Stressful events are part of everyday life. For some, coping with the negative effects of these events can be difficult, whether stressors are considered large (such as the death of a loved one) or small (like making a mistake at work). Stressors can create or exacerbate psychological and physical health problems. Problem solving therapy can help individuals develop effective coping methods for dealing with stressors in their lives by providing structured goals and coaching adaptation skills for decision-making situations. While this article provides some facts on problem solving therapy, it is strongly advised that individuals considering problem solving therapy receive care from licensed professionals.
What Is Problem Solving Therapy?
Problem Solving Therapy (PST), or structured problem solving, is psychological treatment used to help clients manage stressful life events. Therapists employ behavioral and cognitive intervention techniques to assist clients in establishing and actualizing goals and creating effective problem-solving, stress management techniques. Clients are encouraged and guided in how to be more proactive in their daily lives and make decisions that help them achieve goals. Core components of PST are addressing problem orientation, explicitly defining problems the client faces, coming up with and evaluating solutions, and breaking problems down into achievable, reasonable, and ultimately less stressful steps.
Solving Problems Outcomes
PST involves finding ways for individuals to change the stressful nature of situations and how they respond to stressors. Generally, problem-solving outcomes are based upon problem-solving style and problem orientation. Problem orientation is the feelings and thoughts a person has about their problems and perceived ability to resolve them. A positive problem orientation generally leads the person to enhance problem-solving efforts while a negative problem orientation tends to lead to the person being inhibited in solving their problems. Problem-solving style is behavioral and cognitive activities targeted at coping with stressors. Those with ineffective styles tend to report having more stressors and negative life events.
Problem solving therapy is essentially a series of training sessions in learning how to utilize adaptive problem solving skills that help clients better deal with and/or resolve problems that arise in their daily lives. Clients learn how to make more effective decisions for themselves, come up with their own creative ways to solve problems, and identify barriers or obstacles that surface when trying to reach their goals and how best to negate these hurdles. The overall intended outcome is that a client will feel more confident in their decision-making and problem-solving techniques and will be able to carry on their solutions as independently as possible.
Medical Conditions and Problem Solving Therapy
PST can be used by General Practitioners (GPs) to help treat difficult medical conditions, such as chronic pain management. As with a therapist, GPs have clients identify problems they want solved, set up goals, have clients come up with solutions for how they would like to solve the problem, weigh pros and cons of each solution in order to select the best one, and implement the solution. Together, a GP and client can review how well the selected solution is working and make any necessary changes. Again, this article is to provide helpful information in learning about PST; it is, therefore, highly recommended that one seeks help from a licensed, well-reputed professional who can help implement and analyze PST goals.
Developing and Achieving Problem Solving Therapy Goals
Therapists and GPs tend to use PST with clients who seem to be having difficulties coping with stressful life situations that can become confusing and overwhelming. The goals of PST revolve around meeting four key therapy objectives:
- Improving the client’s positive orientation;
- Reducing the client’s negative orientation;
- Enhancing the client’s ability to identify what is causing a problem, coming up with a few potential solutions, conducting cost-benefit analysis to determine the best solution, implementing the solution, then analyzing the outcome;
- Reducing impulsive and ultimately ineffective methods for attempting to solve problems.
Since every client is a different person and has diverse needs, therapists and doctors try to allow as much creative and analytic processing by the client as possible, although PST relies on the four basic components mentioned in the list above.
Therapists and clients alike should be aware of several obstacles that can occur during the PST process, including the client experiencing cognitive overload, difficulties with emotional regulation, usage of ineffective or maladaptive problem solving styles, feelings of hopelessness leading to decreased motivation to follow through on goals, and difficulties removing oneself from negative moods or thought patterns.
Who Can Benefit from Problem Solving Therapy?
Problem solving therapy can be beneficial for many different people. Since there is flexibility in regard to treatment goals and methods for achieving them, PST can be used in a group setting or one-on-one with an individual client. Since negative stressors are scientifically linked to mental and physical health problems, problem solving therapy can be beneficial to almost anyone, so long as they are open to the idea of pursuing treatment and engaging in the process.
PST has been found to be an effective therapeutic method for clients who are dealing with a vast array of mental, physical and emotional conditions. These conditions include some personality disorders, major depressive disorder, suicidal ideation, generalized anxiety disorder, relationship issues, emotional duress, and medically-based issues that result in emotional and physical pain (such as fibromyalgia, Hashimoto’s and hypothyroidism, diabetes, and cancer).
Problem solving therapy is a widely-acknowledged tool used by therapists and general medical practitioners alike to help clients find proactive and reasonable ways to deal with the stressful events that occur in their lives. Overall, PST can help people find meaningful, creative, and adjustable ways of reaching their problem-resolution goals and ultimately lead to a better quality of living for those dealing with major physical and mental health concerns. Anyone considering PST should contact a trained medical or counseling professional to inquire about how this type of therapy could potentially suit their needs.
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