There are different forms of psychotherapies, but none of them is as unique as brief therapy. The definition and application of this therapy vary markedly between scholars and therapists alike. Despite the varied definitions, one thing is clear; it is a blanket term that takes into account different psychotherapies. Traditionally, brief therapists focus on the present client observable behavioral interaction with the objective of changing the current state of affairs (Molnar & Shazer, 1987).
This approach emerged in response to both situational limitations and patient needs (Molnar & Shazer, 1987). The application of brief therapy takes into account momentary versions of conventional and family therapies. In addition, brief therapy momentarily employs the foundations conventional and family therapies. It has been noted that brief therapy is an exceptionally advantageous approach providing that the desired therapy is unavailable or beyond the clients’ reach (Molnar & Shazer, 1987).
Since its inception, brief therapy has sought to scrutinize the cause of the clients’ challenges, as well as, deduce the intentions of those patients. However, in the recent past, a number of therapists and scholars seem to be transforming to problem solving approaches. This phenomenon has contributed to the growth of two schools of brief therapy. The first school not only dwells on the history and etiology of clients’ predicaments, but also seeks to comprehend the objectives of those patients. The second and the latest school of brief therapy focuses on solving the clients’ problems.
The First School of Thought: Focus on the History and Etiology of Clients
When selecting a psychotherapy, both the therapist and the client must choose an approach that can be attained in a timely manner, is affordable, and attainable (Molnar & Shazer, 1987). When this consideration is evaluated, it becomes apparent that the objectives of brief therapy are geared towards first aid. In other words, it relieves the patient from their most nagging problems, at the expense of the fundamental. Seen from another perspective, brief therapy is like a holding action while client anticipates the correct/best therapy. Proponents of this therapy such as Weakland et al. (1984) appreciate the practical and economic merits of making a patient’s treatment brief. Weakland et al. (1984) further contend that setting time limits impacts both the patients and the therapists for the better.
Conservatives of brief therapy contend that the sorts of challenges that clients bring to therapists are sustained by the current behavior of the client, as well as, his or her associates. Consequently, the elimination or effective alteration of problem-maintaining behavior can solve the client’s problem, in spite of its nature, duration and origin. When looked at critically, the definition championed by Weakland et al.’s (1984) emphasizes on two aspects of family therapy. These authors contend that, in the beginning, family therapists concentrated on observable behavioral interaction and its impact among and between the client and their respective family members, as well as, therapists, but not on inferred mental processes of individuals or long past events.
In line with this, difficult, disturbed or deviant behavior in an individual is perceived as a social phenomenon that manifests as one aspect of the system, and it is a reflection of a dysfunction the system in question. Weakland et al. (1984) hold the opinion that such a dysfunction can be eliminated by modifying that system. However, Weakland et al. (1984) do not second the opinion of family therapists that the dysfunction is a core aspect of the system’s organization and that it can only be solved by instigating fundamental changes in the system. These authors recommend minor changes in overt behavior or its labeling results in significant progressive developments. Besides, as noted by Weakland et al. (1984), symptomatic behavior has some positives: it provides leverage in controlling relationships.
Most importantly, family therapy, which is often on top of the desired options for patients under brief therapy, has widened the scope of therapists (Molnar & Shazer, 1987). It has made it possible to know whether it is the family that is causing the problem, and how to solve such a situation. The most logical approach in such a situation is to change the going system (Molnar & Shazer, 1987). In essence, a brief therapist’s main objective is to take strategic actions geared towards changing defective patterns. In other words, such systems can be made not only efficient and effective, but also powerful. When looked at clearly, brief therapy engineered by Weakland et al. (1984) is in agreement with the family therapy’s crisis intervention model, which emphasizes on directive measures and negotiation of conflicts, as well as, situational change as a means of promoting better understanding in family systems.
The founders of brief therapy particularly Milton Erikson used clinical hypnosis as the main tool. On the other hand, brief therapy seems to be different from other forms of therapy owing to its concentration and the championship of direct intervention (Weakland et al., 1984). This approach challenges the therapist to work proactively in order to treat both subjective and clinical conditions faster. On top of that, this therapy necessitates the employment of natural resources, and temporarily suspends s disbelief, and opens up a window for new perspectives (Weakland et al., 1984). Furthermore, it helps the client to perceive the current problem from a wider scope. This approach helps clients be aware of new understandings, and consequently change accordingly (Weakland et al., 1984). Most recently, brief therapy has become more strategic, exploratory, as well as, solution based, and this has given birth to the second school of thought.
The Second School of Thought: Solution Based Approaches
The second school of brief therapy can be termed as Solution-Focused Brief Therapy (SFBT), This approach of brief therapy is not only goal directed, but also collaborative. In other words, it is championed by evaluating the response of clients to precisely designed sets of questions (Bannink, 2007). Although this therapy scrutinizes background of the clients’ problems, it also seeks to comprehend what these clients intend to achieve. However, emphasis is on solutions to the client’s problems, and brief therapists who employ this approach focus on the present and the future. The only reason behind studying the client’s past is to understand the origin of the client’s problem.
However, therapists who use this approach are shifting the focus from the problem to solution based approaches, as well as, boosting the clients’ strength and resilience, and not focusing on their vulnerability (Bannink, 2007).
