55 Solution-Focused Therapy Questions to Ask Clients in Therapy Sessions

Solution-focused brief therapy is a great therapeutic approach to use for clients who are struggling with substance abuse and have behavioral problems, and can be used  in family sessions, and couples’ sessions. A key difference between SFBT and other approaches is that SFBT doesn’t focus on the individual’s problem or concern, rather it focuses on helping clients find a solution that can help them with their current challenges.  Keep reading to learn 55 Solution-Focused Therapy questions you can ask clients in therapy sessions.

There are a few mindsets that are associated with SFBT. This includes:

  • If it’s not broken, don’t fix it
  • If something works, do more of it
  • If something isn’t working, try something else

Mental health professionals who use SFBT in their clinical work use questions, including specific questions, to help clients find solutions to their problems. Additionally, clinicians can offer compliments and ask questions about their strengths to help find solutions. At the end of each session, clinicians provide feedback to their clients.

View all of our Solution-Focused Brief Therapy Worksheets

Research has shown that solution-focused brief therapy can have a positive effect in a shorter amount of time when compared to other clinical approaches for some clients.

Worksheets can be a valuable resource for clinicians who are using SFBT. Worksheets can help guide your session and provide your client with a form to take home for reference. TherapyByPro offers a variety solution-focused brief therapy  worksheets including:

Getting Ready for Your First Solution-Focused Therapy Session with a New Client

Meeting with a new client can be an exciting time. Having the opportunity to learn about another person’s challenges, fears, and triumphs is one of the great privileges of being a mental health professional. When we meet with a new client, it is important that we take time to assess their concerns and complete the important documentation. Proper assessments are necessary to ensure that you can provide the correct level of care and treatment options for your client’s needs. It is also important to take time to see if you would be compatible with working together.

The paperwork that you are required to complete after meeting a new client will be dependent on the clinical setting that you work in. You may be asked to complete a biopsychosocial assessment, screeners, or specific assessments. Additionally, you will likely need to spend time reviewing an informed consent and complete the appropriate consent of release.

If you are able to receive documentation, screeners, or other assessments, reviewing these before your session can help you gain some insight into your client’s concerns. This can help you navigate your first session by knowing which areas you should be focusing on.

Lastly, an important step in preparing for a first session with a new client is making sure that you are in a place where you are able to sit with and focus on your client. As rewarding as being a mental health professional can be, it is necessary for us to be in touch with our own needs and challenges. Self-care practices can be a regular component of your routine. Depending on your clinical setting, you may have an opportunity to engage in some self-care practices during the day. This can include going for a short walk, listening to music, journaling, or engaging in a mindfulness practice. 

Common Questions to Ask in Solution-Focused Therapy

Solution-focused questions can be used to keep sessions on track. Clients may find themselves unintentionally focusing on their problems rather than the intended topic. When we use SFBT questions, we can change the focus to exploring our client’s strengths and skills that can help them manage the concerns they are facing. SFBT questions can be tailored to each client so that they are relevant to their current situation.

SFBT questions can be related to setting goals, exception questions, scaling questions, and competence questions. Solution-focused question examples include:

