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Brief psychotherapy or brief therapy is an umbrella term for a variety of approaches to psychotherapy.
Brief therapy differs from other schools of therapy in that it emphasises (1) a focus on a specific problem and (2) direct intervention. In brief therapy, the therapist takes responsibility for working more pro-actively with the client in order to treat clinical and subjective conditions faster. It also emphasizes precise observation, utilization of natural resources, and temporary suspension of disbelief to consider new perspectives and multiple viewpoints.
Rather than the formal analysis of historical causes of distress, the primary approach of brief therapy is to help the client to view the present from a wider context and to utilize more functional understandings (not necessarily at a conscious level). By becoming aware of these new understandings, successful clients will de facto undergo spontaneous and generative change.
Brief therapy is often highly strategic, exploratory, and solution-based rather than problem-oriented. It is less concerned with how a problem arose than with the current factors sustaining it and preventing change. Brief therapists do not adhere to one "correct" approach, but rather accept that there being many paths, any of which may or may not in combination turn out to be ultimately beneficial.
Founding proponents of brief therapy
Milton Erickson was a practitioner of brief therapy, using clinical hypnosis as his primary tool. To a great extent he developed this himself. His approach was popularized by Jay Haley, in the book "Uncommon therapy: The psychiatric techniques of Milton Erickson M.D."
"The analogy Erickson uses is that of a person who wants to change the course of a river. if he opposes the river by trying to block it, the river will merely go over and around him. But if he accepts the force of the river and diverts it in a new direction, the force of the river will cut a new channel." (Haley, "Uncommon therapy", p.24, emphasis in original)[this quote needs a citation]
"It's easier to cure a phobia in ten minutes than in five years... I didn't realize that the speed with which you do things makes them last... I taught people the phobia cure. They'd do part of it one week, part of it the next, and part of it the week after. Then they'd come to me and say "It doesn't work!" If, however, you do it in five minutes, and repeat it till it happens very fast, the brain understands. That's part of how the brain learns... I discovered that the human mind does not learn slowly. It learns quickly. I didn't know that." (Time for a change, 1993, p. 20)
- Nicholas A. Cummings (Nick Cummings) (brief therapy, focused therapy)
- Steve de Shazer (solution focused brief therapy)
- Milton H. Erickson (hypnotherapy, strategic therapy, brief therapy)
- Paul Watzlawick (Brief therapy, systems theory)
- Giorgio Nardone (Brief therapy, strategic therapy)
- Brief psychoanalytic therapy
- Cognitive therapy
- Family therapy
- Neuro-linguistic programming
- Fritz Perls
- Solution focused brief therapy
- List of counseling topics
- Information on NLP A form of Brief Therapy
- The Mental Research Institute One of the founding clinics of Brief Therapy and home of a number of the notable therapists mentioned above
- Brief Psychotherapy at the US National Library of Medicine Medical Subject Headings (MeSH)
- Social Construction Therapies Network