Solution Focused Therapy

SFBT’s evolution started with the work of Milton Erickson and the mental research institute in the States. Essentially therapists started to look at analytical practices back in the 60’s and realise that it had limitations, and Erickson’s approach that you had to tailor the therapy around the individual and not fit them into an existing model meant that therapy moved more towards the clients resources being utilized more. By 1965 the Brief therapy project was developed. With analytical therapies there was a presumption that the problem stemmed back to a defining moment in that person’s life. This could take considerable time and did not necessarily come to any solid conclusions.

With Brief Therapy, the origins of the problem were by and large avoided because recognising it did not necessarily mean a solution could be found. They started to look at what resources the individual already had and how they could interrupt the problem cycle. Insoo Kim Berg recognised that her clients were leaving after 6 or 7 sessions, and at first she thought she was not being effective, but when she looked into this, she realised that the methods they were developing were considerably speeding up the therapy – which up to then may have gone on for years. From this SFBT developed. Steve De Shazer along with colleagues at the Milwaukee based Brief Family Therapy Centre realised that looking forward to a hoped for future that was devoid of the ‘problem’ and building upon how the client was able to do other things well. There are always exceptions to every problem and when the client was not experiencing the problem – what were they doing?

It was out of this approach that one client suggested a miracle must happen before her situation got better and so the miracle question was born and this has become central to the SFBT process. By focusing on what we want instead of what we don’t want, we are much more capable in finding a solution. An example might be “I don’t want to feel lonely” the miracle question would concentrate on what would be happening if you we’re not feeling lonely, this then might prompt the person to find out activities they might enjoy where they meet people. This may appear common sense, but often people focus on the negative when they find themselves in such a situation.

Weight loss is another area which the Miracle Question can uncover some interesting underlying reasons why they have problems with food. So instead of “I would wake up slim”, further questioning may bring forth answers such as “I’d be more sociable”, “I’d go out dancing” etc all these then can help focus on different activities that will help the person move towards some kind of behaviour that helps.

In the SFBT has been transformed into a great way to supervise practitioners and is used within the NHS as part of their management strategy and is recognised as a benchmark of good practice by the Department of health. It can be used not only individually but also as a business model, helping companies make changes when they have problems they are having difficulties solving.

I was one of the founding executive committee members of the Association of Solution Focused Hypnotherapy between 2010 and 2015.

Hypnotherapy in Oxford



What is Hypnotherapy?

Hypnotherapy is the name given to a branch of therapy which utilises a person’s ability to go into a trance state.

We go into a trance state on a regular basis, it’s daydreaming mode, when the brain switches from the limbic system to the activity of the Anteria Cingulate Cortex. Often activity around the peripheral areas of the brain become quieter and the person feels a loss of sensation or time distortion. Brain waves change during this process, so we become more focused, relaxed and able to make decisions easier. We experience it when driving a car, watching TV or reading a book.

Being able to utilize how the brain switches mode, hypnotherapy can then suggest to the person in trance to change the way they feel or think about themselves, or a situation, a problem, or an object.

On its own hypnosis is not a therapy, it’s all the other interventions such as SFBT, CBT, NLP and mindfulness that adds to the experience.

The other benefit of hypnosis is promoting REM. Sleep is essential to help deal with memory, emotion and repairing our cells. When we go into a hypnotic trance we quite often find we go into REM – We can often detect our eyes flickering. By listening to a relaxation CD whilst going to sleep can help regulate sleep patterns and allow us to get the sleep we need to sort out our emotional problem.

Also see: Hypnotherapy Page

Cognitive behavioural therapy

Cognitive behavioural therapy (or CBT) is a psychotherapeutic approach that aims to solve problems concerning dysfunctional emotions, behaviours and cognitions through a goal-oriented, systematic procedure. CBT refers to therapy based upon a combination of basic behavioural and cognitive research.