Bannink (2007) contends that instead of focusing on reducing the problems, clients ought to ask themselves what they would rather have instead. On a positive note, this will give clients optimism to perceive solutions and possibilities. It acts as a means of detaching them from their problematic past, and focusing on the future full of possibilities and opportunities.
This approach is seconded by Kiser and Piercy (1993). These authors hold the opinion that emotions ought to be integrated in not only the theoretical frameworks, but also therapeutic strategies (Kiser & Piercy, 1993). As such, this approach seeks to utilize the clients’ inner resources. Consequently, this boosts the clients’ inner strength. This goal can be achieved by eliciting positive emotions. When looked at critically, the second approach is better than the initial approach. However, therapists must be cautious because a solution can only be solved if its etiology is understood. Therapists must not shy away from evaluating the history of the client’s problem.
Molnar and Shazer (1987) contend that the next task in the advancement of brief therapy must focus on clinical solutions to a client’s problems. The theoretical basis of Molnar et al.’s solution-focused practice stemmed from an analysis of intervention that was termed as the formula first session task. This intervention was initially used at the brief family therapy center in 1982. The therapist asks the client to observe what happens in their life, particularly marriage, relationship or family, and inform the therapist in the following session what he or she would want to continue to happen. The formula first session task was given at the end of the first session. This task was given owing to the understanding that it did not vary much with respect to the presenting problem.
A review of descriptions in which the formula first session task was employed gives a hint about the development a conceptual framework for solution-focused brief therapy. This review reveals that this task had two outstanding characteristics. Firsts, it was not linked to any given problem or complaint. Secondly, it capitalized on the aspects of a client’s life which were functioning satisfactorily. These two aspects have led to a detailed understanding of the vital components of previous clinical practices, the emergence and modification of new concepts, and a detailed and more concrete description of the underpinnings of solution-focused brief therapy.
For instance, Shazer’s Crystal Ball Technique aimed at encouraging clients to project themselves into the future without the problem at hand. This analogy helped clients to perceive themselves as functioning satisfactorily. Shazer’s Crystal Ball Technique has been seen as the precursor of solution-focused brief therapy because it was an early attempt that challenged the client to focus on solutions rather than the problems he or she was facing.
New concepts have since been elaborated as solution-focused brief therapy continues evolve. This approach has been successfully employed in seeking solutions to familial problems. Brief family therapists argue that the strengths of this approach are based on the fact that brief family therapy helps clients perceive change. Most importantly, patients are challenged to change what they observed about themselves. When the client conceptualizes change, there is a possibility that there is a change that at times might not be physically recognized. Brief family therapist have the ability to recognize what can be labeled as changing and positively identify non-physical changes. In addition, the underpinnings of brief family therapy give the therapists alternatives to perceive what is changing. Therefore, the most potent clinical skill of brief family therapy is to perceive change, as well as, help their clients also do so, and it is the perception of change that shifts problematic patterns. However, additional studies ought to be conducted to assist therapists in recognizing triggers of change, and how it can be made to work more reliably.
The Better Option
In essence, the principal value of solution-focused brief therapy is potentially its ability to generate, as well as, explain more powerful concepts, explanations, practices, and interventions. These explanations are better than the first school that dwells on the problems of the clients (Shazer & Molnar, 1984). A good example is the systematic concept of deviation amplification; it is given a clinical and precise meaning when brief therapy is internalized as solution seeking and not problem solving. The first school of brief therapy that dwells on the problem solving is limited to those behaviors of the client that seem to be linked to the problem at hand (Shazer & Molnar, 1984). In this context, the definition is seen as a restricted set of behaviors, but other behaviors influence the better part of a patient’s life. Thus, solution-focused therapy focuses on non-problematic behaviors, which are many, and give the therapists more options compared to a situation where he would focused on problematic behaviors. This perspective is employed extensively in family brief therapies as it gives therapists a wider window to choose from; in other words, this concept holds a good deal of promise (Shazer & Molnar, 1984).
In addition, solution-focused brief therapy it conceptualizes therapy as a process that gives the therapist and the client to construct something meaningful (a solution) rather than fix something (a problem or dysfunction) (Shazer & Molnar, 1984). In practice, the chief objective is to build therapeutic tasks on thoughts, behaviors and feelings that the clients are already utilizing. Consequently, this option enhances patient client cooperation, because the client is not expected to think, feel or behave in a new manner different from their usual manner (Shazer & Molnar, 1984). In line with this, I tend to be drawn to the second school of thought of brief therapy.
In conclusion, this paper has discussed in length the two schools of thought characterizing brief therapy. This paper has shown that there are different forms of psychotherapies, but none of them is as unique as brief therapy. The definition and application of brief therapy thus vary markedly between scholars and therapists alike. Despite the varied definitions, one thing is clear; it is a blanket term that takes into account different psychotherapies. Two schools of brief therapy have evolved. The first school not only dwells on the history and etiology of clients’ predicaments, but also seeks to comprehend the objectives of those patients. The second and the latest school of brief therapy seeks to solve the clients’ problems. The first school of brief therapy that dwells on the problem solving is limited to those behaviors of the client that seem to be linked to the problem at hand. However, solution-focused therapy focuses on non-problematic behaviors, which are many, and give the therapists many options compared to a situation where he would focused on problematic behaviors. As such, solution-focused brief therapy seems to be more effective than problem-focused brief therapy. Solution-focused brief therapy enhances patient client cooperation, because the client is not expected to think, feel or behave in a new manner different from their usual manner.
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