If all your problems were gone when you woke up tomorrow, what would your life be like? Have you started daydreaming yet? So often, our mental health treatment can feel like a long list of problems we have to painstakingly work through when what we really want to focus on are the possibilities.
Not all approaches take a goal-focused angle; solution-focused treatment helps clients anticipate the future and work toward progressive solutions to issues they face.
What is solution-oriented treatment?
Solution-oriented treatment is a strengths-based perspective that looks to the future and emphasizes the resources a person has rather than a list of problems. It is sometimes called “solution focused therapy.” Like most traditional therapies, it uses talk therapy to engage the client to find solutions and create goals.
Solution-oriented treatment is as effective as other therapies that are more problem focused, according to a study published in the journal Research on Social Work Practice. Moreover, another study published in the same journal found that solution-oriented treatments were found to offer positive results for clients struggling with mental illness, and showed the best results for treating adults with depression.
Some critics dislike the idea of solution-oriented treatment, because they feel it doesn’t directly address the major problems in a person’s life. Solution-oriented treatment does address problems, but from a different lens. Rather than starting with the problem, it starts with potential resolutions and inner strength to build a foundation to face any obstacle.
How does it work?
Solution-oriented treatment emphasizes both the internal and external resources a person already has, whether this be a strong support system, healthy lifestyle habits or the person’s character. Capitalizing on what is already there instead of lamenting what’s not will be the focus of sessions.
Mental health professionals are competent in a variety of frameworks, but often operate from one primary lens. When a therapist uses solution-oriented therapy, he or she will spend the first portion of a session identifying and affirming a person’s positive attributes. Then, sessions will explore healthy coping and creative problem solving. This helps the client to have a hopeful outlook and also start to disrupt his or her negative thought patterns.
Solution-oriented treatment may also make use of what’s been coined “the miracle question.” The miracle question follows this format that may have caught your attention at the beginning of this article: if you woke up tomorrow and your problems had vanished, what would your life look like?
Using this question as a springboard for discussion, the therapist will further question how the problem is affecting the client, what it would take to get to that miracle life and what roadblocks might be present.
How will solution-oriented treatment impact my recovery?
For someone who has been struggling with mental illness, having strengths affirmed may be a rare occasion. With solution-oriented treatment, hearing compliments and being made aware of positive qualities can boost self-confidence and offer motivation. Therapy that revolves around identifying strengths can also pave the way for the mental habit of positive thinking.
Solution-oriented treatment will also allow you to conceptualize your life when issues are not present. It’s likely that whatever problem you are facing isn’t present 24/7 and there are moments of respite. Focusing on when these moments occur and how to cultivate more of them can help to alleviate the worst symptoms of a mental illness.
Getting started with solution-oriented treatment
Overall, solution-oriented treatment can be a gamechanger in your mental health journey. If you’re looking to combat your mental health challenges from a new approach without straying from the comfort you’ve established with talk-therapy, solution-oriented treatment might be just what you need. Consider bringing it up with your provider, or look into mental health treatment programs that already operate using solution-oriented treatment.
Anticipating a bright future can change the way we view our problems and how we address them. Thinking about what the ideal life would look like can inspire us to set and achieve goals that we might have previously thought were out of reach.
If you’ve engaged in therapy before and you don’t think the problem-focused angle is for you, try solution-oriented treatment and reach out to The Light Program today. The Light Program is a residential and outpatient mental health service for teens and adults that will affirm and use your inner strength to help you overcome mental health challenges. Call (610) 644-6464 to get started implementing solution-oriented treatment modalities today!