Solution-Focused Brief Therapy: A Multicultural Approach


Edited by: Johnny S. Kim

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  • Dedication

    For my two little miracles: My children, Bridget Haewon Kim and Shamus Joomin Kim.

    For my biggest source of strength: My wife, Elizabeth McConville Kim.

    For my biggest supporters: My parents, Dr. Chin Goo and In Sook Kim, and my brother, Charles Kim.


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    When I was a doctoral student in the social work program at the University of Texas at Austin, I was fortunate enough to work as a graduate research assistant for Cynthia Franklin and Cal Streeter on a solution-focused alternative high school research project. A main reason why, I believe, I got the job was because I had been trained in solution-focused brief therapy (SFBT) as a clinical social worker in Seattle, Washington, and I used it in my work as a school social worker. Through this research project, I got a chance to meet two of the main developers, Insoo Kim Berg and Steve de Shazer, as they were friends with Cynthia and were also involved in the research project as consultants and trainers.

    I remember it was during this time that Insoo did a training for the school staff on our research project and shared a particular story about her early years as a social worker conducting a family therapy session with a Caucasian family. There was conflict between the parents and the teenage child, and Insoo was working with them to explore their family relationship problems. But being a Korean immigrant, Insoo was confused about the disciplining style of the parents. The parents informed Insoo that they had to ground their child for disobeying them, but Insoo had no idea what grounding meant in relation to parental discipline. She knew grounding literally meant to crush or pound but knew that was not what the parents meant (or at least hoped that was not what they meant), so she asked for clarification. The parents explained that when their child disobeyed them, they punished their child by making the child stay in the house. Unfortunately, this explanation puzzled Insoo even more because in Korean culture, it is considered an honor to be in the house spending time with your family, and many times children are expected to live with and take care of their aging parents. Insoo was confused by the idea that to punish the child, the parents forced the child to stay in the house with the parents. This parenting technique seemed incongruous to Insoo, who was coming from a Korean perspective. This story came to my mind when I started to think about what area in SFBT is lacking.

    There is a gap for social workers, psychologists, marriage and family therapists, and master's-level counselors who are looking for a book that provides clinical applications of SFBT from a multicultural perspective and that contains concrete and tangible tools and intervention strategies. To date, no book and very few articles have been written about how to use SFBT with minority clients, which is an important topic in the United States and abroad. This book is an attempt to fill that void by offering several chapters devoted to common issues prevalent in specific minority groups, especially regarding common risk and protective factors particular to that group, and by showing ways to integrate this knowledge with SFBT techniques to help your clients.

    This edited book is intended for both students and clinicians interested in learning about SFBT and incorporating a multicultural perspective in working with their clients. This book is set up so that it can be used as a textbook in clinical courses as well as a training guide for current practitioners interested in expanding their clinical skills with their minority clients. Chapter 1 provides a history of the development and influences on SFBT as well as a discussion about why incorporating a multicultural approach is needed in clinical practice. A unique feature of Chapter 1 is the introduction of a new theory of change not found in other solution-focused books. Although most practitioners tend to focus on the specific techniques of a therapy model, it is also important to understand how and why the techniques work and to bring this explanation into the clinical process with the client.

    Unlike other solution-focused books currently available, this book incorporates the recently developed SFBT Treatment Manual, which was created to address treatment fidelity issues and to make sure clinicians really are doing SFBT. Chapter 2 provides the details on the specific model and techniques based on the Treatment Manual endorsed and written by the Solution-Focused Brief Therapy Association. Chapter 3 provides a review of the empirical support and discussion around whether SFBT works. This chapter will review the efficacy of SFBT, describing the numerous studies conducted both domestically and internationally.

    Chapters 4 through 13 expand on the SFBT model described in Chapter 2 by describing how to use SFBT specifically with minority clients, with an emphasis on specific, concrete questions and techniques for students and clinicians. The case examples are written as short transcripts of a session dialogue, which the reader can follow along with to see the interactions between the clinician and the client. The chapters close with conclusion sections that summarize and highlight key points, provide resources for further learning, and include discussion questions.

    It is worth noting that although we talk about diversity and cultural competency in solution-focused practice, this book is not set up to be a book on diversity and is not intended to cover all the minority groups and their cultures and values. There is tremendous variability in each of us and in our clients, and it is impossible to create a book that can address every possible difference and experience. Furthermore, although the SFBT Treatment Manual was created for treatment fidelity and adherence, SFBT is flexible enough to adjust to the needs and strengths of the individual client and clinician. It is my hope that the case examples and discussion questions in the chapters will help further stimulate conversation in the classroom and will facilitate learning.


    This book could not have been created without the help of all the contributing authors, many of whom are colleagues as well as friends. I would especially like to thank Cynthia Franklin for hiring me when I was a doctoral student and helping to set a path for me to write this book. I would also like to thank my publisher Kassie Graves for her support and helping me make this book come to fruition. My thanks to the following reviewers who offered valuable feedback and suggestions for the structure and content of this book: Nicole Knickmeyer (Austin Peay State University), J.J. Choi (Kyonggi University, Korea), Christine Sacco-Bene (Barry University), Lynne Kellner (Fitchburg State University), Michael O'Melia (St. Ambrose University), Deborah Barlieb (Kutztown University of Pennsylvania), Duane Bidwell (Claremont Mckenna College), and Barbara Early (Catholic University of America).

    A special thanks to my family: Sulki; Nate; Abby; and the McConville, Zhang, Zankel, and McGaugh families for their support and encouragement. Lastly, I'd like to thank the many solution-focused clinicians, students, researchers, and clients around the world who continue to do the good work Insoo and Steve started more than 30 years ago.

    About the Editor

    Dr. Johnny S. Kim is an Associate Professor at the University of Denver Graduate School of Social Work. He received his master's degree in social work from Boston College, PhD in social work from the University of Texas at Austin, and was a Council on Social Work Education Minority Clinical Fellow. Dr. Kim's research focuses on evaluating school-based interventions, solution-focused brief therapy, meta-analysis, and evidence-based practice. Prior to his doctoral studies, Dr. Kim worked as a school social worker and case manager for community mental health agencies in Seattle.

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