The following are some of the assumptions and principles of solution focused framework which was influenced by Milton Erickson and the MRI team.

1. People operate out of their internal maps and not out of sensory experience.

2. People make the best choice for themselves at any given moment.

3. The explanation, theory, or metaphor used to relate facts about a person is not the person.

4. Respect all messages from the client.

5. Teach choice; never attempt to take choice away.

6. The resources the client needs lie within his or her own personal history.

7. Meet the client at his or her model of the world.

8. The person with the most flexibility or choice will be the controlling element in the system.

9. A person can’t not communicate.

10. If it’s hard work, reduce it down.

11. Outcomes are determined at the psychological level.
(Lankton and Lankton, 1983)

 Do not need to know the cause of the problem in order to find solutions
 Client is the expert in their own life
 People become problem saturated and lose their problem solving abilities
 People have strengths and resources within themselves to find solutions
 Do not need to go back to the past in order to influence the future
 The problem is the problem, the person is not the problem
 Change is inevitable
 Small change leads to larger change
 Problems continue when you apply the wrong solution
 People in general are doing the best that they can

If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.
If it doesn’t work, try something different

Once you know what works, do more of it, (Cade, 2007)

The above are the assumptions about people and problems. In some respects it at first appears a simple formula, however the art in solution focused is the timing of interventions and techniques such as the miracle question, and for counsellor not to get caught up in the problem talk, but move the conversation towards solution focused talk. I don’t know about you, but when I came across these principles it was very liberating as a counsellor to feel that I am not the expert in the client’s life, but a bystander and a facilitator. I found this exciting.

The client is the expert in their own life and we facilitate the process. Solution focused is at the opposite spectrum to psychoanalysis. Solution focused believes that you do not need to go back to childhood or hunt for the root cause of the problem in order to facilitate change. For some clients this is reassuring. Some clients find solution focused to be empowering and hopeful.

In 15 years of experiencing solution focused talk, the word HOPE comes to mind. Having said that solution focused does not have to go back to childhood to find the root cause of this problem is true, however as solution focused is client directed, if the client feels that it is necessary then the therapist will go there. However if the client is looking for analysis and treatment, then they have the wrong therapist.

In my practice I start were the client is at. I used whatever is useful to the client to facilitate change, as this is what it is all about, CHANGE. In meeting new clients I will briefly discuss my solution focused philosophy just to make sure that they are clear on what they are getting.

When we talk about brief therapy, some make the assumption that this means that the client is allowed ten sessions only, however this is not necessarily the case. Depending on your agency/organisational requirements, one maybe able to provide what the client needs. In my experience we often work with a client on a specific issue, once that is resolved or they feel they can manage better with it then the therapy ends.

However sometimes clients two-six months later come back for what I call a “check up”, just checking in on how things are. Generally my sessions take between 1-10 sessions. Having said that, there is room for flexibility. Some clients may have resolved the initial issue that they came for in the first place and then may wish to work on another presenting issue.

However if the client is coming for long term twice a week sessions, they have got the wrong therapist, try psychoanalysis.

In Australia, numerous government and non government agencies are becoming more interested in using solution focused brief therapy in their service delivery models. Psychoanalysis on the public purse is a thing of the past, solution focused is becoming far more economical and in my personal view effective.

What to know more? See Stephanie Johnson’s E-book, available here on line at Solution focused, called Solution focused counselling…Keeping it Real, The art of helpful conversations.
Only $14.99 Aud.


Cade, B. W. (2007) Springs, Streams and Tributaries: A History of The Brief, Solution-focused Approach. In F. N. Thomas & T. Nelson (Eds) Clinical Applications of Solution-Focused Brief Therapy. New York: The Haworth Press.

Lankton, S. and Lankton, C. (1983) The Answer Within: A Clinical Framework of Ericksonian Hypnotherapy. New York: Brunner/Mazel.