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Solution Focused Brief Therapy for Addiction Treatment

Solution Focused Therapy is just one of the many tools for addiction treatment. From group therapy to family therapy, cognitive behavioral therapy to psychotherapy, mental health professionals use a number of tools to help people overcome substance abuse and addiction. A relatively new therapy, developed just over the last 20 years, focuses on providing actionable solutions here and now. Solution-focused brief therapy may be especially effective for people who experience substance abuse, even people with few means or resources.

How Solution Based Therapy Works

Solution-focused brief therapy uses evidence-based positive psychology methods to inspire hope and change in a patient. The therapy focuses on goals of the person undergoing therapy, such as the goal to get and stay sober. The patient and mental health professional develop these goals together to ensure they are:

  • Small, specific, and concrete
  • Realistic and immediately achievable
  • Important to the patient and their situation, not just their psychology
  • The start of a new phase of life
  • The presence of something, not just an absence of something

Together, the patient and mental health provider can develop a plan to use the patient’s own resources and strengths to meet their goal. The goal may or may not have anything to do with abstinence. The goal may not be to quit using drugs, but to save their marriage or go back to school (which may involve stopping substance abuse).

Additionally, the plan may or may not focus on the actual addiction itself. For instance, the solution to stop drinking may be to get a new job or move away from drinking triggers. There’s not one single solution or goal that works for each patient, so that’s why it is important for the patient and provider to find solutions together.

Developing Goals and Plans for Solution-Focused Brief Therapy

One way patients and providers develop the treatment plan is through motivational interviewing. This interviewing technique uses specific questions and strategies to determine what a patient really wants to achieve and uncovers the obstacles preventing them from achieving that goal. It helps set the stage for the provider and patient to work as a team to uncover individual resources and strengths and helps the patient lead their own care.

Focusing on strengths provides positive reassurance to patients and helps them see that they have the power to fight addiction. These strengths can be as simple as a particular skill or trait that will help redirect behavior away from substance abuse. For instance, if a patient is particularly good at interacting with others, they may feel more fulfilled if placed in a job like sales that allows them to use that skill and feel successful.

At the end of the treatment sessions, participants are given “homework” to help them achieve their goals. This homework may focus on tasks that:

  • Help change actions
  • Help change thinking
  • Involve returning for the next session

The “homework” helps further break down the goal into actionable steps so that patients can feel as if they are making positive changes. The more positivity and success a patient experiences, the more likely they are to continue moving forward with therapy and their treatment plan.

Solution-focused therapy can also be used in combination with other types of therapy, such as family therapy. Family members, friends, and significant others can also help develop goals and plans. In this case, the provider will use special questions to help them get involved in recovery in a positive, actionable way. The questions may also help patients and their families have better interactions with each other and develop stronger relationships associated with sobriety.

Other therapies, such as psychotherapy or cognitive behavioral therapy, may also play a role in the solution or treatment plan. The entire goal of solution-focused therapy is to help patients use their resources well; other therapies may be considered resources that help them reach their goal.

Altogether, solution-focused therapy takes between 1 and 12 counseling sessions, with the average number of sessions around 5 over a three to four-month period. It is considered a “brief” therapy but is open-ended so patients can always return for more support if necessary or to make changes to their goals and treatment plans as they progress.

Handling “Relapses” in Solution-Focused Therapy

In solution-focused brief therapy, any release is considered a brief challenge. Instead of making judgments about the patient’s motivations or willpower, the counselor helps the patient refocus on any changes that may have led to the relapse. By looking at what was going on when the client was successfully sober they can better uncover what works to help their patient achieve their goals and encourage those actions again.

Even before relapses occur, pointing out and celebrating small achievements, even short-term sobriety or avoidance of behaviors associated with drug use, can help patients see their achievements. It can help them understand how the changes they are making to their lives are helping, even if it doesn’t mean 100 percent abstinence from the very beginning of treatment.

At Harmony Place, solution-focused therapy is just one possible therapy we provide as part of our comprehensive treatment for substance abuse disorder. Combined with other therapies and treatments, we believe solution-focused brief therapy can give you the tools and motivation you need to achieve long-term sobriety and improve your life.

At Harmony Place in Woodland Hills, California, we provide a relaxing, comfortable environment for addiction treatment and recovery with many addiction treatment program options, including our Medication Assisted Treatment program.

Contact us today to learn more about our services and how you or your loved one can prepare for a successful rehabilitation from drug and alcohol addiction at our California treatment center.