Practitioner Review: The effectiveness of solution focused brief therapy with children and families: a systematic and critical evaluation of the literature from 1990-2010

J Child Psychol Psychiatry. 2013 Jul;54(7):707-23. doi: 10.1111/jcpp.12058. Epub 2013 Mar 1.


Background and scope: Solution focused brief therapy (SFBT) is a strengths-based therapeutic approach, emphasizing the resources that people possess and how these can be applied to a positive change process. The current study provides a systematic review of the SFBT evidence base and a critical evaluation of the use and application of SFBT in clinical practice with children and families.

Methods: Between 21 December 2010 and 12 May 2011 forty-four database searches (including, PsychInfo, ISI Web of Knowledge, ASSIA, British Education Index, Medline and Scopus), web searches and consultation with experts in the field were used to identify reports of SFBT studies published between 1990 and 2010. Studies were then screened according to trialled qualitative and quantitative assessment frameworks and reported according to the PRISMA guidelines.

Results: A total of 38 studies were included in the review. Of these, 9 applied SFBT to internalizing child behaviour problems, 3 applied SFBT to both internalizing and externalizing child behaviour problems, 15 applied the approach to externalizing child behaviour problems and 9 evaluated the application of SFBT in relation to a range of other issues.

Conclusions: Although much of the literature has methodological weaknesses, existing research does provide tentative support for the use of SFBT, particularly in relation to internalizing and externalizing child behaviour problems. SFBT appears particularly effective as an early intervention when presenting problems are not severe. Further well-controlled outcome studies are needed. Studies included in the review highlight promising avenues for further research.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Adaptation, Psychological
  • Adolescent
  • Affective Symptoms / diagnosis
  • Affective Symptoms / psychology
  • Affective Symptoms / therapy
  • Aggression / psychology
  • Child
  • Child Behavior Disorders / diagnosis
  • Child Behavior Disorders / psychology
  • Child Behavior Disorders / therapy*
  • Conduct Disorder / diagnosis
  • Conduct Disorder / psychology
  • Conduct Disorder / therapy
  • Family Therapy / methods*
  • Female
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Humans
  • Internal-External Control
  • Juvenile Delinquency / psychology
  • Juvenile Delinquency / rehabilitation
  • Learning Disabilities / diagnosis
  • Learning Disabilities / psychology
  • Learning Disabilities / therapy
  • Male
  • Phobic Disorders / diagnosis
  • Phobic Disorders / psychology
  • Phobic Disorders / therapy
  • Psychotherapy, Brief / methods*
  • Psychotherapy, Group / methods
  • Randomized Controlled Trials as Topic
  • Secondary Prevention
  • Self Concept