  1. What brings you in today?
  2. Imagine that a miracle occurred while you were asleep tonight, and solved all your concerns and problems. What would be different? What would you be doing differently? What would others notice is different?
  3. What will you be doing differently in 6 months? (This time frame can be adjusted to reflect your client’s current situation and goals)
  4. What has kept you from falling apart?
  5. Can you share with me what your last good day looked like?
  6. Can you think of a time when you were happy with this relationship?
  7. On a scale of 1 to 10, one being not well and 10 being the best, how would you rate your response in that situation? Can you share a bit more about why you chose that number and not the one above or below?
  8. After asking a scaling question, you can ask: What would it take to move you up to the next number on your scale?
  9. Have you found anything to be helpful?
  10. What is your “go-to” thing when you are having a tough day?
  11. What has been working for you?
  12. Can you tell me what has not been helpful for you in the past?
  13. Is there anyone in your life that you lean on for support?
  14. What strengths of yours help you when you are doing well? And what about on the not-so-good days?
  15. What would you like to be happening instead of this problem or challenge?
  16. Has anything improved for you since we last met?
  17. Can you think of a time when this problem didn’t feel so difficult? What was different about that time and now?
  18. What would be the most useful way to use our time together today?
  19. How can you respond in that situation to achieve a more ideal outcome?
  20. What strengths have helped you since we last met?
  21. Can you think of a time when you surprised yourself by accomplishing something you weren’t sure you could do? What helped you succeed?
  22. What skills do you have that you feel could be applied to this situation?
  23. Can you think of assets you have that are working in your favor?
  24. What would you like to change?
  25. What is helping you keep this situation from worsening?
  26. Can you tell a bit about what helps you stay motivated during those tough moments you have been experiencing?
  27. Can you take a moment to think about any positive experiences or outcomes that could come from this?
  28. If we take a moment to step back, are there any alternative perspectives to this situation that we could be missing?
  29. What is one small change you could make today that would help you improve this situation?
  30. Can you share with me what you are hoping to gain during our time together today?
  31. Can you share with me some of what has helped or supported you during the challenges in your life?
  32. Can you tell me about some of the successes you have had in your life?
  33. Can you tell me about how you handled that situation at the moment?
  34. Let’s explore a situation where you were able to lessen a challenge or concern for yourself. What skills or strengths helped you do this?
  35. What do you feel is helping you maintain motivation?
  36. How are you able to keep yourself moving forward when you experience hardships?
  37. What are you hoping to achieve from working together?
  38. Can you tell me about your hobbies and other enjoyable activities you engage in?
  39. Who is important to you in your life?
  40. What are you proud of?
  41. What changes did you notice when that problem or challenge was decreasing?
  42. How can you show others that you are pleased or happy?
  43. Were you able to use anything that we talked about in our last session? Did it make a difference?
  44. What changes have others seen as you have made progress?
  45. Is there anything about this challenge or problem that makes you believe you can handle it?
  46. Can you share your thoughts about that?
  47. What helped you build that skill or strength?
  48. What changes have you noticed happening already?
  49. Who else has noticed these changes happening?
  50. How would you like this situation to differ?
  51. What can help you get started? What else?
  52. Is there anything that you would like to stay the same?
  53. When does this not occur? Why do you think that is?
  54. What helped you maintain your wellness in the past?
  55. Are there any skills or strengths you pulled from in this situation? How did they help?

Final Thoughts On Asking the Right Questions in Solution-Focused Therapy

Thank you for reading this resource on 55 Solution-Focused Therapy questions you can ask clients in therapy sessions. Solution-focused brief therapy can be a great approach for clinicians who are looking to make progress in a short period of time for some mental health concerns. By focusing more on the solution than the problem, you can help your client recognize and apply the skills and strengths they already have to the current challenges they are experiencing. Clients may find that this approach helps them gain insight into what has been going well, improving, and working for them.

As with all therapeutic approaches, it is important to be mindful of the limitations associated with solution-focused brief therapy. If you are interested in learning more about solution-focused brief therapy, you can look for available training and  Continuing Education opportunities for you. We encourage you to be mindful of the expectations associated with your profession before beginning to use a new therapeutic approach. This can include education and supervised application of new skills and interventions.

TherapyByPro is an online mental health directory that connects mental health pros with clients in need. If you’re a mental health professional, you can Join our community and add your practice listing here. We have assessments, practice forms, and worksheet templates mental health professionals can use to streamline their practice. View all of our mental health worksheets here.

View all of our Solution-Focused Brief Therapy Worksheets

Resources:

Bannink, F.P. Solution-Focused Brief Therapy. Journal of Contemporary Psychotherapy 37, 87–94 (2007). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10879-006-9040-y

Kayla Loibl, MA, LMHC
Author: Kayla Loibl, MA, LMHC

Kayla is a Mental Health Counselor who earned her degree from Niagara University in Lewiston, New York. She has provided psychotherapy in a residential treatment program and an outpatient addiction treatment facility in New York as well as an inpatient addiction rehab in Ontario, Canada. She has experience working with individuals living with a variety of mental health concerns including depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, borderline personality disorder, and trauma.

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