Solutions Focused Therapy Can Teach Us Something About Coaching

Posted on February 16th, by admin in Uncategorized. No Comments

Most of us are aware that the theories and skills used in Executive Coaching are rooted in therapy practices.  Solution Focused Brief Therapy (SFBT) in particular shares deep parallels with executive coaching. Studies have verified that this short-term solution focused model is as effective as most longer therapy practices. Given that there are so many parallels with coaching, it makes sense that the methods used in this short-term framework can be used in coaching.  Both SFBT and most coaching models include goal setting, a positive future focus, validation and experimentation.

Goal Setting. A hallmark of SFBT is its emphasis on clear, concise, realistic goal setting.  Starting with a specific goal helps patients measure progress and notice accomplishments. Coaches also start engagements by helping clients identify a few specific goals. Whether it’s learning to delegate, facilitating better meetings, or improving one’s listening skills, having a goal is key to coaching success.

Positive, Future-Focused View. In SFBT, therapists usually focus their questions on the present and future. SFBT is rooted in a belief that people are resilient, have knowledge and skills to improve their lives, just need help identifying and cultivating these skills.  Problems are best solved by focusing on what is working and how a client envisions a positive future.

Similarly, the International Coach Federation (ICF) defines the client as creative, resourceful, and whole. Neither a therapist nor a coach should be doing the work for their clients. A coach’s role is to facilitate and help cultivate clients’ self-efficacy and the ability to solve problems. Coaches use future focused questions to help clients identify practical steps towards change.

Compliments and Validation.  Validating both clients’ struggles and assets are vital tools in both coaches’ and therapists’ toolboxes. In SFBT and in coaching, validating the client’s experience and raising awareness of the client’s strengths can help a client notice what is working about what they are already doing.

Experiments. Both SFBT therapists and coaches invite clients to “experiment” by trying new strategies and then observing how they work.  Experimenting is a way to try out new behaviors in a safe context.  Coaches co-create these experiments with clients, who then can use them to build new behaviors and skills in the work place.

While long term relationships between therapists or coaches and their clients are often extremely rewarding, they are not always possible. Sometimes resources such as time and money are in short supply. Goals, positivity, validation, and experiments are key to short term coaching. The next post will further explore how to organize a useful short-term coaching engagement.

Greenglow (2017). “What Is Solution-Focused Therapy?” Institute for Solution-Focused Therapy,

International Coach Federation:

Wallace J. Gingerich, Lance T. Peterson ( 2013) Effectiveness of Solution-Focused Brief Therapy: A Systematic Qualitative Review of Controlled Outcome Studies. Research on Social Work Practice

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