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Solution-Focused Therapy for Patients’ Psychosocial Problems


Vincent H.K. Poon, MD, PsyD, DMin, CCFP, FCFP

Schoel Shuster, MSW Social worker, St. James Town Health Centre, St. Michael’s Hospital, Toronto; lecturer, Department of Family & Community Medicine, University of Toronto

Ian Waters, MSW Social worker and professional practice leader, Department of Family & Community Medicine, Toronto Western Hospital at the University Health Network; and assistant professor, Department of Family & Community Medicine, University of Toronto

Lindsay Watson, MA, RMFT, marriage and family therapist, lecturer, Department of Family & Community Medicine, University of Toronto Working With Families Institute, Department of Family & Community Medicine, University of Toronto

Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs CC BY-NC-ND

Posted: June 1, 2015    Format: PDF
Solution-Focused Therapy for Patients’ Psychosocial Problems

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Views: 231

Category(s): Behavioural Medicine, Clinical (by system), Clinical (by topic), Mental Health, Psychiatry
Topic(s): Counselling, Solution-focused Therapy, Working With Families


Ever since the 1980s, the importance of patient- and family-centred care has been recognized in family practice. Sobel indicated that when patients presented with one of the 14 symptoms most common in outpatient clinics (e.g., headache, chest pain, fatigue), a probable cause was established in less than 16% of cases. In this biopsychosocial and cultural context, counselling has become an inevitable component of family practice. Poon describes counselling as the process of helping people overcome obstacles to their personal and interpersonal growth and achieve optimum development of their personal resources and goals in life. Among the many approaches to counselling and psychotherapy, solution-focused therapy is most suitable for family physicians for the following reasons: it is brief, usually consisting of fewer than five sessions; it involves an intermediate (15-30 minutes) to advanced (30-60 minutes) level of counselling and thus is adaptable within family practice, and it is relatively easy to learn. This module provides an overview of the essential elements of solution-focused therapy, with an emphasis on working with families. The case examples illustrate how solution-focused therapy is used in the family practice setting.

This is one educational module in a series produced by the Working With Families Institute to provide a learning resource for physicians dealing with common medical and psychosocial issues that have an impact on families. The modules seek to bridge the gap between current and best practice, and provide opportunities for physicians to enhance or change their approach to a particular clinical problem. They use a problem-based style and real case scenarios that pose questions to the reader. The cases are followed by an information section based on the latest evidence, case commentaries, references and resources. The modules are designed for either individual learning or small group discussion.