Recovering from substance abuse can be a challenge. The process of liberating one’s self from addiction can take months and years of hard work just to reach a stage when you can finally go back to leading productive lives.
Various research-based methods have already been developed. We have found using solution focused brief therapy with substance using individuals particularly effective, though.
What Is Solution Focused Brief Therapy (SFBT)?
Also referred to as solution focused therapy, SFBT is an approach that looks forward to the future rather than dwelling in the past. Most types of therapies aim to determine the factors that caused the problem and how to pull them apart to deal with them at their roots.
As the name suggests, this is not the focal point of SFBT. Instead, it seeks to determine what can be done right now to improve one’s life and increase hope for the future. It is more goal-oriented and, yes, focused on finding solutions, hence the name.
Doing so has two benefits. First, it doesn’t prolong a patient’s suffering. It’s great for those who hate remembering and retelling the most painful events in their lives. Second, it helps minimize time spent in therapy, which saves you valuable time and money spent on treatments.
Defining “Substance-Using Individuals”
Now that we have a clear understanding of what SFBT is, let us define “substance-using individuals” as well.
For the purposes of this article, we are going to define substance-using individuals as people who consume certain substances that can potentially cause harm to one’s self or other people. Please keep in mind that this is different from abuse or dependence.
Substance abuse is the excessive consumption of a substance. Meanwhile, dependence means that addiction to particular substances has already been established.
According to the American Psychological Association, these substances are alcohol, caffeine, tobacco, prescription medicine, and more. While substance use may not necessarily be harmful, there is still a chance that it can lead to substance use disorder and aggravate underlying mental health issues.
Solution Focused Brief Therapy With Substance Using Individuals
The next question now is this: will solution focused brief therapy help substance-using individuals?
How Does SFBT Work?
SFBT is grounded in the premise that everyone already has the skills they need to create change in their lives. Some individuals simply need help recognizing and developing these skills.
Hence, therapists typically used solution-based treatment models that might help them identify solution patterns. From there, they can draft actionable steps that the patient can then perform to achieve their goals.
This approach also recognizes that patients hold the solution to their problems一that they are the experts and not the specialist.
While this element holds the key to this method’s efficiency, it can also be its downfall. That means the SFBT approach will only work if the patient wants to change and is willing to cooperate towards that change.
What Happens in an SFBT Session?
Please note that each SFBT session will vary according to the patient’s case and the therapist’s preferred methods. That said, a typical session can start with determining the patient’s goals, both short and long-term. Focus will also be given towards how the patient’s life will positively change when the problems get resolved.
There are also three types of questions frequently asked during these sessions:
- Miracle Questions
Miracle questions often start like this: “If a miracle was to happen while you were sleeping, what are the first life changes you’ll notice upon waking up?” These questions seek to stimulate creative thinking and determine the most pressing changes that the patient hopes to achieve.
The answers can then serve as a reference to work backward until you identify all the necessary steps to achieve them.
- Coping Questions
We acknowledge that miraculous changes rarely happen overnight. Hence, coping questions get asked to identify the steps that can be done in the meantime.
A coping question can sound something like this: “How are you able to fulfill your daily duties amidst the challenges of substance use?” By the way, we’re simply following the focus of this article. Just remember that coping questions can be asked for whatever difficulty the patient might be facing.
These questions seek to find coping solutions and intend to encourage and empower the patient’s existing coping practices.
- Exception Questions
Finally, there are exception questions. These seek to isolate the issue from other aspects of the patient’s life. Here’s a good example: “When did you feel the happiest?” Asking this type of question is crucial to remind the patient that there are moments of exceptions.
The answers also offer invaluable insight in finding out the methods that work best and why. Can they be replicated? And if so, how?
Who Else Can SFBT Help?
One of the strengths of solution focused brief therapy is the flexibility of the approach. Aside from substance use, SFBT can also be used to help with a wide range of mental health issues. In fact, it can even be utilized as a problem-solving method to address issues in other aspects of your life, like career and social relationships.
Do You Really Need Professional Help?
Here’s a question we frequently get: Does one really need a therapist to perform SFBT? Can’t you ask yourself the three types of questions mentioned above, list down your answers, and deal with your issues on your own?
Honestly, we don’t see why you couldn’t. However, don’t downplay the benefits of the collaboration, especially with a licensed professional with years of experience. Doing so will better guarantee the results you want.
To Sum Up
SFBT is a therapy process that focuses on solutions rather than problems. It’s a great alternative for people who find unpacking their burdens difficult. More importantly, it works particularly well with patients who suffer from substance use.
Indeed, a lot of mental health practitioners recognize the efficiency of solution focused brief therapy with substance using individuals. Still, please note that it can also serve as a beneficial option for people dealing with other mental health issues. It can even be used as a supplement to other forms of therapy.