The tagline of Quickfix adhesive in the 1970s was “Joins everything except broken hearts”. At about the same time, a therapeutic process known as Solution-Focused Brief Therapy (SFBT) was gaining ground in psychology. It sought to help people arrive at quick solutions to psychological problems since everyone was too busy to go digging into the past and thus arrive at radical solutions.
The advocates of SFBT argue that it is not necessary to know the cause of a problem to solve it and that there is no necessary relationship between the causes of problems and their solutions. The problem is not what matters, but the solution. Searching for the “right” solution is as futile as seeking to know and understand the problem. What is important is to know your goals, what you want to accomplish, rather than diagnosis of the problem and its history.
The fundamental assumption of SFBT is that people are healthy and competent and have the ability to construct solutions that can enhance their lives. Each one of us has the ability to resolve the challenges that life inevitably throws on our path. But at times we lose our sense of direction or awareness of our competencies. We become negative in our orientation as we focus on the problem more and more.
What if we started focusing on solutions? On the goals that we wish to achieve? This is exactly what SFBT tries to accomplish. It asks us to focus on what is working in our life. Nine things out of ten may not be working. Catch the tenth one that is working. It is important to concentrate on small, realistic, achievable things. Such things lead to big changes eventually. Success tends to build upon itself. Modest goals are the thresholds of great changes.
SFBT suggests the following simple strategies while dealing with your problem(s).
1. State your goals positively in your own words.
2. Define your goals clearly. Make sure they are action-oriented. No abstract, sublime goals, please.
3. The goals should be structured in the here and now. Don’t make five-year plans.
4. The goals should be attainable, concrete and specific.
Here are some strategies that may help in focusing on solutions rather than problems.
1. Look at exceptions: You had expected the problem to occur but somehow it did not. What was different? Can that difference lead you to a solution? At any rate, the exceptions remind you that problems are not all-powerful. You’ve beaten them sometimes at least.
2. Ask the Miracle Question: “If a miracle happened and the problem was solved overnight, how would you know it was solved, and what would be different?” If you can visualise what would be different, you can also work towards it. In fact, viewing the problem from the solution-angle is already halfway to the solution.
SFBT may not work in the case of broken hearts with deep wounds. But it can work miracles with most problems of day-to-day life.