Solution-oriented work - SFA

Solution-oriented work - SFA

Solution- instead of problem-oriented!

The solution-oriented approach developed as a therapy model is based on the observation that it is more effective to rely on people's already existing strengths rather than focusing on what does not work. This approach enables the young people concerned to free themselves from their own powerlessness. In this way, the work of terre des hommes schweiz enables young people to become experts in their own lives.
A young woman from Moçambique weaves reeds.
The solution-oriented approach consistently relies on its own strengths.

The Solution Focused Approach (SFA) was developed by the psychotherapists Steve de Shazer and Insoo Kim Mountain as Therapy model. They worked in Milwaukee, USA, mainly with people struggling with problems such as unemployment, violence, drug abuse and disease. They noticed that the problem-oriented approach did not bring about any change in these people. So they began to focus on their clients' strengths - what they were doing well, what worked for them. The model they developed for counselling is now also used in education, business or social work.

Experts of their own lives
For terre des hommes schweiz, SFA means that it cannot travel to the project countries with ready-made patent remedies. It is important to listen to partners and people, to ask questions, to build on their strengths and resources and to value them. These principles also prove their worth in concrete terms in the work of the partner organisations in accompanying young people. Thus, the counsellors who accompany young people are not the experts who distribute advice and take responsibility for their lives. The young people are perceived and encouraged by them as experts of their own lives, so that they can bring about a change in their situation by mobilising their own strengths - with support, but on their own responsibility.

Many organisations have recognised the importance of involving young people in their projects. They lead youth groups as volunteers and are often the first to become aware of cases of abuse and seek support. Mostly they are prepared for these demanding tasks only in short training sessions. However, the young people do not receive the long-term support they need to implement what they have learned. The lack of know-how and specialists for psychological and social support in many project countries has prompted terre des hommes schweiz to develop its own training programme.

Specialist office for psychological and social support
In the search for a suitable approach, the SFA was the obvious choice. The fact that terre des hommes schweiz was the first organisation to introduce SFA into development cooperation is due to the cooperation with Dr. Therese Steiner. The child psychiatrist and book author learned the trade from de Shazer and Berg. Together with them she developed SFA for work with children and young people. Together with the specialist office for psychological and social support of terre des hommes schweiz, she developed, implemented and accompanied the Youth2Youth training programme.

In the regional programmes in Southern Africa, Central America and South America, terre des hommes schweiz has been training employees and young people from partner organisations as multipliers of the solution-oriented approach since 2008.
The "Youth2Youth" training programme for multipliers is held in two modules spread over one year. In these modules the participants practice solution-oriented work. There are specific methods for solution-focused discussion which encourage participants to recognise their own abilities, set realistic and achievable goals and find creative solutions.

Theory as an extension of practice
SFA practitioners learn to implement what they have actually been doing for a long time more effectively and sustainably: Helping young people find a roof over their heads, ensuring that there is enough food, talking to peers about HIV/AIDS prevention and motivating school leavers to return to school. It has been shown that the course participants first and foremost realize a change in their own lives. They report increased self-confidence and improved communication within their families. They make decisions for their lives and find ways to implement them. They share their own experiences and successes with their peers. During the training they document these changes in their private lives and projects in reports that they have to submit for certification.

Training of Trainers
SFA multipliers are selected by the partner organisations for the trainer training, which consists of two further modules spread over one year, enabling participants to train SFA multipliers.

Example projects solution-oriented work

Young people break the spiral of violence - Partner organisation Platohedro in Colombia

More rights for domestic workers - Partner organisation Centro Loyola in Peru

Youth2Youth - an interim balance

Older woman is sitting at a light wooden table and on her right side the book cover is shown.

After eight years, Irene Bush and Dr. Therese Steiner have reviewed the Youth2Youth training program and taken stock. In an interview Irene Bush explains why she is even more enthusiastic about the Youth2Youth program today than she was at the beginning.

Read the interview with Irene Bush here.

Specialist unit SFA

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