupt an individual's sense of stability and identity. SFT helps clients navigate these periods by focusing on how to adapt using their strengths.

Examples of solution-focused questions

SFT involves specialized questioning techniques to help put forward client strengths, resources, and abilities to bring about change. These questions are key tools in the SFT approach and solution focused training, designed to help individuals achieve their preferred outcomes. As we have discussed the different solution-focused therapy techniques, we also dive into the questions we can ask under each approach.

The miracle question

A central technique in SFT is used to help clients articulate their desires for the future. An example of this technique is asking the following question:

"Suppose tonight, while you sleep, a miracle happens and your problem is solved. What will you notice tomorrow that will tell you this miracle has happened?"

Exception-finding questions

These questions help identify past instances where the problem did not exist or was less impactful, suggesting potential paths forward. Here are sample questions to ask:

  • "Can you describe a day when you felt the issue was manageable or absent? What was different about that day?"
  • "When was the last time you experienced even a small amount of relief from your problem?"

Scaling questions

These questions allow clients to assess their progress or the severity of their issue on a numerical scale. Some questions to ask include:

  • "On a scale from 1 to 10, how confident do you feel in your ability to handle this issue?"
  • "If you are at a 4 now, what would a 5 look like? What small change would you see?"

Coping questions

These questions acknowledge the client's resilience and how they manage to continue functioning despite challenges. Here are some sample questions:

  • "Given the challenges you've faced, how have you been able to keep going?"
  • "What strengths have you discovered in yourself during tough times?"

Preferred future questions

Asking preferred future questions aims to describe the client's vision of their future without the current problems. For example:

  • "How would your day-to-day life look if the issues you are facing were no longer a problem?"
  • "What would you be doing differently if your goal was already achieved?"

Solution development questions

These are questions aimed at actionable steps and finding possible solutions. Here are some samples:

  • "What is the smallest step you could take that would make the biggest difference right now?"
  • "What have you already tried that you found helpful?"

Solution-Focused Therapy Questions example (sample)

We have created a list of Solution-Focused Therapy Questions based on Bannink's (2010) book on 1001 Solution-focused questions, a manual for solution-focused interviewing. Specifically, this includes questions about goal formulation, exceptions, competencies, scaling questions, and questions with which to conclude and evaluate the session. These questions can be helpful when practicing Solution-Focused Brief Therapy (SFBT) or crafting a treatment plan. Feel free to check out a sample preview of this resource by clicking on the link below or downloading it as a PDF.

Download this free solution-focused therapy questions PDF example here 

Solution-Focused Therapy Questions example (sample)

Why use Carepatron as your therapy software?

Choosing the right therapy software is critical to ensure that any practice runs securely and efficiently. Carepatron stands out as a highly beneficial software solution for therapists as we bring together your practice needs into a single platform. Think client intake, communication, billing, documentation, and storage in one place. This is how Carepatron aims to transform your practice by cutting down on administrative and paperwork stress so you can focus on providing care and guiding clients to find solutions.

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Bannink, F. (2010). 1001 Solution-focused questions: Handbook for solution-focused interviewing. W W Norton & Co.

How does SFT differ from other therapy models?
How does SFT differ from other therapy models?

Commonly asked questions

How does SFT differ from other therapy models?

SFT is distinct in its brief, goal-directed nature. Unlike models that delve into past experiences and problems, SFT concentrates on what clients want to achieve in the future, highlighting the strengths and resources they already have to solve their issues.

What are some common techniques used in SFT?

Common techniques include the Miracle Question, Scaling Questions, identifying exceptions (times when the problem doesn't occur), and building on past successes to encourage progress and solution-building. Therapy worksheets can also be used as tools alongside these methods to help clients visualize their goals, track progress, and engage with the therapeutic process outside of sessions.

How long does SFT usually last?

SFT is known for being a brief form of therapy, often requiring fewer sessions than traditional therapy. The length of the therapy depends on the client’s goals and progress but typically ranges from five to eight sessions.

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