Background to CBT

Siddhartha Gautama otherwise known as Buddha was one of the first to teach that our perception of the world comes from within, and we cannot escape the inevitable. So instead we must pay attention to the now by being in the moment and not judging, and by being kind to oneself and others. It is concerned with cause and effect and how good and bad behaviour has an effect on our future.

Using these ideas in CBT has developed the idea of useful and adaptive thinking and problematic or maladaptive thinking – as well as using mindfulness as a method of focusing attention away from ruminative thinking.

Socrates – the Greek philosopher – used a form of enquiry that was insightful and purposely brings out the values, beliefs and meanings of the answers given. Open questions that find out what lies at the heart of the problem. This form of questioning is used in scientific enquiry and used extensively in CBT to try and understand why people do or think a certain way.

Immanuel Kant – realised one could break down the way one fits into the world at large as objective – the reality of the world (as Noumena) and the subjective – the way things appear – how we individually perceive the world (as he called Phenomena)

We cannot truly perceive the real world as we all have different backgrounds, understandings and influences that colour our perception. He popularised the notion of Schema, which is taken up in CBT where patterns of behaviour over a period of time are recognised and may need to be changed to get desired results.

A schema is an individuals view of the world. It is the accumulation of knowledge to make up a framework of understanding. It is information processing that enables us to classify information and to anticipate events. How the person behaves is much to do with how they experienced events in the past. Because no two people will have the same experiences, no two people will respond in the same manner.

In a depressed person their perception of themselves will tend to be negative, “who wants to be with me, I feel miserable” so they avoid social situations because they perceive no one wants to be with them, while they feel that way, and so it becomes a self-fulfilling prophesy because they have withdrawn. If people make positive remarks, quite often it will be responded to with a negative response such as “what do they want?” or “They’re only being nice to me – but I don’t deserve it”.

By pushing away the very thing that will make them feel better, depressed people can become more isolated and become convinced no one cares – so the cycle continues.

A depressed person is more likely to ruminate on a number of core beliefs, such as “I’m unlovable” for example, and this becomes a focus for negative self-hypnosis. Their attention is drawn to events that support their belief and ignoring contradictory information.

Modern Roots

The modern roots of CBT can be traced to the development of behaviour therapy in the early 20th century, the development of cognitive therapy in the 1960s. The therapeutic approaches of Albert Ellis and Aaron T. Beck gained popularity among behaviour therapists.

Today due to the fact that measured outcomes have helped show good results, it is currently the therapy of choice for the NHS, though SFBT is gaining ground here.

The particular therapeutic techniques vary within the different approaches of CBT according to the particular kind of problem issues, but commonly may include keeping a diary of significant events and associated feelings, thoughts and behaviors; questioning and testing cognitions, assumptions, evaluations and beliefs that might be unhelpful and unrealistic; gradually facing activities which may have been avoided; and trying out new ways of behaving and reacting. Relaxation, mindfulness and distraction techniques are also commonly included.

In areas such as phobias, it is usually accepted to expose the person to the thing that is causing the anxiety slowly over a period of time and the person gets used to it slowly. The fast phobia technique of NLP has largely overwritten this technique as it helps scramble the panic template we’ve engrained in our minds.

CBT has it’s place in psychotherapy and can be useful if a person has limited resources, such as the elderly, those with serious physical illness and children.

Also see: CBT


Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP) originated when Richard Bandler – a student at University of California Santa Cruz – and linguist John Grinder were listening to and selecting portions of taped therapy sessions of the late Gestalt therapist Fritz Perls.

They recognised that the way people used language had some effect on their behaviour. Using this model they were able to come up with a whole range of complicated names of ways we use language and interect.

More ideas were developed when the pair were introduced to Milton Erikson – his use of language and the individual way he addressed each person made them realise that it was an effective way to taylor therapy.

NLP was originally promoted by its co-founders in the 1970s as an effective and rapid form of therapy capable of addressing the full range of problems such as phobias, depression, habit disorder, psychosomatic illnesses, and learning disorders.

