Solution-focused brief therapy is a type of therapy that focuses on the alleviation of immediate issues facing the individual seeking therapy, rather than the underlying problem that caused the individual to seek therapy in the first place. Solution-focused brief therapy for children who participate in disruptive behavior in school is a relatively new discipline, but offers a variety of promising solutions for teachers and parents alike who are trying to deal with the issue of disruptive behavior from school age children.
Disruptive behavior in children can have a variety of different causes, many of which are complex and interconnected. These causes may be unraveled and dealt with through traditional therapy methods, but children who are exhibiting disruptive behavior often need to have the behavior sorted out very quickly to ensure that the disruption to their lives and the lives of the children they interact with regularly is kept to a minimum. For this reason, talk-based solution-focused brief therapy can be extremely useful for children exhibiting disruptive behaviors (Bannink, 2007).
The literature on solution-focused brief therapy suggests that the fundamental concern when participating in solution-focused brief therapy is considering words wisely. Children and adolescents are keenly aware of the attitude that an adult speaking to them has, according to Gingerich and Eisengart (2000). Many of the problems that exist between teachers and students, for instance, are exacerbated by the language that authority figures use to speak to the charges in their care (Gingerich and Eisengart, 2000).
The key for successful solution-focused brief therapy for children who are exhibiting disruptive behaviors is first to identify clearly what the behaviors are that are disruptive (Gingerich and Eisengart, 2000). Even the best educators and caregivers can become careworn by bad behavior and begin to nitpick on behaviors which are normal and not truly “disruptive” based on their personal experience with a particularly troubled individual (Gingerich and Eisengart, 2000). A counselor wishing to intervene using solution-focused brief therapy must untangle the truly disruptive behavior from the behavior that is mildly irritating, and focus on the behavior that is truly problematic. One of the fundamental tenets of solution-focused brief therapy is that if something is working fine, then it does not need to be changed; too often counselors attack problems that are not truly problems or can conceivably be left for later and ignore larger, more pressing behavioral issues (Gingerich and Eisengart, 2000).
Often, children and adolescents that are suffering from the feeling that they are being treated unfairly-- whether this feeling is legitimate or not-- will react most positively to an individual who is willing and able to truly hear their grievances and address the issues that they are claiming as important. Without this care, the counselor runs the risk of further alienating the individual who is exhibiting the disruptive behavior (Iveson, 2002).
Solution-focused brief therapy does not require that the counselor or the individual seeking therapy know what the underlying, long-term problem is. Solution-focused brief therapy is concerned only with the present issue: the disruptive behavior of the student or child, in this case. Disruptive behavior may have many causes, but solution-focused brief therapy is focused on achieving a workable solution for a particular behavior in the short term, rather than solving a long-term behavioral problem (Bannink, 2007). Providing coping mechanisms for a child who previously had none is essentially the underlying function of solution-based brief therapy in terms of disruptive behavior within the school system, or even within a family setting (Iveson, 2002).
Because solution-focused brief therapy is a talk therapy, most of the literature is extremely focused on the proper use of diction when administering the therapy. A counselor who is using solution-focused brief therapy with children or young people must be very aware of the language that he or she is using, as children and adolescents are very aware of tone and condescension, and are very prone to judgment if they feel they are being condescended (Gingerich and Eisengart, 2000). One of the primary ways for a counselor to interact with an individual who needs solution-focused brief therapy is for that counselor to reflect an individual’s words back at him or her with a question, avoiding judgment on what the individual is saying as much as possible. This provides an open forum for the individual to speak, allowing that individual to feel as though his or her feelings are not being judged by the listener (Gingerich and Eisengart, 2000).
According to the research, solution-focused brief therapy has been shown to be particularly effective when applied to children, as children are generally less capable of introspection and impulse control and thus, less capable of participating in therapies such as cognitive-behavioral therapy (Franklin, 2012). When teaching children and adolescents to recognize their own competency and ability, a caregiver or educator is essentially participating in solution-focused brief therapy (Franklin, 2012). Teaching children and adolescents who are frustrated and acting out in disruptive ways as a result of that frustration is a prime case for the use of solution-based brief therapy. Overcoming disruptive behaviors can be frustrating for educators, caregivers, and children alike. Children who exhibit these behaviors can often be taught to utilize their own internal skills and competencies to develop coping mechanisms, however. These coping mechanisms are developed through the use of talk therapies like solution-based brief therapy.
Bannink, F. (2007). Solution-focused brief therapy. Journal of Contemporary Psychotherapy, 37 (2), pp. 87--94.
De Shazer, S. (1985). Keys to solution in brief therapy. New York: W.W. Norton.
Franklin, C. (2012). Solution-focused brief therapy. New York: Oxford University Press.
Gingerich, W. and Eisengart, S. (2000). Solution-Focused Brief Therapy: A Review of the Outcome Research. Family process, 39 (4), pp. 477--498.
Iveson, C. (2002). Solution-focused brief therapy. Advances in Psychiatric Treatment, 8 pp. 149-156. [Accessed: 27 Sep 2013].
Langer, S. (2013). Solution-Focused Brief Therapy: What is it, and what's the evidence?. [e-book] Olympia, WA: Available through: Northwest Brief Therapy Training Center http://casat.unr.edu/docs/StephenLanger_SolutionFocusedBriefTherapy.pdf [Accessed: 27 Sep 2013].
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