Solution-focused counselling vs. addressing the underlying issue...is there a difference? Written by Brendan Mooney Psychologist
With physical illness and disease there are often two therapy options: to alleviate the symptoms and/or to address the underlying cause of the condition. When it comes to psychological issues and conditions it could be said that:
Counselling or psychological therapy can focus on reducing symptoms but not address the underlying issue. Whilst this approach to therapy may provide short-term symptomatic relief, it is important to note that the underlying issue remains unresolved to re-surface at some point in the future, albeit in a more complicated form.
Solution-focused therapy could also be called ‘feel good therapy’ because the client will likely feel better in the short term, although this is merely because their symptoms have decreased. However, because the underlying issue has not been addressed, it is likely that something will happen in the future that will trigger the same issue and the symptoms may occur again. When this happens it is exacerbated by the long-term accumulative effect of having left the issue un-dealt with for so long.
Solution-based counselling may initially appear more effective for the client, however this is because this type of therapy is more of a ‘quick fix approach’ that does not challenge the underlying issues. As a result, these issues lay dormant as the therapy merely offers solutions to alleviate the immediate discomfort a client is experiencing. These symptoms are often easy to address and hence the client can make quick progress and the practitioner may feel competent, although nothing in the form of true sustained change has actually occurred if the underlying condition remains untreated.
Although when the underlying issue/s begin to be addressed, sometimes symptoms can initially increase – in other words it can appear in the short-term that a client’s condition is becoming worse. However, it is not that the client’s condition is becoming worse but that a deeper layer of what is unresolved is being exposed to be cleared.
Unfortunately short-term relief of symptoms is often the sole intention of those seeking counselling or psychological therapy, and there are many practitioners who are very willing to offer this type of practice. But this is no different to what we see occurring in the political field, whereby politicians can make decisions based on a 4 year term instead of considering the long-term well being of people and financial cost of services.
The purpose of this article is to bring awareness to the fact that there are different approaches to counselling and psychology, in order to support clients to decide which approach best suits them.
More will be written in an upcoming series of articles on this topic. If you would like to read more be sure to subscribe to receive email updates.
BIOGRAPHY Psychologist Brendan Mooney works with adults, adolescents and children. With a genuine interest in people's well-being, Brendan brings a warmth, practicality and an equality that supports clients to truly address underlying issues and blockages that are preventing them from moving forward.