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The Role of Solution-Focused Brief Therapy in Addiction Recovery

Brief Therapy

Solution-Focused Brief Therapy (SFBT), also called Solution-Focused Therapy (SFT), is a short-term, goal-oriented therapeutic approach that incorporates positive psychology principles and practices to help clients focus on identifying and building solutions to problems rather than analyzing the underlying causes or issues. It was developed by Steve de Shazer (1940-2005), and Insoo Kim Berg (1934-2007) in collaboration with their colleagues at the Milwaukee Brief Family Therapy Center in the early 1980s. According to the Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation, SFBT is based on several assumptions:

  • The only constant in life is change.
  • The client must want to change.
  • Small changes can lead to big outcomes.
  • The client—not the therapist—is the expert.
  • Therapy is short term.
  • Every problem has exceptions.
  • Change can occur more easily when the client’s focus is on the present and future.
  • Negative thoughts can be blocked, freeing clients in therapy to act in an effective, positive manner.

Solution-Focused Brief Therapy is recognized as an effective treatment modality for substance use disorder largely because its practical and positive orientation aligns well with the challenges individuals face when trying to overcome addiction. Verywell Mind identifies key roles that SFBT can have in the context of addiction recovery, some of which include the following:

  • Customizable: SFBT is adaptable and can be tailored to each client’s unique needs and circumstances. 
  • Prioritizes goal setting: SFBT encourages clients to set clear, concise, and realistic goals related to their recovery, which can provide direction and encouragement to remain focused on positive outcomes and progress.
  • Celebrates small steps: SFBT breaks down the recovery journey into smaller, manageable steps. Clients are encouraged to take incremental actions toward their goals, which can help prevent feelings of overwhelm and increase a sense of accomplishment.
  • Evaluates progress: SFBT involves ongoing assessment to measure progress and adapt strategies as needed. This ensures that the client remains on track and can address any obstacles that may arise.
  • Prevents relapse: By focusing on solutions and coping strategies, SFBT equips clients with a repertoire of effective tools to manage triggers and prevent relapse. 
  • Future-focused: SFBT encourages clients to envision a positive future where they have successfully overcome addiction. This future-oriented perspective motivates clients to work towards their desired outcome.
  • Builds resilience: SFBT helps clients bolster their existing strengths and resources, which ultimately enhances their resilience in the face of challenges, promoting long-term recovery. 
  • Quick results: SFBT is known for its pragmatic and time-limited nature, making it suitable for addressing immediate concerns. In addiction recovery, clients can experience relatively quick improvements in their mindset and behaviors, leading to enhanced engagement in the recovery process.

Solution-Focused Brief Therapy offers an empowering framework that aims to highlight one’s strengths, set meaningful goals, and focus on solutions, which can help individuals in addiction recovery overcome challenges, build resilience, and work toward lasting positive change.

For Information and Support 

Substance abuse and addiction can be incredibly dangerous and can result in severe short and long-term consequences. If you or someone you know is suffering from substance abuse or addiction, please get help as soon as possible. The earlier you seek support, the sooner you and your loved ones can return to leading happy, healthy, and fulfilling lives. There is no reason to go through this alone, and we are here to help. Please feel free to reach out to us for further information or with any questions regarding substance abuse or addiction. We are available anytime via telephone at: 213-389-9964, or you can always email us at:

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