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CBT and Solution-Focused Therapy: Differences and Similarities

Updated: Jul 16, 2023


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In today's fast-paced world, many ambitious business people and working-class professionals face numerous challenges as they strive for success in their careers. Overcoming obstacles, setting goals, and finding work-life balance are key aspirations for these individuals. Fortunately, there are practical strategies available to help them on their journey. One such approach that has gained significant recognition is Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) and Solution-Focused Therapy or as widely known as Solution-Focused Brief Therapy (SFBT). In this article, we will explore what CBT and Solution-Focused Therapy are, how they work, their similarities and differences, and whether they can be used together to achieve even greater results.

What is Solution-Focused Therapy?

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Solution-Focused Brief Therapy (SFBT) is a goal-oriented therapeutic approach that focuses on identifying and building solutions rather than dwelling on problems. It operates on the belief that individuals have the necessary strengths and resources to overcome their challenges. Therapists guide clients in envisioning a preferred future, exploring their strengths, and developing practical strategies to achieve their goals. By emphasising positive change and empowering clients this approach facilitates personal growth and transformation.

What is CBT and How Does it Work?

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) is a widely recognized therapeutic approach that aims to identify and modify negative thought patterns and behaviours. It is based on the understanding that our thoughts, emotions, and behaviours are interconnected. CBT therapists work collaboratively with clients to uncover irrational or harmful beliefs and replace them with more adaptive thoughts and behaviours. By challenging negative thinking and implementing practical strategies, CBT helps individuals develop healthier coping mechanisms and achieve positive outcomes.

Similarities between SFBT and CBT

Although Solution-Focused Brief Therapy (SFBT)/ Solution-Focused Therapy and Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) approach therapy from different angles, they share several fundamental similarities. These similarities contribute to their effectiveness in helping individuals overcome challenges and achieve positive change. Here are some key areas where SFBT and CBT align:

  1. Collaborative Therapeutic Relationship: Both SFBT and CBT emphasise the importance of a collaborative and trusting relationship between the therapist and the client. In both approaches, the therapist serves as a supportive guide, working hand-in-hand with the client to explore their thoughts, emotions, and behaviours.

  2. Goal-Oriented Approach: Setting clear and achievable goals is a central aspect of both SFBT and CBT. Clients are encouraged to identify specific objectives they want to accomplish during the therapy process. By focusing on goals, clients can gain a sense of direction and purpose, which enhances motivation and progress.

  3. Active Client Participation: Both SFBT and CBT promote active client participation in therapy. Clients are seen as experts in their own lives, and their active involvement is crucial for successful outcomes. Therapists facilitate a collaborative process, encouraging clients to explore their experiences, identify patterns, and develop insights.

  4. Promotion of Self-Awareness and Reflection: Both approaches emphasise the importance of self-awareness and self-reflection. SFBT and CBT help clients develop a deeper understanding of their thoughts, emotions, and behaviours. By becoming more aware of their internal processes, clients can gain insight into how these processes influence their well-being and make positive changes accordingly.

Differences between SFBT and CBT

While Solution-Focused Brief Therapy (SFBT) and Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) share common ground, they differ significantly in their underlying principles and therapeutic techniques. Understanding these differences is crucial in selecting the most appropriate approach for a particular individual or situation. Here are the key distinctions between SFBT and CBT:

  1. Problem vs. Solution Orientation: One of the primary distinctions between SFBT and CBT lies in their orientations. CBT focuses on identifying and modifying problematic thoughts and behaviours, aiming to address specific issues and symptoms. In contrast, SFBT adopts a solution-focused approach, emphasising the exploration and development of solutions and strengths, rather than solely focusing on problem-solving.

  2. Time Orientation: Another important difference is the time orientation of the two approaches. CBT often involves examining past experiences, exploring the origins of dysfunctional thoughts and behaviours, and addressing underlying beliefs. SFBT, on the other hand, tends to concentrate primarily on the present and future. It focuses on envisioning a preferred future, exploring current resources and strengths, and identifying small steps towards positive change.

  3. Therapeutic Techniques: SFBT and CBT employ different therapeutic techniques to facilitate change. CBT utilises various evidence-based techniques, such as cognitive restructuring, behavioural experiments, and exposure therapy, to challenge and modify dysfunctional thoughts and behaviours. SFBT employs techniques such as scaling questions, miracle questions, and exception-seeking to help clients envision a preferred future, identify resources, and develop practical strategies for achieving their goals.

