What is Solution Focused Thinking?

Solution Based Thinking or Solution Focused Thinking involves evaluating a current problem or situation and determining a reasonable, practical plan to attack that problem or situation. The mindset is:

  •     There is a solution to this problem or situation
  •     I possess the skills, talents, and resources to discover the solution
  •     I will devise a workable plan and make it work.

The following premises are part of solution-focused thinking:

  •     The focus of thinking and discussion is on the present and the future – not the past.
  •     The problem is not the focus. What is important is what will be happening when the problem has been eliminated.
  •     Exceptions are periods when the problem or situation ceases to exist or exists to a lesser degree.
  •     The problem or situation is not static. Change is inevitable. Positive change possible.
  •     Solutions do not always require a major overhaul. Sometimes the smallest of changes is all that is required to create solution to the problem or situation.
  •     Focusing upon signs of positive change, no matter how small, will result in further positive change to the problem or situation.
  •     Solution-focused thinking is a collaborative process. Team problem solving may involve: family; co-workers; community members….

How Does Solution-Based Thinking Work?

Scaling is an important part of solution-based thinking.


Ten is how things will be when the problem or situation is resolved. Describe what a ten will look like.

One is the complete opposite of ten.

Now build a detailed picture of the present situation:

  •     What tells you that the problem or situation is not at one?
  •     At what times does the problem or situation not exist or exists to a lesser extent? When are things better? When is the problem or situation less of a concern?
  •     What do these times tell you?
  •     What progress/improvement do you see evidence of, however small?
  •     What else helps things move toward a ten (external resources; working in a small group; allocation of support…)

Next Steps

Review progress.

What is working? Where are setbacks?
Identify helpful behaviors. Identify self-defeating behaviors.

Decide next steps.

Where Can Solution-Based Thinking be Applied?
Solution-based thinking can be applied to any problems or situations you encounter at work, at home, in the community.

By focusing on the positive resources and skills a solution-focused approach can enhance the workplace, school, home, or community experience for all members of that environment.

According to de Shazer and Berg (1995) There are three key principles to working in a solutions focused mind set:

  •     If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.
  •     Once you know what works, do more of it.
  •     If it’s not working, do something different.

Why is Solution-Focused Thinking Effective?

Instead of dwelling on the problem or situation and obsessing over what isn’t, solution-focused thinking sees that because, problems do not occur all of the time, a constructive approach is to discover what is working well and then to do more of it.

Rather than dwelling on what isn’t or the history of the problem, a solution focused approach looks to the strengths and resources of the individual, team, or organization and how these can be used to generate potential solutions.

This shifts the focus away from problems and towards useful solutions. Solution-based thinking can and is being applied to such areas as: health, education, community and social care sectors as well as the business and corporate affairs.

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