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An Overview of Brief Therapy

Brief Therapy is a model of therapy that focuses strongly on your present and future, as opposed to your past. Traditional psychotherapy tends to focus on the past and looks for the cause of problems. In contrast, Brief Therapy focuses on the solution to problems, which is why it is often called solution-oriented therapy. Some Brief Therapy experts would go so far as to say they don't even need to know what the past problems were to help the client. Although this is an extreme view, it does illustrate that Brief Therapy is firmly rooted in the present with an eye toward changing the future.

The brief therapy solution-focused approach can be summed up in three stages, according to Peller and Walter (1992):
1. Find out what you (the client) want
2. Determine what is currently working for you and do more of that
3. Do something different.

The simplicity of these stages belies their effectiveness. Consider, for example, the seemingly simple task of finding out what you want to achieve in therapy. Most people go into therapy knowing all too well what they don't want, what has been troubling them, or how frustrated they are by their problems. In the solution-focused model, our goal is to help you find out what you do want. Identifying your goal (or goals) is perhaps the single most important thing you will do in your Brief Therapy sessions. In effect, the goals that you articulate will guide you through the rest of your sessions, and they will be the mark against which you will measure your success.

In the next stage, the emphasis is on finding out what parts of your life are working just fine. Brief Therapists are strong adherents to the "if it ain't broke don't fix it" philosophy. When we find out what parts of your life you're happy with, we can use them as a strong foundation upon which you can build an improved lifestyle. In traditional therapy, by contrast, the focus is on diagnosing what is wrong with you or what is not working for you. In Brief Therapy you will present your problems, but you will solve them by using the strengths that you already have.

The last stage (Do something different) will help you when if you realize that one approach is not working effectively. Because everyone has an almost infinite capacity for creative solutions (even if you don't realize it now) we won't waste time on any approach that's not working for you. Since our time frame is measured in weeks and months (as opposed to years) we want to find a solution that works in the shortest time possible. Brief Therapy emphasizes the client as the expert. You will be in charge of your own therapy and you will decide when you have attained your goals. Your therapist will listen to what you have to say, and together you will develop goals and work collaboratively to find solutions.

Perhaps the most important thing to remember is that Brief Therapy is effective because people are capable of change in a short amount of time.

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