The purpose of this pilot study was to evaluate the effectiveness of the solution-focused therapy model within a school setting. In particular, children who had been labeled learning challenged by their school and had also been identified as needing help in solving school-related behavior problems were targeted as participants for the study. The specific research question was: How effective is solution-focused therapy in decreasing the school-related behavior problems of students who are labeled learning challenged?

For the purposes of conducting this research study, a partnership between Our Lady of the Lake University, Department of Psychology and The University of Texas at Austin, School of Social Work was formed, and within this partnership the outcome study on solution-focused therapy was completed. The study began in January, 1997 and was completed in December, 1997. The two principal investigators and three therapists delivering the therapy services were trained by the developers of the solution-focused therapy at the Brief Family Therapy Center in Milwaukee. Principal investigators were a clinical social worker, Cynthia Franklin, Ph.D., and a counseling psychologist, Joan Biever, Ph.D.

To be selected for the study, students had to have been labeled learning challenged and have received more than one behavioral referral from classroom teachers that involved classroom behavioral problems that warranted attention from a school psychologist or another mental health professional.

Participants in the solution-focused therapy outcome study were evaluated using single case AB designs. Single case designs were used, as it is believed that this method of evaluation may prove to be especially useful for evaluating the idiographic nature of the solution-focused therapy model.

A baseline was collected for 4 weeks prior to treatment. This involved teachers filling out a standardized behavioral observation rating scale, the Conners Teacher Rating Scale-39 (CTRS-39) and students filling out one standardized self-report measure that assesses emotions and behavior, the Feelings, Attitudes and Behavior Scale for Children (FAB-C) twice a week. Both teachers and students also filled out self-anchored scales (Scaling Technique) reflecting behaviors associated with solutions to the identified problems twice a week.

Data were analyzed using the appropriate single case statistics developed for analysis. This involved first transforming the data because of autocorrelation and further analyzing the differences in trends between baseline (A) and intervention (B) phases to determine statistical significance and effect sizes for observed changes.

A follow-up study using a two-group, experimental design is being conducted in the Spring semester, 1998.

Center for Social Work Research, The University of Texas at Austin
Department of Psychology, Our Lady of the Lake University