Steve De Shazer and the Future of Solution-Focused Therapy

Article excerpt

Steve de Shazer who, along with Insoo Kim Berg, co-founded the Solution-Focused Brief Therapy (SFBT) approach, recently passed away. In this article we will offer a brief biographical sketch and then discuss the current state of the art of SFBT as it applies to practice, training, and research. Future directions for SFBT, such as the emergence of professional associations, the increased research interest in SFBT as evidenced-based practice, the recent focus on process-research to determine the mechanisms of change within SFBT, and the application of SFBT to education are discussed.

Steve de Shazer was a pioneer in the field of family therapy, and was in fact often referred to in his later years as the "Grand Old Man of Family Therapy." An iconoclast and creative genius known for his minimalist philosophy and view of the process of change as an inevitable and dynamic part of everyday life, he was known for reversing the traditional psychotherapy interview process by asking clients to describe a detailed resolution of the problem that brought them into therapy, thereby shifting the focus of treatment from problems to solutions. Steve de Shazer passed away September 11, 2005, in Vienna, Austria, several hours after being admitted to the hospital. His wife, Insoo Kim Berg, was by his side.

A Fellow in the American Association of Marital and Family Therapy, de Shazer was a member of the of the European Brief Therapy Association Board and served as President of the Solution-Focused Brief Therapy Association Board of Directors from 2002 until his death.

In addition to countless chapters and articles, de Shazer published five ground-breaking books: Patterns of Brief Therapy, Keys to Solutions in Brief Therapy, Clues: Investigating Solutions in Brief Therapy, Putting Difference to Work, and Words Were Originally Magic (W. W. Norton). He had recently completed a new book intended to update the Solution-Focused therapy approach. Entitled More than Miracles: The State of the Art of Solution-Focused Therapy, it will be published posthumously by the Haworth Press. He lectured widely throughout Europe, Scandinavia, North America, and Asia while serving on the editorial boards of several international journals. His books have been translated into 14 languages.

Co-founder of the Milwaukee Brief Family Therapy Center (BFTC), de Shazer served as its Director from 1978 to 1989 and the Senior Research Associate for the final 16 years of his life. Beginning in the late 1970s, de Shazer along with his wife and long time collaborator, Insoo Kim Berg, devoted nearly 30 years to developing and consistently refining the approach that has subsequently become Solution-Focused Brief Therapy (SFBT).

In the remaining pages of this article, we will briefly examine the "state of the art" of SFBT in the areas of practice, training, and research, and then conclude by offering some future directions.

The Practice of Solution-Focused Therapy

Solution-Focused Brief Therapy (de Shazer, 1985, 1988, 1991, 1994; de Shazer et al., in press), which evolved from Brief Family Therapy (de Shazer, 1982) is a paradigm shift from the traditional psychotherapy focus on problem formation and problem resolution which underlies almost all psychotherapy approaches since Freud. Instead, SFBT focuses on client strengths and resiliencies examining previous solutions and exceptions to the problem, and then, through a series of interventions, encouraging clients to do more of those behaviors. Solution-Focused Brief Therapy can be applied to a myriad of family-related problems. Although deceptively easy to learn, SFBT, like all family therapies, takes great skill to practice proficiently.

Solution-Focused Brief Therapy is a future-focused, goal-directed approach to brief therapy that utilizes questions designed to identify exceptions (times when the problem does not occur or could occur less in the client's real life), solutions (a description of what life will be like when the problem is gone or resolved), and scales which are used both to measure the client's current level of progress towards a solution and reveal the behaviors needed to achieve or maintain further progress. …