This exploratory paper aimed to shed light on the experience of first session solution-focused brief therapy (SFBT) for families who have a child with intellectual disabilities (ID). The therapist interviewed the participants, all mothers, two weeks after their initial session. The Helpful Aspects of Therapy Questionnaire (Llewelyn, 1988) was used with structured recall (Elliot and Shapiro, 1988), a procedure in which participants listen to excerpts from their therapeutic sessions identified by them as helpful or unhelpful. Interview transcripts were analysed by the therapist using interpretive phenomenological analysis (Smith, 2003).

Three superordinate themes emerged from the interviews: (1) SFBT brought to mind the idea of ‘making the best of it’. (2) Examination of wishful thinking. (3) Therapeutic relationship. In addition, self-efficacy recurred as a sub-theme throughout. The ‘miracle question’ was perceived as irrelevant by the mothers and was the most frequently cited unhelpful event. It also seemed to be associated with shifts in wishful thinking. These mothers' experiences suggest that SFBT is a useful structure for first sessions particularly as it seems to build a useful therapeutic relationship, highlights self-efficacy and may encourage helpful coping styles.