A Layman's Guide To Solution Focused Therapy for Goal Setting
Mental Health Education,  Mental Health Resources for Families,  Relationships and Mental Health

A Layman’s Guide* and Worksheet: Solution Focused Therapy for Goal Setting

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*Disclaimer – While based on therapy techniques, this guide was not created by a mental health professional. It is only ever meant to be used as a layman’s introduction to Solution Focused Therapy techniques adapted for the purposes of personal growth. SFT should always be done with the guidance of a mental health professional. This document is not intended to diagnose, treat, or cure mental health issues.   

Download the interactive version of the Solution Focused Therapy For Goal Setting worksheet here:

What is Solution Focused Therapy

Solution Focused Therapy is an Evidence Based mental health treatment technique. It was legitimized by Dr. Steve de Shazer and his wife Dr. Insoo Kim Berg at the Milwaukee Brief Family Therapy Center (BFTC) in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

The therapy approach, also know as Solution Focused Brief Therapy, is intended to help patients see positive outcomes even if their current state is not ideal. In this method, an SFT or SFBT Therapist leads the client through a series of questions starting with what’s known as the “Miracle Question.” Find out more about the Miracle Question here.

This line of questioning is intended to help the client see hope in a hopeless situation. It’s also used to identify an area of focus based on the biggest problem currently facing the patient. That way the counselor and patient can work together to create a roadmap of goals and actions needed to achieve a version of the idealized future they created through asking “The Miracle Question.

How Can You Put Solution Focused Therapy Into Your Mental Health Toolbox?

It’s highly recommended that any Solution Focused Therapy be undergone with the guidance of a mental health professional (see disclaimer at top)*.

That being said, there are ways a layman can adapt strategies involved in Solution Focused Therapy as part of their Mental Health Toolbox. A Mental Health Toolbox is a collection of strategies, methods, and activities you can practice at home to maintain good mental health (and help in an emergency situation). Having a fully stocked Mental Health Toolbox is essential if visiting a mental health professional is out of financial reach as it is for many patients.

We’ll explore the adapted strategies of Solution Focused Therapy in this worksheet.

Step One – Ask Yourself “The Miracle Question:” 

“If I woke up tomorrow and my biggest problem was magically gone, what would have changed overnight to make that happen?”

Ex 1: Stan wakes up to find his major stressor (financial problems) are gone because he magically has a well paying job with benefits.

Ex 2: Renata wakes up to find their major stressor (lack of housing) is gone because they magically have been granted long term, stable housing.

Now it’s your turn – “If I woke up tomorrow and my biggest problem was magically gone, what would have changed overnight to make that  happen?” ________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Step Two: Ask Yourself Follow Up Questions:

  1. How would others notice I’ve changed because my Miracle Question was answered? (Would they notice you’re more energetic? Happier? More Positive? Etc.)

________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

  1. How would I feel if I magically had the exact thing to solve my problem? (Be as detailed as possible).

________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

  1. What other parts of my life would or could possibly improve because my one biggest problem is solved? (Be as detailed as possible).

________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Step 3 – Begin to Enact Change: 

Now that you’ve identified your biggest issue and what would happen if it was magically gone, it’s time to start setting goals for the future and creating a roadmap on how to get there. This is best done with a life coach, counselor, and/or partner in order to have the most effective outcome. 

Remember Stan? He identified that if he had a steady, well paying job many of his biggest issues would be solved almost instantly. So gaining that employment would become his main focus in the goal setting process. 

Some actionable steps Stan can make in the present in order to get closer to his miracle future: 

  1. Identify current roadblocks to employment and work with a job coach or counselor to remove them (i.e. needing an updated resume, needing experience in a certain area, lack of transportation or job availability in his immediate area)
    1. Do some research online to find out what job coaching services are in his area (preferably job placement services that provide transportation to and from jobs)
    2. Write down skills he would need or need to improve for jobs 
    3. Sign up on Monster, Indeed, and/or Snag-A-Job sites
  2. Investigate eligibility for Unemployment or other Emergency Funding Opportunities to start receiving some income while he works on finding other sources
  3. Get emotional support from family, friends, and/or support groups (online and in person)

So you see there are lots of steps and goals Stan can create in the present in order to get to his ideal future. However, this is Step 3 because it is nearly impossible to see these steps if you’re stressed, worried, and hopeless – which is why we start with Steps 1 and 2 to help provide hope and encouragement. 

Now it’s your turn – what are three steps (and substeps) you can enact today to help yourself reach your goals? It’s okay if they are small steps, all that matters is that you’re moving forward!! 

  1. ____________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________
    1. ________________________________________________________________
    2. ________________________________________________________________
    3. ________________________________________________________________
  1. ____________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________ 
    1. ________________________________________________________________
    2. ________________________________________________________________
    3. ________________________________________________________________
  1. ____________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________ 
    1. ________________________________________________________________
    2. ________________________________________________________________
    3. ________________________________________________________________

Step 4: Maintain Change As You Work Towards Your Goals: 

Life change is NOT an easy process. It’s full of failures, discouragements, and hard times which can make that miracle future seem even farther away. But that’s okay, it’s actually a crucial part of the process that we all have to go through. 

