Academic journal article Journal of Counseling and Development : JCD

Solution-Focused Counseling and Motivational Interviewing: A Consideration of Confluence

Academic journal article Journal of Counseling and Development : JCD

Solution-Focused Counseling and Motivational Interviewing: A Consideration of Confluence

Article excerpt

Solution-focused counseling (SFC) and motivational interviewing (MI) have gained recognition over the past 2 decades. A review of the features of these counseling approaches is provided, as well as an examination of the similarities and differences on several dimensions of counseling. Attention is given to empirical research, and it is proposed that SFC and MI be considered concurrently, which appears consistent with calls in the literature for theoretical integration. A case study is included.

Over the past two decades, two counseling styles, solution-focused counseling (SFC) and motivational interviewing (MI), have gained recognition and increased in popularity. The appeal of these styles is that they offer a respectful approach to counseling and regard the cultivation and utilization of client resources (i.e., strengths, abilities, intrinsic motivation) as the keys to positive change. The tenets of SFC and MI are primarily rooted in person-centered counseling and might be considered reactions to, or the antitheses of, problem-focused types of therapy. They represent, therefore, paradigmatic shifts in how clients are conceptualized, the counseling process, the counselor's role, and client participation in counseling.

Although MI and SFC have emerged from different origins, they share many similarities. The focus of this article is to examine perspectives shared by SFC and MI, as well as to note what we consider to be some key differences. In keeping with Polansky's (1986) call for parsimony in theoretical formulations, and following the example of recent contributors to this journal who have each compared two related therapeutic approaches (viz., responsive therapy and motivational interviewing; Gerber & Basham, 1999; Adlerian therapy and solution-focused brief therapy; Watts & Pietrzak, 2000), we suggest a counseling posture wherein SFC and MI are appropriately intertwined and intentionally practiced in coexistence. Such confluence appears appropriate and consistent with numerous recommendations for theoretical integration (e.g., Norcross & Goldfried, 1992; Prochaska & Norcross, 1999).



SFC is an evolving counseling approach conceived and developed by de Shazer and colleagues (de Shazer, 1985, 1988, 1991; de Shazer et al., 1986; Molnar & de Shazer, 1987; Walter & Peller, 1992) in the early 1980s at the Brief Family Therapy Center (BFTC) in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. It is often referred to as solution-focused brief therapy (i.e., a form of brief or short-term psychotherapy) in light of its emergence from the brief strategic therapy movement (Watzlawick, Weakland, & Fisch, 1974).

The solution-focused approach to counseling is considered an alternative to the problem-focused approaches that have prevailed in mental health clinical practice. Although its roots are in the work of hypnotherapist Milton Erickson and family systems theory, as well as in poststructural/ postmodern or constructivist ideology (de Shazer, 1991, 1994; de Shazer & Berg, 1992), solution-focused counseling began taking shape as a reaction to the problem-resolving model espoused by therapists at the Mental Research Institute (MRI) in Palo Alto, California (Shoham, Rohrbaugh, & Patterson, 1995). Its impetus, therefore, was disenchantment with what was viewed as an interest in understanding how and why problems persist. A nonpathological, salutary, strengths- or competency-based approach to helping people was more attractive and appealing, one that Prochaska and Norcross (1999) regarded as "refreshing" (p. 440).

The foundation of SFC is the counselor's confidence in the client's ability to make positive changes in his or her life by accessing and using inner resources and strengths. The client is not provided with a blanket prescription for problem resolution nor, for that matter, told by the counselor that he or she needs to change (I. …

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