Problem Solving Vs. Solution Focus By Ashli Gross Univeristy of Walla Walla If the history of science has taught us anything, it should be that there will always be a conflict with the well founded set of ideas and beliefs and the emergence of new information and ideas that threaten the current socially acceptable paradigm. We see it when Galileo claimed that the Earth revolved around the sun and engaged in much contraversy with the church. We read about the fight between Wilhelm Wundt and William James over Structuralism and Functionalism.
And of course we have learned about the Behaviorism and the Cognitivism debate. As we think about these times in history, most of us would most likely think of something along the lines of how silly the establish paridgm was behaving. Many could easily be puzzled by why reputatable people would deny perfectly good evidence disproving or changing the way people think about things. It’s easy to view these arguements as silly when you read about them in past tense, but the exactly same scientific battles are still raging on.
The particular battle that I am referring to right now is the fight between the Problem Solving paradgm and the the Soultion-Focused paradgm. Therapuetic structures such as Cognitive Behavioral Therapy and Psychodynamic Therapy are currently one of the many accepted (or at least somewhat accepted) for of therapy at this particular time. These therapeutic measures have the potential to do a very effective job at improving peope’s lives and in fact they have been doing so for many years.
But like with any man made creation there are gaps in the paradigm that any therapist with half a heart would want to fill in. Or at least that’s the logical way to think about it. The arrival of Solution-Focused Therapy takes care of a lot of the pitfalls that the other mainstream therapies suffer from. You would think men and women of science would think like one and view the evidence objectively, but no matter how objective you are, it’s very easy to be a human being with biasis first and a person of science second.
This is especially true when people get so attatched to their way of thinking. All you have to do is look at the data to see that Solution-Focused Therapy is just as effective in most areas and in ome situations it works better than other therapies. There have been 24 studies that have revealed that brief motivational tactics have aquired far better results than longer treatments (Bien, Miller, & Tonigan; 1993). Most of this is dismissed because of the lack of empiricle evidence comparing the effectiveness of Solution-Focused Therapy to other models.
This arguement sounds like a very valid one at the surface until you realize that there is no empirical evidence disproving the effectiveness of Solution-Focused therapy either. The only thing that arguement is pointing out is that there is a lack of motivation to fund and/or conduct this kind of research because of fear. You are either afraid of the idea that the beloved theories you held onto so dearlY will be so severely alterted you wouldn’t be able to recognize it anymore. Or you are receptive to the idea of this new kind of thinking but do not want to become the laughing stock of the scientific community.
The outcry against such a “scandelous” approach is highly amusing when you realize that the underlying foundations that make therapy effective are genearlly the same and that all the changes that people are so upset about are fairly superficial. A recent study found the following: “we found very few indications that the efficacy of several important types of psychological treatment for depression differ significantly from each other. No significant difference was found for cognitive-behavior therapy, psychodynamic therapy, behavioral activation treatment, problem-solving therapy, and social skills training. (Caijpers. , et al. 2008). Granted, this doesn’t prove that Solution-Focused therapy has the same foundational characteristics, but more empiricle evidence would have to be collected to prove or disprove this. In order for that to happen, the respected researchers of the mental health community would have to come to the accetance that they may no longer have their paradigm to keep them warm at night. They would need to put their childish and irrational emotions aside and start thinking like a scientist.
As a scientist, it is ecpected that new evidence will change what wwas once believed. That’s why no theory ever stops being a theroy. No matter how much evidence piles up to support it. It can simply transfer over to the title of scientific theory. This is set up this way to make room for change. Solution-Focused therapy not only makes sense when you look at the reasearch, but it’s understandable how it could fill in the gaps that the problem solving paradigm has not been able to address. One of the great things about Solution-Focused therapy is how flexible and diverse it is.
Since clients are allowed to control the sessions by making their own goals, they can focus on problems that the therapist may not even have detected. A study compared the traditional treatment methods of substance users to the solution-focused technique and found “clients who recieved SFGT improved significantly on comorbid factors while the clients in the tradition treatment approach group did not improve significantly. ” (Smock, et. , al. 2008). Solution-focused therapy just may be able to end the never ending debate of ehether the primary condition in comorbid cases is the addiction problem or the mental illness.
Pershaps it’s a little different for each client and ther is no concreate answer. With solution-focused therapy those questions become less important and more philisophical. The therapist would not have to worry about which disorder they should treat because it becomes the client’s decision. Perhaps the comorbid improvement is part of the reason why solution-focused therapists do not need as many sessions. I was also hoping to find strong research to support that solution-focused therapy was highly beneficial to roubled adolescents.
I had hypothesized that individual with underdeveloped brains or cognitive deficiets would improve rapidly with this kind of thrapy since the sessions revolved around what they know and not trying to get the client to know what the therapist knows. I was unable to find any articles that strongly proved anything either way. The results were mostly nuetral, if a little more towards the side of solution focused therapy. This is most likely due to lack of research being done. Although there are some fundamental differences between problem solving and olution-focused therapy, the chances that they are the same is very high. Solution-focused therapy is far more helpful than it is given credit for. This can probably be due to the older, more experienced members of the community who refused to change their minds no matter what the evidence proves. References Bien, T. H. , Miller, S. D. , W. R. , & Tonigan. (1993). Brief interventions for alcohol problems: A review. Addictions, 88, 305-325. Cotton, Jeffrey. (2010). Question Utilization in Solution-Focused Brief Therapy: A Recursive Frame Analysis of Insoo Kim Berg’s Solution Talk.
The Qualitative Report, Volume 15 (issue 1), pages. Cuijpers, Pim, van Straten, Annemieke, Gerhard, Andersson, van Oppen, Patricia. (2008). Psychotherapy for Depression in Adults: A Meta-Analysis of Comparative Outcome Studies. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, Volume 76 (issue 6), pages. Newsome, W. , Sean. (2005). The Impact of Solution-Focused Brief Therapy with At-Risk Junior High School Students. Children & Schools, Volume 27 (issue 2), pages. Smock, A. , Sara. (2008). Solution-Focused Brief Therapy for Level 1 Substance Abusers. Journal of Marital and Family Therapy, Volume 34 (issue 1), pages.