Describe Problemsolving Skills

The problemsolving approach involves the following phases:

1. Recognize the problem

2. Identify or elaborate the problem

3. Consider various approaches

4. Select the most promising approach

5. Evaluate effectiveness.

The counselor describes the steps involved in solving problems and provides examples:

C: Recognize the problem (adapted from Intagliata 1979). What clues indicate a problem? You get clues from your body (e.g., indigestion, craving), your thoughts and feelings (e.g., feelings of anxiety, depression, loneliness, fear), your behavior (e.g., have you been meeting your own behavioral standards?), the way you respond to others (e.g., anger, lack of interest, withdrawal), and the way others respond to you (e.g., they appear to avoid you, criticize you).

Identify or elaborate the problem. What is the problem? Having recognized that something is wrong, you identify the problem precisely by gathering as much information as you can. Break the problem down into specific parts; you may find it easier to manage several parts than to confront the entire problem all at once.

Consider various approaches (adapted from Bedell et al. 1980). What are the options? Develop several solutions; the first one that comes to mind may not be the best. Use the following methods to find a good solution:

Brainstorm. Generate ideas without stopping to evaluate how good or bad they are. Write down all the ideas you come up with (even impractical ones) so that you can review them as you decide which to try. More is better. Don’t judge these ideas.

Consider both behavioral and cognitive coping strategies (Sanchez-Craig 1983). When the problem involves conflict with others, speak up assertively (behavioral coping) to improve the situation. When the problem involves negative emotional reactions to uncontrollable events, change the way you think about the situation (cognitive coping). Some problems require both behavioral and cognitive coping.

Select the most promising approach. What will happen if . . . ? Identify probable outcomes for each approach; include positive and negative outcomes and long- and shortterm consequences. Consider the resources you’ll need for each solution. Rank the possibilities by their consequences and desirability. The solution with the most positive and fewest negative consequences is the one to try first.

Evaluate effectiveness. How did it work? Evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of your plan. What difficulties did you encounter? Are you getting the expected results? Can you do something to make the approach more effective? Use the same clues as before (e.g., from your body, thoughts, feelings, other people) to decide whether your solution is effective. If you give the plan a fair chance and it doesn’t solve the problem, move to your second choice and follow the same procedure.