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Solutions Focused Theory or 'Solutions Focused Therapy' - Louise Porter

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Luke Dunn

on 21 April 2011

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Transcript of Solutions Focused Theory or 'Solutions Focused Therapy' - Louise Porter

Solutions Focused Theory or Therapy (SFT) SFT is one of the four branches of the broader 'Systems Theory'.
This theory was orignally developed by Dr Steve de Shazer and colleagues in the 1980's.

Unlike 'Individual theories' which see a
person as a whole, made up of parts; systems theory sees the individual as a part of a whole system or group.
The theory itself identifies 'systems' as any ongoing group such as a family, school, class or work group - that has characterisitic communication patterns, roles and rules.

Systems theory provides a framework for thinking about recurring problems in new ways. The branch of Sytems Theory we are
looking at is referred to as the 'Solutions Focused
Theory' or as 'Solutions Focused Therapy'.
This theory believes that behaviour problems arise
when behaviour is accidentally mishandled
and so an attempted solution has not worked. Australian Child Psychologist Louise Porter
is a great advocate of SFT.
Porter outlines that SFT is likely to be the most
relevant branch of systems theory for our roles
as teachers, and explains that this branch of systems
theory is especially useful for school practitioners
who need quick solutions to severe problems. In the context of the classroom,
SFT is mainly focused on dealing with behaviour
problems and situations such as bullying.

As we pointed out before, Solutions Focused Therapy believes that behaviour problems arise when behaviour is accidentally mishandled and so an attempted solution has not worked.

Change, then, is brought about by changing how the behaviour is handled. To do this, you need to identify previous solution attempts and do something different from those. Main elements of Solution Focused Therapy Pre-session change:
Before the start of a session 'clients', or simply students, are asked about any pre-session change to enable the therapist to begin a conversation about existing signs of solution building and to encourage clients to notice evidence that change is possible. Problem free talk – represents an opportunity for the therapist and client to converse about other aspects of the client’s life, aside from the issue that has led to help being sought. gGoals - SFT is goal directed at every stage. It is usual to enquire about a client’s goals for the session. Identify Goals - SFT is goal directed at every stage.
As the 'therapist', your job will be to help students and yourself define how you will know when the behaviour has improved, and in what ways the improvement will be different from the presenting pattern. The goals must be small, realistically achieved and stated in specific, concrete, behavioural and measureable terms.

Goals need to specify what you want to see continue, rather than what behaviour you want stopped, because the absence of something is difficult to notice. Identifying exceptions – One of the key skills of SFT is asking questions to elicit examples of exceptions to the problem, that is times when a particular difficulty is less, absent or easier to cope with. When a problem has been happening for a long time, those involved mistakenly believe that it is ‘always’ happening.
There will always be times when the problem is not occurring or is happening less.
You need to ask about these instances, so that together you and the student can identify what features allow these exceptions happen. Preferred future - To find out where the client wants to get to, the therapist needs to build up a picture of a preferred future, without the problem that has led them to seek help.

The Miracle Question was devised with this in mind. ‘Suppose that tonight, while you are sleeping, a miracle happens and the problem that has been troubling you sorts itself out overnight. What would you see the next morning that would let you know the miracle had happened?’
Miracles are not always the well formed, realistic and concrete goals the therapist is aiming to identify, rather they point the way. Scaling questions – These questions provide a useful technique for moving from miracle to goal.
For example, ‘On a scale of 0 to 10, where 0 represents the worst things have been and 10 is after the miracle, where would you say you are today?’

It is unusual, although not unknown, for individuals to answer 0 to a rating question and so a further exploration of the path to a solution can be made. Towards the end – Compliments about the client’s strengths, resources, solution building activities and related personal qualities are highlighted.
An attempt is made to acknowledge the problem in a non-blaming and non-pathologising way. Tasks may be given, usually in the form of a suggestion to notice what is already helping to move the client towards a solution, to carry on and to build on partial successes. Positives Some features of SFT are particularly child friendly. Children are frequently apprehensive about meetings that have arisen because of problems involving them. They may expect to be criticised or punished and be reluctant to say anything lest they draw attention to themselves. SFT’s non-blaming attitude, together with problem free talk and exception gathering, serves to widen the perspective, reminding all concerned that there is more to the child, parents and teachers than the problem. The language of SFT is concrete and relatively easy for even young children to grasp. Therapists rarely ask ‘Why’ questions. Children usually cannot answer questions about the reasons for their actions and their failure to do so tends to be a source of frustration. SFT concentrates instead on the ‘how, when, what and where’ of solutions. The approach utilises the imaginations of children, through the miracle question and other techniques for visualising the future. Students wishes for the future are respected, even when challenging the views of adults who have actively sought help. Negatives Early writing on the subject of SFT did not include specific reference to gender, culture, ethnicity, ability, sexuality or other differences of importance to clients. Two commonly asked questions in SFT workshops are ‘does it work?’ and ‘how brief is it?’ While there are some encouraging reports suggesting that SFT can be effective or more effective than other successful interventions, and in fewer sessions, more research is definitely needed. Success from SFT may take longer than just one or two sessions. It therefore may not be the most appropriate approach to certain issues. SFT is an approach which is very much structured around a set approach. If problems are encountered throughout the sessions they can damage the success and progress of the student. During the STF process the individuals problems and their histories are not taken into account, even though acknowledgement of these problems and of resulting distress may be important for many clients.
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