Department of Family Therapy Dissertations and Applied Clinical Projects

Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


College of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences – Department of Family Therapy


Ronald Chenail

Committee Member

Tommie V. Boyd

Committee Member

Carol Messmore


The positive psychotherapy focused on for this study is Solution-Focused Brief Therapy (SFBT). Insoo Kim Berg and Yvonne Dolan (2001) once described the essence of Solution-Focused Brief Therapy (SFBT) as the “pragmatics of hope and respect” (p. 1) and despite Berg and Dolan’s declaration of hope’s importance in SFBT, little process research has been published looking at the “pragmatics” of hope in SFBT practice. Hope is seen as a common factor in psychotherapy since the human relationship, also known as the therapeutic alliance, is a foundation of psychotherapy. Hope plays a significant role in every human interaction and it is seen as a common factor in human relationships.

To begin to address this gap, a pilot study was conducted of an Insoo Kim Berg training recording, Irreconcilable Differences, in order to explore how she listened, selected and built hope in her work. Based on a SFBT technique focus, the preliminary results suggested Insoo Kim Berg builds hope relationally through the solution-building by working within the clients’ focus and their presenting problem. Four different yet interrelated hope phases in the SFBT solution building process were identified. To address this gap further, based on a SFBT stage focus, three cases by Insoo Kim Berg were analyzed in this study, Irreconcilable Differences, Over the Hump, and I’d Hear Laughter. The goal of this research was to demonstrate the how Berg listened, selected, and built hope with clients to validate her progression within and across the five SFBT solution-building stages, in all three cases through constant comparison, and to show how these findings are congruent with SFBT hopeful tenets. All with the intention of allowing the pragmatics of hope and respect to become more transparent for future SFBT practitioners.

Findings suggested building hope appears to be a relational process to building solutions and is co-constructed. Berg demonstrates how she embodies a hopeful stance throughout the duration of therapy. Results show how Berg builds hope within and across her progression of the solution-focused brief therapy solution-building stages, utilizing SFBT techniques and processes, which all align with the foundational SFBT tenets.

  Link to NovaCat