There is some debate how effective NLP can be, but certainly the fast phobia technique and the Swish have proven to be effective, certainly to myself and the clients I have used it on. Using metaphors and reframing situations can help getting people focusing on the more positive aspects of their lives. Such techniques as anchors are repeatedly used in sports hypnosis, to fix a certain feeling, thought or action firmly in the mind of the sportsperson so they perform exactly how they rehearsed mentally. If you watch sports events carefully, you may see a sportsperson move their hand or finger in a slightly odd way, this is the anchoring technique in action.


Mindfulness practice, inherited from the Buddhist tradition, is increasingly being employed in Western psychology to alleviate a variety of mental and physical conditions, including obsessive-compulsive disorder and anxiety and in the prevention of relapse in depression and drug addiction.

Scientific research into mindfulness generally falls under the umbrella of positive psychology. The study of mindfulness operates on the idea that by intentionally recognizing the potential of each small moment in a day, one can pursue a richer life experience that includes more novelty and less stress.

Mindfulness is not like traditional meditation, it’s active. It takes place whilst you walk or are sitting observing what’s going on around you and internally. It’s a fantastic way of reducing anxiety and so practical.

Much of the mindful techniques I use are inspired from the teachings of scientist Jon Kabat-Zinn. Once learnt they can be utilised whenever necessary. Especially good for those with Social phobias, Fear of flying and other anxiety driven problems.

An example of mindfulness could be something as simple as washing up the dishes. We often let our minds wander quite a bit and if we start thinking about negative things we are experiencing in our every day life, then we become down very quickly. If we practice mindful washing up then you pay attention to what you’re doing in the here and now. So fill up the bowl with hot water. Note how the water feels – too hot for your hands? Try rubber gloves. Feel how the water feels whilst wearing rubber gloves, warm. Pick up the sponge, how does that feel? The glass, not the light that falls through the glass when you hold it up to the window. The sound of the sponge as you clean around its rim.

The noise of the clinks of glass and china on themselves as you stack them to dry. The feel of the tea towel when you dry them. It’s all a sensual experience and you need to stay focused on the sensations. If you find your mind wandering quite a bit, that’s normal, just bring your attention back to what you’re doing.

Brain wave recursive therapy

BWRT® is unique, it’s techniques work effectively with a great number of human problems and difficulties, including:

  • Relationship problems
  • Social Phobia
  • PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder)
  • Generalised Anxiety Disorder (G.A.D.)
  • Habits
  • Weight management
  • Stress and Anxiety
  • Personal Confidence
  • Fears
  • Depression

‘BWRT®’ stands for ‘BrainWorking Recursive Therapy®’, a model of psychology and psychotherapy created by UK professional therapist, Terence Watts, MCGI. It does not use hypnosis or any concepts that might be considered mystical or unscientific – it’s completely logical, practical and down-to-earth, and for it to succeed only needs you to know what you want to change in your life.

The therapy model was developed by Terence Watts,  It’s totally confidential, safe and sometimes needs only a single session to resolve even apparently impossible problems often by Skype or telephone if the person is too shy or embarrassed.

Only Certified Practitioners have been trained to deliver BWRT® and all have to adhere to a strict ethical code. Find out more at

Please note results may vary from person to person and success in not guaranteed

Nutritional Therapy

I am currently training in Nutritional Therapy which will help weight loss clients and food phobics to gain a better understanding of foods needed for optimum health.

Penny Ling is a widely experienced hypnotherapist who has worked with everyone from top executives to stroke victims since 2007. She has been editor of Hypnotherapy Today Magazine and is a supervisor and mentor for members of the AfSFH and NCH.

Read Penny’s inspiring story How I beat all my phobias, or find out more how hypnotherapy could help your problem by downloading How Solution Focused Hypnotherapy can help with life. Feel free to send Penny a message here.