  4. Depth vs. Briefness: CBT often involves more in-depth exploration and analysis of underlying thoughts, emotions, and beliefs. This can make CBT a longer-term therapy approach, particularly for complex or deeply rooted issues. SFBT, on the other hand, is generally more brief and solution-focused, aiming to achieve rapid and tangible results within a relatively short period.

Can You Use Solution-Focused Therapy with CBT?

Absolutely! While SFBT and CBT differ in their orientations and techniques, they can complement each other effectively. Integrating elements of SFBT into CBT can enhance the focus on solutions and strengths, leading to more comprehensive and empowering outcomes. By combining the practical strategies and goal-oriented nature of CBT with the positive and future-focused approach of SFBT, individuals can experience a holistic therapeutic process that addresses both their challenges and aspirations.

What are the 5 Components of CBT?

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) is a structured therapeutic approach that aims to address dysfunctional thoughts, emotions, and behaviours. It consists of several key components that work together to facilitate positive change. Here are the five essential components of CBT:

  1. Assessment and Case Formulation: The initial phase of CBT involves a comprehensive assessment of the client's presenting issues, including identifying specific thoughts, emotions, and behaviours that contribute to their difficulties. The therapist collaboratively develops a case formulation, which helps in understanding the underlying factors driving the client's challenges.

  2. Psychoeducation: Psychoeducation is a vital component of CBT, where the therapist provides information to the client about the nature of their difficulties and the underlying cognitive and behavioural processes involved. This helps clients gain insight into the connection between their thoughts, emotions, and behaviours.

  3. Collaborative Goal Setting: In CBT, collaborative goal setting is crucial to establish a clear direction for therapy. The therapist works with the client to identify specific, realistic, and measurable goals that they want to achieve. These goals serve as a roadmap for therapy and provide focus and motivation throughout the process.

  4. Cognitive Restructuring: Cognitive restructuring involves identifying and challenging negative or irrational thoughts and replacing them with more balanced and adaptive alternatives. This component of CBT helps clients develop healthier thought patterns and beliefs, leading to a positive shift in emotions and behaviours.

  5. Behavioural Activation and Skill Building: The final component of CBT focuses on behavioural activation and skill building. Clients are encouraged to engage in activities and behaviours that promote positive emotions and well-being. Additionally, they learn and practise specific coping skills and strategies to manage challenges effectively and maintain progress beyond therapy.

By integrating these five components, CBT provides a comprehensive framework to address a wide range of psychological difficulties and promote lasting change.

What are the 7 Skills of CBT?

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Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) equips individuals with practical skills that empower them to identify and challenge negative thinking patterns, manage their emotions, and modify maladaptive behaviours. Here are seven essential skills commonly employed in CBT:

  1. Self-Monitoring: Self-monitoring involves paying attention to one's thoughts, emotions, and behaviours in various situations. It helps individuals become more aware of their internal experiences and recognize patterns or triggers that contribute to their difficulties.

  2. Identifying Automatic Thoughts: Automatic thoughts are immediate, spontaneous, and often negative thoughts that arise in response to specific situations. CBT helps individuals develop the skill of identifying and becoming aware of these automatic thoughts, as they play a significant role in influencing emotions and behaviours.

  3. Cognitive Restructuring: Cognitive restructuring is a core skill in CBT. It involves challenging and modifying irrational or unhelpful thoughts and replacing them with more realistic, balanced, and positive thoughts. By changing the way individuals think about themselves, others, and the world, cognitive restructuring promotes healthier emotions and behaviours.

  4. Problem-Solving: CBT emphasises problem-solving skills to help individuals address specific challenges and find effective solutions. This involves breaking down problems into manageable steps, generating alternative solutions, evaluating their pros and cons, and implementing the most appropriate course of action.

  5. Behavioural Activation: Behavioural activation focuses on increasing engagement in positive and rewarding activities. This skill involves identifying enjoyable or meaningful activities, scheduling them into daily routines, and taking proactive steps to overcome barriers or obstacles that may hinder participation.

  6. Emotion Regulation: CBT helps individuals develop skills for managing and regulating their emotions. This includes recognizing and labelling emotions, understanding the triggers and underlying causes, and employing coping strategies such as relaxation techniques, deep breathing, and mindfulness to manage intense emotions effectively.

