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What Does the Research Say About Solution-Focused Brief Therapy?
SFBT is an evidence-based approach to psychotherapy, which has been studied since the early 1980s. In fact, it is one of the few approaches in psychotherapy that began as “evidence-based,” vs. being “theory-driven” as most other models were. Its developers, Steve de Shazer and Insoo Berg and their team would observe sessions and meticulously note what the therapist did that worked, and moved the client in the direction of their stated goal, and then instructed the therapist to do more of that (Lichik, et al, 2012). Over the course about ten years, a set of interventions, along with a general clinical style emerged that could best be described as collegial, collaborative, and focused on solution descriptions --- as opposed to more interpretive, instructive, or confrontive, and focused on problem description. This inductive approach, rather than the more common deductive one that led to most other models, led to what is now the standard practice of SFBT.
SFBT has had a large number of empirical studies, in fact enough to have been examined in two recent meta-analyses and to be officially supported as evidenced-based by numerous federal and state agencies and institutions, such as SAMHSA’s National Registry of Evidence-Based Programs & Practices (NREPP). To briefly summarize:
- There have been 77 empirical studies on the effectiveness of SFBT,
- There are been 2 meta-analyses (Kim, 2008; Stams, et al, 2006) , 2 systematic reviews.
- There is a combined effectiveness data from over 2800 cases.
- Research was all done in “real world” settings (“effectiveness” vs. “efficacy” studies), so the results are more generalizable.
- SFBT is equally effective for all social classes.
- Effect-sizes are in the low to moderate range, the same that are found in meta-analyses for other evidence-based practices, such as CBT and IPT.
- Overall success rate average 60% in 3-5 session
The conclusion of the two meta-analyses and the systematic reviews, and the over-all conclusion of the most recent scholarly work on SFBT, is that Solution-Focused Brief Therapy is an effective approach to the treatment of psychological problems, with effect sizes similar to other evidenced-based approaches, such as CBT and IPT, but that these effects are found in fewer average sessions, and using an approach style that is more benign (Gingerich et al, 2012; Trepper & Franklin, 2012). That is, the more collegial and collaborative approach of SFBT does not involve confrontation or interpretation, nor does it even require the acceptance of the underlying tenets, as do most other models of psychotherapy. Given its equivalent effectiveness, shorter duration, and more benign approach, SFBT is considered to be an excellent first-choice evidenced-based psychotherapy approach for most psychological, behavioral, and relational problems.
Gingerich, W.J., Kim, J. S., & MacDonald, A. J. (2012). Solution-Focused Brief Therapy outcome research. In Cynthia Franklin, Terry S. Trepper, Wallace J. Gingerich, & Eric E. McCollum (Eds), Solution-Focused Brief Therapy: A handbook of evidence-based practice. New York: Oxford University Press, pp. 95-111.
Kim, J. (2008). Examining the effectiveness of solution-focused brief therapy: A meta-analysis. Research on Social Work Practice, 32, 49-64.
Lipchik, E., Derks, J, LaCourt, M., & Nunnally, E. (2012). The evolution of Solution-Focused Brief Therapy. In Cynthia Franklin, Terry S. Trepper, Wallace J. Gingerich, & Eric E. McCollum (Eds), Solution-Focused Brief Therapy: A handbook of evidence-based practice. New York: Oxford University Press, pp. 3-19.
Stams G. J. J., Dekovic, M., Buist K., & de Vries, L. (2006) Effectiviteit van oplossingsgerichte korte therapie: een meta-analyse (Efficacy of solution focused brief therapy: a meta-analysis). Gedragstherapie 39, 81-95.
Trepper, T. S., & Franlin, C. (2012). The future of research in Solution-Focused Brief Therapy. . In Cynthia Franklin, Terry S. Trepper, Wallace J. Gingerich, & Eric E. McCollum (Eds), Solution-Focused Brief Therapy: A handbook of evidence-based practice. New York: Oxford University Press, pp. 405-412.