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We need to learn
ways of breaking out
of problem cycles

  The Brief Solution-Focused Model

The Solution-Focused model emerged from the therapeutic arena of Family Therapy in the 1980s. Since then, its psychological principles have been applied to a wide range of fields, from mental health to organisational change. The model reflects the spirit of today as it affirms collaborative, personalised, strengths–based values. It embraces a green agenda by its simplicity, economical use of resources and its clear focus on sustainable outcomes.

In one of his cartoons Charlie Brown says, 'Sometimes I lie awake at night and I ask where have I gone wrong. Then a voice says to me 'This is going to take more than one night.'

A pre-occupation with life's difficulties can leave us feeling overwhelmed and defeated. As we search for the reasons why we have problems, we can end up doing nothing. We suffer from 'paralysis by analysis.'

The Solution-Focused approach aims to help individuals, teams and organisations to break out of vicious problem-cycles and develop constructive, customised solutions.
We do this by:

  • Asking questions, rather than 'selling' answers
  • Listening for and reinforcing evidence of the strengths, resources and competence of our clients.
  • Working with what people can do, not what they can't.
  • Finding out what people are already doing that is helpful and exploring ways to amplify their strategies.
  • Focusing on the details of the solutions not the problems.
  • Developing action plans which work.



Individuals and organisations tend to have default 'solution-patterns' – recurring ways of coping with difficulties – just as they tend to have default 'problem-patterns'. We encourage people to become aware of their 'signature solutions'.

An invitation to follow the path of least resistance allows people to recognise, own and implement solutions. These sustainable solutions empower clients to become self-reliant. They can provide a platform for people to either 'keep doing what works', or to 'do something different' – to adapt and innovate.

Key Solution-Focused interventions include:

Negotiating a starting point – Ask people what their 'best hopes' for the session are. Alternatively ask them how they will know that the meeting has been helpful to them.

Exception seeking – Discover evidence of occasions when clients managed to handle challenging situations.

Future-focused questions – Support people to explore their preferred future by using questions such as, 'Imagine you wake up tomorrow and things are more the way you would like them to be, what will be the first thing you will notice?'

Scaling – Use a simple scale of 0-10 to measure progress and explore small steps towards goal achievement.

Positive feedback – Give specific, evidence-based feedback to help clients decide the next step forward.

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