Open Journal Systems

The Situations Focused Model: A Map of Solution-Focused Brief Therapy used as an Open Systems Approach With Clients and in Human Services

Tomasz Switek


In this article, I describe the situations focused model, an open systems model that aims to help the practitioner to position solution-focused brief therapy (SFBT) in the context of other sources of useful professional knowledge and to be most useful in face of the complexity of clients’ needs in human services. The model facilitates the utilization of all potential resources and perspectives available in every situation. The situations focused model proposes a perspective of “both/and” instead of “either/or” in some key areas of solution-focused thinking. This article also addresses a tendency in parts of the SFBT writings, teachings, and practice to think in three types of dichotomies: 1) the SFBT approach versus other therapeutic approaches and bases of knowledge, 2) solutions versus problems, and 3) the client’s expertise versus practitioner’s expertise. This article proposes that treating these dichotomies as real areas of conflict are in many situations not useful, may be harmful to the field of SFBT, and may jeopardize the quality of treatment for individual clients. The situations focused model suggests a “both/and” approach to SFBT and other models of help, to solutions and problems, and to the client’s expertise and therapist’s expertise. The situations focused model suggests that these perceived dichotomies could be easily harmonized and provide a map to effectively utilize the solution-focused model in larger human services systems, and with clients who would potentially chose a type of treatment other than SFBT. The main implications and benefits of complementing SFBT with the situations focused map are discussed on theoretical and practical levels. The term “data situation” is introduced as a concept complementing and broadening the term “exception” in SFBT; data situation refers to potential sources of recourse from any part of the total helping context.


situations focused; solution-focused; data situations; brief therapy; open system


Anderson, H., & Goolishian, H. (1992). The client is the expert: A not-knowing approach to therapy. In S. McNamee & K. Gergen (Eds.), Social construction and the therapeutic process (pp. 25¬–39). Newbury Park, CA: Sage.

Berg, I. K. (n. d.-a). Hot tips. Retrieved from

Berg, I. K. (n. d.-b). Hot tips II-V. Retrieved from

Berg, I. K., & Kelly, S. (2000). Building solutions in child protective services. New York, NY: Norton.

Berg, I. K., & Miller, S. D. (1992). Working with the problem drinker: A solution-oriented approach. New York, NY: Norton.

De Jong, P., & Berg, I. K. (2002). Interviewing for solutions (2nd ed.). Pacific Grove, CA: Brooks/Cole.

De Jong, P., & Berg, I. K. (2013). Interviewing for solutions (4th ed.). Pacific Grove, CA: Brooks/Cole.

de Shazer, S. (1985). Keys to solution in brief therapy. New York, NY: Norton.

de Shazer, S. (1988). Clues: Investigating solutions in brief therapy. New York, NY: Norton.

Durrant, M. (1993). Residential treatment: A cooperative, competency-based approach to therapy and program design. New York, NY: Norton.

George, E., Iveson, C., & Ratner, H. (1999). Problem to solution: Brief therapy with individuals and families. London, United Kingdom: BT Press.

Isebaert, L., & Cabié, M. C. (1997). Pour une thérapie brève. Le libre choix du client comme éthique en psychothérapie [For a brief therapy. The client’s free choice as an ethic positioning in psychotherapy]. Paris, France: Editions Erès.

Nylund, D., & Corsiglia, V. (1994). Becoming solution-focused forced in brief therapy: Remembering something important we already knew. Journal of Systemic Therapies, 13, 5–12. Retrieved from

Open system. In Wikepedia. Retrieved October 15, 2014, from

Sharry, J., Madden, B., Darmody, M. (2001). Becoming a solution detective: A strengths-based guide to brief therapy. New York, NY: Routledge.

Situation. In American Heritage Dictionary. Retrieved October 15, 2014, from

Solution-Focused Brief Therapy Association. (2013). Solution focused therapy treatment manual for working with individuals (Version 2). Retrieved from

Świtek, T. (2009). Sciezki rozwiazan [Solutions Paths]. Krakow, Poland: Wydawnictwo Akademicka.

Full Text: PDF

DOI: 10.14335/ijsfp.v2i2.21

Article Metrics

Metrics Loading ...

Metrics powered by PLOS ALM

Article Metrics Graph

Metrics powered by


  • There are currently no refbacks.