  7. Assertiveness Training: Assertiveness is an essential skill that enables individuals to express their needs, opinions, and boundaries in a clear and respectful manner. CBT incorporates assertiveness training to help individuals develop assertive communication skills, build self-confidence, and establish healthier relationships.

By cultivating these seven skills, individuals can gain greater control over their thoughts, emotions, and behaviours, leading to improved well-being and overall functioning.


In conclusion, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) and Solution-Focused Therapy offer powerful strategies for personal growth, overcoming obstacles, and achieving success in various aspects of life. While CBT focuses on identifying and modifying negative thoughts and behaviours, Solution-Focused Therapy emphasises envisioning a preferred future and harnessing strengths and resources to achieve it. By integrating these therapeutic approaches, individuals can experience profound transformations and reach their full potential.

At Newer Mind, we are dedicated to providing comprehensive and personalised support to ambitious individuals who are committed to achieving their goals. Through our one-stop-shop approach, we offer tailored programs designed to address your unique needs and aspirations.

Whether you choose our 6-week or 8-week program, we are here to guide you every step of the way. Together, we will develop a roadmap for success, set achievable goals, and equip you with the skills and strategies needed to overcome obstacles and find work-life balance.

Don't let challenges hold you back from reaching your full potential. Take the first step towards a brighter future by reaching out to us at Newer Mind. Let us be your knowledgeable and compassionate guide on your journey to personal betterment and wellness.

Contact us today to learn more about our programs and how we can support you in achieving your goals. Your success starts here with Newer Mind.


Can solution-focused therapy work for individuals with severe mental health conditions?

Solution-focused therapy can be beneficial for individuals with severe mental health conditions. However, it is essential to consult with a qualified mental health professional to determine the most appropriate treatment approach based on individual needs.

How long does a typical solution-focused therapy session last?

The duration of a solution-focused therapy session can vary depending on individual circumstances and the therapist's approach. Sessions generally range from 45 minutes to an hour, but therapists may adjust the length based on client needs and progress.

Are the strategies learned in CBT and solution-focused therapy applicable beyond therapy sessions?

Yes, the strategies learned in CBT and solution-focused therapy can be applied in various aspects of life. Clients can integrate the skills and techniques learned during therapy into their daily routines to foster personal growth, improve relationships, and achieve their goals.

Is CBT or solution-focused therapy better for addressing work-related stress?

Both CBT and solution-focused therapy can be effective in addressing work-related stress. The choice between the two approaches may depend on individual preferences, the specific nature of the stress, and the therapist's recommendation. Consulting with a therapist can help determine the most suitable approach for managing work-related stress.

Can solution-focused therapy be used as a standalone treatment or is it usually combined with other approaches?

Solution-focused therapy can be used as a standalone treatment for individuals with specific goals or challenges. However, therapists may also combine it with other therapeutic approaches, including Hypnotherapy NLP, IEMT, Mindfulness, Reiki, Past Life Regression to create a tailored treatment plan that addresses a broader range of concerns.

What are the potential side effects of CBT or solution-focused therapy?

CBT and solution-focused therapy are generally safe and well-tolerated. However, some individuals may experience temporary discomfort as they confront challenging thoughts and emotions during therapy. It's essential to communicate openly with your therapist about any concerns or discomfort you may be experiencing.

Can CBT or solution-focused therapy be done online or over the phone?

Yes, both CBT and solution-focused therapy can be conducted online or over the phone. Many therapists offer teletherapy options, allowing individuals to receive therapy remotely from the comfort of their own homes. Online platforms and secure video conferencing tools facilitate effective therapeutic communication and maintain client confidentiality.

Can CBT or solution-focused therapy help with specific mental health conditions?

Yes, CBT and solution-focused therapy have been proven effective in treating various mental health conditions such as anxiety disorders, depression, phobias, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) relationship problems, addiction, stress management, and goal setting.

Can I benefit from CBT or solution-focused therapy even if I don't have a diagnosed mental health condition?

Absolutely. CBT and solution-focused therapy are not limited to treating diagnosed mental health conditions. These approaches can be valuable for anyone seeking personal growth, self-improvement, and enhanced well-being. They provide practical tools and strategies for managing stress, improving relationships, and achieving personal goals.

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