Solution-Focused Brief Couples Therapy with Elliott Connie

Topics covered:  the importance and impact of couples work, what drew Elliott to couples therapy,  how Elliott go started seeing couples, how he developed his SFBT couples approach, the process of making discoveries as he developed his approach, the power of linguistic shifts, therapy/approach as a craft, five guiding principles of SFBT Couples Therapy.  Length:  47 minutes

This masterclass is for therapists who love or hate working with couples, and everything in between!

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Class Notes

About Elliott 

Elliott Connie, MA, LPC, is Solution-Focused Brief Therapy (SFBT) expert, speaker, and author.  He has a private practice in Keller, TX. Elliott is also the founder of Solution-Focused University, an online community for learning and mastering the SFBT approach.

Learn more about Elliott and his work:


Inspiration (Quotes from Elliott)

  • “I have a deep desire to help couples, because I think the romantic relationship is so amazing.”
  • “The most beautiful thing I can do with my time is help couples work through [challenges].”
  • “There is nothing that happens in my office that is more touching than watching two people fall back in love.”
  • “You are having a profound impact on someone’s genogram.”
  • "I genuinely believe our work is sacred.  Not because we help people solve problems, because we help people’s genograms.”

The journey

  • "It was almost as if I was reading about the type of clinician I wanted to be."
  • "No one had articulated what I was trying to find out."
  • "Can this approach work with couples?"

Discoveries along the way

Discovery #1

  • One future/one miracle
  • Identify the outcome vs. the strategy

Discovery #2

  • Linguistic Shifts
  • The mistake doesn’t define the person--the partner’s realization

The process

  • Recording sessions
  • Transcribing each session
  • Writing down questions that seemed to produce useful responses
  • Distilling questions into guiding principles
  • Working with a partner/colleague.  Weekly meetings for 2 1/2 years before writing the book.

Examples of SFBT Couple Therapy questions

  • "In spite of this mistake, what do you still like about your husband/wife?"
  • "Prior to this mistake, what would you have said was your favorite thing?"
  • "When you discovered their mistake, what about your partner caused you to come to therapy instead of an attorney--what gives you even the slightest hint of optimism that this may work?"

5 Guiding Principles of Solution-Focused Brief Couples Therapy

  1. It’s important to solution-build rather than problem-solve:  The pursuit toward solutions will solve the problem
  2. The conversation must be co-constructed:  Each person in the conversation must respond to each question.  Each person must take the same amount of turns.
  3. The therapist has to believe that every single couple has the capacity to change:  I am a change agent.  It’s my job to believe that people can change.
  4. Focus on the desired outcome:  Focus on the future, what the couple wants, instead of the problem that brought them into therapy.
  5. Every single couple comes from a successful past:  They wouldn’t be a couple, if they didn’t have a successful past.  Make this a part of the session.

Advice and Ideas

  • “A lot of the time, when the couple has an argument in the session, it’s actually the clinician’s fault.”
  • “That positive response is so important to the outcome of therapy.”
  • “You have to treat this like a craft. . . . If you don’t hone it, you lose it.”
  • “The moment you believe that a couple is incapable of changing, that’s the moment you should send that couple to another therapist, because you’ve lost hope and expectancy.”
  • “Find the nuggets of truth, hope, and expectancy, and people change and get better.”


Books by Elliott Connie

The Art of Solution Focused Therapy

Solution Building in Couples Therapy

The Solution Focused Marriage

Additional resources mentioned by Elliott:

Divorce Busting, by Michell Weiner-Davis

Children's Solution Work, by Insoo Kim Berg and Terese Steiner

Counseling Toward Solutions, by Linda Metcalf

Solution Focused Group Therapy, by Linda Metcalf

The Solution Focused Institute of South Africa, Jackie Von Siffer Bergs South Africa

Coaching Plain and Simple, by Dierolf, Meier, and Szabo

Solutions Focus Working, by McKergow and Clark

References for hope and expectancy factors (Common Factors):

Blow, A. J., & Sprenkle, D. H. (2001). Common factors across theories of marriage and family therapy: A Bmodified Delphi study. Journal of marital and family therapy27(3), 385-401.

Sprenkle, D. H., & Blow, A. J. (2004). Common factors and our sacred models. Journal of marital and family therapy30(2), 113-129. 

Also mentioned:

Bill O'Hanlon,

Chris Iveson, Harvey Ratner, and Evan George

Brief Coaching:  A Solution Focused Approach, by Iveson and George

Solution Focused Brief Therapy:  100 Key Points and Techniques, by Ratner and George

BRIEF:  The Center for Solution Focused Practice

Dr. Adam Froerer, researcher (find his work by searching

Download the class notes.

Grab the SFBT Couples Therapy Questions Cheat Sheet

Additional SFBT Couple Therapy Tips, from Elliott

RTN LIVE Q+A with Elliott