Solution Focused Brief Therapy vs. Play Therapy. Which One is Better?

For many years, play therapy has been the “go-to” counseling approach for therapists and parents alike when it comes to therapy for kids. And there’s good reason for that – until Solution Focused Brief Therapy grew in popularity and credibility, most assumed that play therapy was the only way to work with kids. After all, what other options do you have with kids who may have short attention spans or are hesitant to talk about deep issues?

So, when parents find out that I use Solution Focused Brief Therapy exclusively with kids, they’re curious to know why and whether it’s a better counseling approach than play therapy.

Here are my thoughts…

What is Play Therapy?

First, let’s get clear on what play therapy is exactly. In its simplest form, play therapy consists of a child playing with a variety of specialized toys while the therapist uses a specific strategy to encourage the child to express their feelings and act out real-world experiences. It offers the child a safe and non-judgmental space to open up about their problems.

What are Some Advantages of Play Therapy?

There are several advantages to play therapy:

  • Play is a natural way for children to regulate their emotions.
  • Children develop strong bonds with their therapist.
  • Play therapy is most effective when the source of a child’s distress is unknown; it draws out hidden fears and concerns simply through the way a child plays.
  • Research shows that play therapy can be effective in treating a range of issues children face including abuse, aggression, and acting-out behaviors.

Are there Disadvantages to Play Therapy?

 There are a few disadvantages to play therapy:

  • While play therapy is naturally therapeutic for children, some studies about its effectiveness show mixed results.
  • Play therapy is largely dependent on the therapist’s skills. Therapists need to be highly trained with proper certification and supervision. Some therapists simply integrate play while doing standard “talk therapy” which is not really play therapy.
  • Play therapy can be a long, drawn-out process.
  • It doesn’t work for every child or every problem.

How is Solution Focused Brief Therapy Different?

Solution Focused Brief Therapy is a counseling approach that highlights and activates your child’s strengths, resources, and resilience to bring about change. It’s rooted in language, and as such, Solution Focused Brief therapists believe that every child is capable of conversation and insight. By having a hopeful conversation, your child’s vision of what’s possible is expanded.

Here are some additional differences:

Solution Focused Brief Therapy is brief

In Solution Focused Brief Therapy, less is more. Other counseling approaches maintain that therapy is good in and of itself and that more sessions are better than less.

But this view is almost always associated with your child remaining in therapy longer and is NOT supported by research. The average number of solution-focused brief therapy sessions is 6.

Why does Solution Focused Brief Therapy work so quickly? I help your child to zero in on their goals without getting lost in the details, old history, and diagnoses. Change can happen quickly. And because your child’s strengths already exist, it often takes less time to put them to use in addressing the problem.

 Your child is the expert

Your child is the expert, not the therapist. Your child has a way of doing things that work for them and will eventually lead them to their own solutions.

Solution Focused Brief Therapy’s motto is: “Every child carries the key to the solution. Every Solution-Focused therapist just needs to know where to look.”

Solution Focused Brief Therapy is engaging and fun

Creativity is a trait that’s highly valued in Solution Focused Brief Therapy. I do not give your child suggestions on what to do or how to think. Instead, I invite them into a very particular way of describing their lives.

It’s this attention to detail and creative description of what life can be like that enables them to move forward with hope and expectation that they will be successful.

Solution Focused Brief Therapy does not require your child to divulge painful feelings

Solution-Focused Brief Therapy is unique in the assumption of why your child comes for therapy. Although anxiety may be the problem, your child has also come to therapy because they want something.

And it’s this assumption, that sends the conversation in a different direction creating more possibilities and avenues for change.

Additionally, this counseling approach taps into the motivation of each child knowing that the pull of what they want (e.g. fun, calmness, happiness) is often a lot stronger than the push away from what they don’t want (e.g. anxiety).

Solution Focused Brief Therapy builds on your child’s existing strengths, skills, and resources

Change occurs because of your child’s contribution to it. They put their existing gifts, talents, skills, and resources to use to make it happen.

As a result, they get all the credit for change and success. Once they begin to realize that change is not some external factor over which they have no control, your child becomes the agent of change. Confidence can’t help but emerge once they realize their incredible capacity and potential.

So Which Therapy is Better?

The honest answer is…no counseling approach is superior to another. Each one has its unique advantages and often, it simply comes down to a client’s preference.

As a Solution Focused Brief therapist however, I obviously favor Solution Focused Brief Therapy because I have seen the tremendous value and positive outcomes it brings my clients.

I can also tell you that every time Solution Focused Brief Therapy has been researched, it has been shown to be as effective as any other therapy approach.

Most importantly, 100% of the time, it has been effective in fewer sessions.

Begin Online Therapy for Kids and Teens with Anxiety in Illinois

If you’re curious about whether Solution Focused Brief Therapy might be the right counseling approach for your child, contact me at Briefly Counseling for a FREE consultation.

Using Solution-Focused Brief Therapy, I help kids and teens reduce their anxiety and build resilience so they can become a happier, more confident version of themselves.

And kids love being able to receive counseling from the comfort and privacy of their own home. Studies have consistently proven that online therapy delivers equal results to in-office counseling.

As an experienced and caring therapist, I love providing counseling for anxiety. To start your child’s counseling journey, call me at 224-236-2296 or email to schedule a FREE 20-minute consultation.

Helena Madsen, MA, LCPC is the founder of Briefly Counseling. I specialize in providing online short-term anxiety treatment for kids and teens ages 7 – 18 as well as Christian counseling.

Whether you’re in Naperville, Chicago, Champaign, Barrington, Libertyville, or Glenview, I can help. Schedule your appointment or consultation today. I look forward to working with your child to quickly and effectively help them in activating their strengths, resources, and resilience, in order to live with confidence and hope.

* Article Sources:


by Teri Karjala | Oct 11, 2017 |

Pietrini K. (2015). Therapist’s Descriptions of Play Therapy Effectiveness. Retrieved from,%20Katie.pdf