What is Solution-Building Practice?     By Insoo Kim Berg


As the name suggest, it is about building and creating solutions that will fit the personıs current situation, rather than trying to fit a person into a category of problems, thus focuses our attention and intention on creating solutions, rather than getting rid of problems.  There are big differences between the two activities and mindset.  We learned long time ago that when there is a problem, many professionals spend a great deal of time thinking, talking, and analyzing the problems, while the suffering goes on.  It occurred to a team of mental health professionals almost 30 years ago that so much time, resources, and energies are spent on talking about problems, rather than thinking about what might help us to get to solutions, thus bringing on realistic and reasonable relief as quickly as possible.

            Exceptions:  We (de Shazer, Berg, and their colleagues in Milwaukee, WI) discovered that problems do not happen all the time; even the most chronic problems have period or times when the problem does not occur, or is less intense or severe.  By studying these times when problems are less severe or even absent, we learned that people do many positive things that they are not fully aware of doing.  By bringing awareness to these small successes and helping them to repeat these small successes, they begin to own their successes, however small, and they become more interested in taking charge of their lives in a small and significant ways.  

            There is nothing like experiencing small successes to become more hopeful about themselves and their children, and when they are more hopeful, they become more interested in creating a better life for themselves and their families.  Thus people become more hopeful about the future and want to achieve more.  When they generate their own solutions to fit their wishes, they become stakeholders.

            Because these solutions are already within their previous experience,  repeating these small and successful behavior is easier than learning a whole new set of solutions that worked for someone else, but may not suit the person who has to make the changes.  Thus, ³brief² part was born.  Since it takes less effort to do what you know how to do, people become engaged in their own solutions, they become more invested and are able to repeat their successful behaviors, thus it is easier to embrace the changes, rather than dreading it.

Begin with What the Client Might Want:  Every encounter with clients begins with negotiating what the client might want, even if it means they want us to ³get out of our life.²  Through careful engagement with clients around their ³wishes,² clients are assisted to shape their own future that is consistent with their vision and culture.  There are distinct tools that quickly engage with clients in shaping their desired future, help them assess their own progress, and generate solutions that are consistent with their values and past experiences.   

            SFBT has taken almost 30 years to develop what it is today and it is successfully applied in working a wide variety of problems, such as domestic violence, substance abuse treatment, in schools, prisons, sexual abuse survivors, delinquency issues, chronic mentally ill, and businesses and large organizations.  It is a procedures that generates solutions, is highly respectful of clientıs vision of their own future, past and current successes, however small, and is sensitive to the concept of ³leading from one-step behind,² thus trying to leave no footprint of our professional presence. 

The current level of development has taken close to 30 years of painstaking, pragmatic in itıs philosophy, it has taken long-term commitment to developing the model, led by Steve de Shazer and Insoo Kim Berg and their colleagues, it is developed intuitively by carefully observing what works and what does not work. 

For more information, contact:  Briefftc@aol.com  or www.brief-therapy.org