Working with patients for whom there is no 'cure': Living well despite the difficulties

In the current NHS climate, the focus is very much on "patient centred care". This workshop aims to share the facilitator’s experience of using Solution Focused Approaches in various physical health settings, helping patients and professionals to truly uncover what the patient really, really wants and what they know about getting there already! The workshop will involve both presentation and lots of opportunity for interaction and discussion. The facilitator will draw on lots of real-world examples, including direct patient work, multidisciplinary team work, group work, and ward-based work with patients with a range of difficulties including chronic pain and stroke.

09:30 Registration/Tea and Coffee
10:00 Workshop starts
16:00 Workshop ends


Psychological theory underpinning the workshop

SFBT is a brief, strengths-based therapy which emphasizes exceptions to problems and helps the client to identify potential solutions. It is non-directive and client-led, assumes that clients have the resources to deal with their difficulties and that small steps can change a vicious cycle of problem maintenance to problem resolution. (George, Iveson and Ratner, 1999). Techniques include inviting problem-free talk, eliciting detailed descriptions of client’s goals, noticing and complimenting the client on their existing strengths, and exploring exceptions to the problem. The average number of sessions in SFBT is five (de Shazer, 1991, Gingerich & Eisengart, 2000). There is a growing body of evidence which suggests that SFBT can be an effective brief therapy. Gingerich and Eisengart (2000) conducted a critical review of all controlled outcome studies of SFBT which appeared up to and including 1999. They identified that follow-up studies using subjective outcome measures reported success rates of 65-83 % across a range of referrals.

Solution focused approaches (e.g. de Shazer, 2004) closely fit the bill with regards to easily identifying patient strengths and goals, which is important in the current "Expert Patient" agenda of the NHS. With some exceptions e.g. with orthopaedic patients (Cockburn, 1997) and those in palliative care (e.g. Bray & Groves 2007), there are few published reports of explicitly SF approaches in the field of physical health. However, more generally there is an increasingly impressive literature, under the banner of positive psychology (e.g. Seligman 2002), which highlights positive correlations with improved health (mental and physical) for both coping and resilience (e.g. Scheier et. al., 1989) and self-determined goals (e.g. Miquelon & Vellerand, 2006).

Patients who come through our service often comment that they feel a greater sense of empowerment, feel more able to cope with their difficulties, and have a greater sense of self efficacy and direction in life. SFBT is useful in terms of helping patients to "live well" despite their difficulties.

Learning outcomes and objectives

The facilitator’s best hopes are that:

  • Participants will come away with greater knowledge of how to use Solution Focused Brief Therapy with patients with physical health difficulties and in medical settings
  • Participants will pick up some questions/strategies tailor-made to working in physical health to take away and use. Please bring along your own examples if you have them!


Dr Becky Simm qualified as a Clinical Psychologist from Lancaster University in 2006 and am HPC registered. During training, she had a special interest in solution focused approaches. Post training, she initially worked in a Child and Family service where she successfully introduced solution focused approaches to the service, the results of which are described in an audit published in Clinical Psychology Forum (June 2010). Becky is a member of the UK Association for Solution Focused Practice, and is in the second year of holding a position on the Committee of this national organisation. In her current post with Sefton NHS, Becky works full time with adults with long term physical health difficulties, including stroke and chronic pain, amongst other conditions. Dr Simm has held this post for over 2 years. As well as direct clinical work with patients, Becky and her colleague are frequently involved in training other health professionals in delivering solution focused approaches, both within and external to their Trust and as such, have trained a wide range of professionals who work in various settings, including Community Matrons, Older Adult and Adult mental health teams, Critical Care professionals and the Macmillan Cancer Network. They regularly deliver training on the Lancaster University and Liverpool University Clinical Psychology doctorate courses. The team recently won NHS Sefton "Team of the Year" for their work.

Booking Information

Target audience

Professionals working with patients with long term physical health conditions (of any kind) who want to have more positive conversations with their patients, and consider looking at things from a different perspective.

Workshop fee

DCP Members £25 (+VAT)
BPS Members £50 (+VAT)
BPS Non-members £75 (+VAT)

How to book

This event is fully booked.


The Gateway Conference Centre

71 London Road


L3 8HY

Wed, 19/10/2011 (All day)
BPS Learning Centre