SFBT is one of several therapeutic approaches that have been developed in the last century. SFBT is derived not only from medical and psychiatric research, but also from philosophy, psychology, hypnotherapy, psychotherapy and social science.
SFBT originates in the work of several therapists who studied the work of Milton Erickson and applied it in a creative new way to their own style of therapy. Milton Ericson is one of most influential personalities in the field of psychotherapy and hypnotherapy. He believed that people have their own subconscious resources that they can use to enable them to achieve positive health changes and recover from unhealthy behavioural patterns. Several new approaches have emerged as a result of his work, amongst them SFBT, NLP, Min-Body Work and Human Givens.
The therapists who were co-creators of SFBT were Steve de Shazer and Insoo Kim Berg. The work of Steve de Shazer began at the MRI (Mental Research Institute) at Paolo Alto, California, where he participated on research with Gregory Bateson, Jay Haley and John Weakland from 1970 until 1978. Insoo Kim Berg met with de Shazer at the MRI in 1974 and their 28-year collaboration started there. They established the Brief Family Therapy Centre in Milwaukee, which, in addition, later became a training centre. This is where the SFBT approach was first named.
SFBT is based on the knowledge that individuals already possess the necessary resources to enable positive changes to take place in their lives, even though they are often not consciously aware of them. In SFBT, positive language patterns are used as a therapeutic tool to encourage clients to learn to create positive thoughts followed by positive action. It is based on the knowledge that language and action cannot be separated
The therapist’s goal is to create an environment in which the client re-discovers these resources, providing them with the necessary tools to find their own solutions. This also acts as a motivating factor which empowers the client, enhancing their positive strengths and capacities. Once accepted and learned, this approach can have a life-long benefit, enabling clients to use solution-focused problem solving whenever needed.
Hypnotherapy is used in solution focused practice to create positive thought states and, by repetition, create further positive mind sets that enable clients to enter these positive states with increased frequency. In addition, this process teaches clients to relax and let go of anxiety and stress. The therapy is focused on the ability to 'exercise' the intellectual mind, which is then able to search for internal resources and apply rational thinking. It is these effects that give the SFH the potential to achieve significant changes within a relatively short period of time. A positive, non-directive approach that uses trance to relax the mind seems to be a combination that the human brain likes and responds to.
Science has proven that we adapt to change in order to survive. It is an in-built mechanism in humans and serves an evolutionary purpose. The activity of the neurological connections in our brain is under constant change and is affected both by the internal process of our reflection and subjective understanding and the external influence of our environment and social interaction. In other words, our brains are 'plastic' or ‘mouldable’ and able to learn and develop (that is if we choose to). This capacity is utilized and enhanced in SFH by bringing this into conscious thought by intentional focus. Clients are introduced to a model in which they are shown that they are able to have much influence over their negative thought and behavioural patterns. This well-adapted information forms the core of SFH.
Finally, the neuroscience that underpins the current SFH approach is constantly developing as new discoveries are made. SFH is committed to adapting to this by integrating any new findings within its structure. It is this application of ‘what is proven to work’ that is continuously being explored and that makes SFH such an exciting and effective therapy.
SFH is expanding rapidly across the UK. Its effectiveness is now widely recognised due to the impressive results obtained with clients, achieving the same if not better outcomes than CBT and other forms of psychotherapy.