Book Reviews

Solution Therapy: Wave Of The Future?

Partly in response to the demand by insurance companies for faster, cheaper methods of therapy and partly in response to pressure from clients who want quicker ways to get well, Solution Therapy is rapidly gaining popularity. Three recent books are evidence of this trend. But, you may ask, hasn't therapy always looked for solutions? No, say the proponents of ST. The focus of most therapists' work is problems.

In their latest book, Love is a Verb: How to Stop Analyzing Your Relationship & Start Making It Great!, Bill O'Hanlon and Pat Hudson, gurus of ST, claim that "Traditional therapeutic views focus on personality flaws and deficits of people who are having problems. Solution-oriented therapy focuses on people's strengths and inner resources, bypasses a lot of analysis, and gives people concrete ways of changing their actions and their points of view."

Similarly, in The Miracle Method: A Radically New Approach to Problem Drinking, authors Scott Miller and Insoo Berg write that too much emphasis has been put on the problems associated with drinking while scant attention has been paid to the thousands of people who have stopped drinking on their own. The experiences of these ex-alcoholics would surely provide guidelines for others to quit drinking.

The authors proclaim that alcoholism is NOT a disease. They point out the defeatism in the concept that an alcoholic is always an alcoholic, always at risk. Their book provides an inspiring roadmap out of drinking problems for anyone who is willing to change, to look for solutions and thus to find their own miracle. The search for a miracle is hard work but begins by "considering how you want your life to be different once your problem has been solved."

A third book, Shortcut Through Therapy, by stress expert Richard Carlson, overkills in its condemnation of the supposed shortcomings of traditional therapists. Carlson echoes the ST credo when he writes that therapists who focus on your childhood traumas, or repeatedly make you look at what's wrong in your life "are not trying to keep you unhappy. It's just that they've been trained to look for pathology instead of healthy states of mind. . . . In short, the question asked most directly in traditional therapy is: 'What's wrong?' I challenge you to ask yourself: 'What's right? And how can I build on my strengths and become more mentally healthy?"

His ten rules for achieving happiness are valid, though, as he admits, not original. Indeed, although Carlson makes no mention of the source, his Ten Rules sound remarkably like Rational-Emotive Therapy. As with all ST, he focuses on solutions, attitude change, and positive actions.

ST looks at what works. Which is why Miller and Berg rejoice in research which studies the 85% of people who grow up with alcoholic parents, yet are capable, functioning adults. The authors list the eight principles of ST:

1. No single approach works for everyone.

2. There are many possible solutions.

3. The solution and the problem are not necessarily related.

4. The simplest and least invasive approach is frequently the best medicine.

5. People can and do get better quickly.

6. Change is happening all the time.

7. Focus on strengths and resources rather than weaknesses and deficits.

8. Focus on the future rather than the past.

They go on to vehemently disagree with the AA notion that a person is an alcoholic for life. Similarly, they, like Richard Carlson, scoff at the vagueness of much of traditional therapy, and of such concepts as "getting in touch with the inner child", and "improving your self-esteem".

Love Is a Verb: How to Stop Analyzing Your Relationship and Start Making It Great.
Bill O'Hanlon and Pat Hudson, W.W. Norton.

Miracle Method: A Radically New Approach to Problem Drinking. Scott Miller and Insoo Berg, W.W. Norton.

Shortcut through Therapy: Ten Principles of Growth-Oriented, Contented Living. Richard Carlson, Plume.