There are lots of things you can do to keep yourself motivated as you work towards big life change. Here’s a list of just a few things:

  1. Look back and celebrate all the successes you’ve already made (big or small)-write them down and put them up on your bathroom mirror to see everyday. 
  2. Reach out for support instead when you feel like quitting. This is where it’s handy to have a coach, sponsor, mentor, caring family member and/or support group. 
  3. Self care. Because personal growth is pretty exhausting. Check out MSB’s Self Care Center for ideas when you’re feeling tapped out.  

And many more! What’s one thing you can do today to keep yourself moving forward? Write it down here: ________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________  

Step 5: Keep Resetting Goals 

As you work through the process, you’ll achieve many goals big and small. You should definitely celebrate them (see Step 4). However, if you’re a gamer, you know that achievement means leveling up. And leveling up means things get a little more rewarding but also more challenging! So this is the perfect time to set new goals to keep you on the path. 

Let’s go back to Stan. He’s crushed his original goals. He’s got a part time labor placement job that’s gaining him some experience and some cash to pay the bills. This is amazing and he feels really good about it. But he also knows that he won’t truly feel financially secure until he has a full time job with benefits and a fully loaded emergency fund.  

Stan’s job counselor knows this too and encourages Stan to make a round of new goals so that nothing catches him off guard. His new goals are to learn how to save money on a small salary and incorporate his work experience into his resume. 

With those goals in mind, Stan starts rewriting his resume to include all the new experience he’s gotten in his labor job. It ends up being more than he thought and he’s chuffed to see all the skills he’s gained. He also downloads an app that takes microsavings out of his newly set up bank account and builds an emergency fund for him automatically. 

And just like that, Stan is ready to face some new challenges and keep working towards his Miracle Future. 

And you can too! This next step requires you to revisit this sheet 2-3 months down the line (or however long it takes you to complete your original goals. No shame, everyone is different). Now you’ll revisit your goals, check them off and add new ones to complete.

2-3 Month Goals Rewrite: 

  1. ____________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________
    1. ________________________________________________________________
    2. ________________________________________________________________
    3. ________________________________________________________________
  1. ____________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________ 
    1. ________________________________________________________________
    2. ________________________________________________________________
    3. ________________________________________________________________
  1. ____________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________ 
    1. ________________________________________________________________
    2. ________________________________________________________________

Now do the same for 6 month’s progress, 9 month’s progress and a year’s progress

6 Months Goal Rewrite

  1. ____________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________
    1. ________________________________________________________________
    2. ________________________________________________________________
    3. ________________________________________________________________
  1. ____________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________ 
    1. ________________________________________________________________
    2. ________________________________________________________________
    3. ________________________________________________________________
  1. ____________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________ 
    1. ________________________________________________________________
    2. ________________________________________________________________
    3. ________________________________________________________________

9 Months Goal Rewrite 

  1. ____________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________
    1. ________________________________________________________________
    2. ________________________________________________________________
    3. ________________________________________________________________
  1. ____________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________ 
    1. ________________________________________________________________
    2. ________________________________________________________________
    3. ________________________________________________________________
  1. ____________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________ 
    1. ________________________________________________________________
    2. ________________________________________________________________
    3. ________________________________________________________________

One Year Goal Rewrite 

  1. ____________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________
    1. ________________________________________________________________
    2. ________________________________________________________________
    3. ________________________________________________________________
  1. ____________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________ 
    1. ________________________________________________________________
    2. ________________________________________________________________
    3. ________________________________________________________________
  1. ____________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________ 
    1. ________________________________________________________________
    2. ________________________________________________________________
    3. ________________________________________________________________

And there you have it! Studies show that people who continually come back to their goals have a much higher chance of achieving them. So print these out and put them up in the bathroom or on the fridge. Basically wherever you’re most likely to see them first thing in the AM. 

Final Words: You (yes, YOU) CAN achieve your Miracle Future. And it starts with one simple Miracle Question. But remember, even though the question is simple, the work is hard and must be continuous. I hope this guide will help you through the hard parts of life change and that it keeps you on track. At MSB, we really believe in you so don’t hesitate to reach out to us on our website https://mysoulbalm.blog or on our Facebook page (@mysoulbalmblog). You can also find support on MSB’s online support page: Wonder Women: A Mental Health Support Group 

*Disclaimer – While based on therapy techniques, this guide was not created by a mental health professional. It is only ever meant to be used as a layman’s introduction to Solution Focused Therapy techniques adapted for the purposes of personal growth. SFT should always be done with the guidance of a mental health professional. This document is not intended to diagnose, treat, or cure mental health issues.   

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Mad as Hell Mental Health Rights Advocate. Likes margaritas, long walks on the beach, and JUSTICE.

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