Solution focused practice is best distinguished by its departure from the problem-solving paradigm that dominates many fields of study.  Solution focused practitioners are primarily concerned with developing a clear behavioural picture of a preferred future.  While attention is paid to the story and details surrounding problems, practitioners move rapidly toward what’s wanted instead.  Respectful curiosity is essential in helping others to develop this notion of preferred future.  The same curiosity is also vital in asking questions that reveal the client's  competency and knowledge.

A further pillar of solution focused practice is the idea of exceptions.  Practitioners hold a key assumption that few problems happen all the time.  Within these exceptions, one can sometimes locate solutions that are already happening.  Building on these exceptions can become a useful process for moving toward the preferred future.

The solution focused approach assumes that change is constant and inevitable.  We invite our clients to consider small, achievable actions toward their preferred futures.  In the course of solution focused conversations, the practitioner leads from behind by asking thoughtful questions that invites the client’s expertise.  A strong belief that people hold such expertise (based on their experience, skills and resources) is also a key element in solution focused practice.

The solution focused approach was conceived and developed about thirty years ago by Insoo Kim Berg, Steve de Shazer and others at the Brief Family Therapy Center in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.  Over the years, the approach has continued to be recognized as a respectful and helpful model in creating meaningful change for individuals, couples, families, communities and organizations.

Books on Solution Focused Practice


Solution Focused Brief Therapy:  100 Key Points & Techniques by Harvey Ratner, Chris Iveson and Evan George presents the approach in a clear, concise and simple manner.  Loaded with case examples, this book is highly recommended for those who are new to the approach.


Now in its fourth edition, Interviewing for Solutions by Insoo Kim Berg and Peter de Jong remains as one of the primary texts to understand how the solution focused approach is used in practice.  Often used as a university text, this book should be required reading for anyone in the helping professions interested in solution focused practice.

Handbook of Solution Focused Brief Therapy, edited by Thorana Nelson and Frank Thomas covers a wide range of the many different applications of the approach.  Notable in this book is the attention given to the use of the approach in clinical supervision.

Keys to Solution in Brief Therapy by Steve de Shazer.  If you are passionate about solution focused practice, you’ll want to read everything written by de Shazer.  Filled with case examples, this book offers clear descriptions of the foundations of solution focused practice.

Solution Focused Brief Practice with Long-Term Clients in Mental Health Services by Thorana Nelson and Joel Simon.  The utility of solution focused practice with people with significant mental health concerns is often questioned by newcomers to the approach.  This work provides strong evidence that solution focused conversations can be extremely helpful to people regardless of their presenting concerns.

The Art of Solution Focused Therapy edited by Elliot Connie and Linda Metcalf.  This book offers a wide variety of how solution focused practice is used in different contexts and client groups.  With contributions by a number of practitioners, there’s something for just about anyone who works in the helping professions.

The Solutions Focus by Paul Jackson and Mark McKergow is the primary text for learning about the solution focused approach to management, coaching and leading organizations.  It represents a good example of how the principles of solution focused therapy are easily adapted to any context of human behaviour and interaction.  HBTC highly recommends this book for anyone working in a management or leadership role.


The Art of Solution Focused Therapy edited by Elliot Connie and Linda Metcalf.  This book offers a wide variety of how solution focused practice is used in different contexts and client groups.  With contributions by a number of practitioners, there’s something for just about anyone who works in the helping professions.


Hope in Action:  Solution Focused Conversations About Suicide by Heather Fiske.  Conversations with clients about suicide are challenging for many practitioners.  In this book, Heather Fiske does a wonderful job in describing how the solution focused approach can be used to have useful and respectful conversations with clients who express thoughts about suicide.

Solution Focused Resources on the Web


The Solution Focused Brief Therapy Association is the North American focal point for those with an interest in solution focused practice.  This site is a great resource for books and videos. Handouts from the SFBTA's annual conferences can also be downloaded without cost.  The 2016 conference will be held right here in Halifax, Nova Scotia next November.  See the SFBTA site for more information.

This is the international mailing list or listserv for the practice of solution focused therapy.  It’s a very active list where you can engage with just about any type of helping professional working in a solution focused manner.  The list is also a resource for exchanging ideas or asking questions about the approach.  Participants on the list are always very open to offering their knowledge, experience and resources to newcomers interested in developing their solution focused practice skills.  Click the image for details on subscribing.

Solution News is a publication of the United Kingdom Association of Solution Focused Practice.  This site is a great example of why the UK is a leader in the continued development of solution focused practice.  Current and past newsletters (containing informative articles on the wide applications of solution focused practice) can be obtained here without cost.

BRIEF is Europe’s largest provider of solution focused therapy training.  They also provide training in solution focused coaching, leadership and conflict resolution.  The BRIEF site is an excellent resource for learning more about solution focused practice. Their practitioners are among the most prolific in making contributions to the development of the approach.

SolWorld is dedicated to sharing and building solution focused practice in organizations.  This site offers a wealth of resources for those who practice in a solution focused manner and are involved in training and teaching others.  Meet SF people from all over the world in this helpful online community.