At the beginning of any psychotherapy, clients usually expect that the therapist will find an answer to all possible problems in life. However, in the course of therapy the clients learn to find their own solutions for their problems. He or she should use prior experiences in life and adapt useful strategies to find appropriate solutions in a structured and systematic way with problemsolving strategies.
It is always a very useful approach to think of successful strategies for problems in the past. Train yourself to adapt useful problem-solving techniques to new situations!
Here is one of many possible models of problem solving.
- Problem identification What is my concern?
- Goal definition What do I want to achieve or change?
- Brainstorming What can I do?
- Consequences What might happen?
- Decision How should I do it?
- Implementation Do it!
- Evaluation Did it work?
Daniel is a 52 year old patient with depression and panic attacks. One of his major problems was to leave the house to go for a walk or consult the doctor or therapist.
1. Problem identification
Try to give a precise description of your problems. You should try to focus on behaviours or skill deficits.
2. Goal definition
You should try to set a precise goal of your efforts. This should be a realistic aim of improvement (not "I want to feel better"). Ask yourself: "What do I want to change or achieve right now?"
3. Brainstorming / Generation of alternatives.
Try to think of all possible ways to achieve your goal. Think of successful ways of solving problems or achieving your goals in the past. Use your creativity and do not restrict yourself in any way. Even nonsensical or unusual ways might be worth to consider.
Write all alternatives on a blank sheet of paper!
4. Consider all consequences.
Now it is time to think about the positive or negative consequences of all possible alternatives. Think about any outcome or difficulties of your approaches.
This step can be split into substeps:
- What are the advantages? It is better to look at the advantages before looking at the disadvantages, since if you start looking at the disadvantages you may get so dissillusioned that you cannot think of any advantages.
- Whare are the risks, what care is needed, what problems can occur?
- How do you intuitively feel about the alternatives?
5. Make your choice of one possible alternative!
It is important to make a clear choice and define a time limit for an attempt to reach your goal.
6. Do it (Implementation of your decision)
Do not worry about being successful. Just do it and see what happens...
Now it is time to see what happened. If you have been successful: Great!!!! You should think about a reward for your efforts!!!!