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Mental Health Tips > Problem Solving Therapy

Problem Solving Therapy
(Special thanks to Dr. Mimi Wong of Institute of Mental Health, Castle Peak Hospital, for authoring this article)

Every one of us is facing different problems every day. We may have dreamt that miracle can happen so that all our problems will be solved when we wake up the next morning. The experience of being troubled by these problems will cause depressive as well as anxiety symptoms. Commonly encountered problems include health problems, financial problems, and interpersonal relationship problems. If we are able to solve some of our problems, it is very likely that we will feel better. Problem solving therapy is a type of psychotherapy which can help to improve the mood of patients with depression.

 



1. What is Problem Solving Therapy?
2. 7 steps of Problem Solving Therapy
3. The role of the therapist
4. Special points to note about problem solving therapy



1. What is Problem Solving Therapy?

It is a type of psychotherapy. Problems encountered by patients are looked into with an aim to come up with solutions to these problems. It is suitable for patients with depression as depression affects the problem solving skills of the patients. This therapy is simpler than other types of psychotherapy. It only focuses on finding the solutions to the problem but will not analyse the emotions involved. Emotions of the patients will be put aside and they will be asked to look for solutions to their problems in an objective way. It is common that a patient will have a number of problems at the same time, but it is better to handle one at a time. It is good to start with the simplest problem so that the patient can grasp the technique before moving on to other more complicated problems. It is important that the patients learn the skills to find the solution to their problems themselves so that they can continue to use the skills on their own.

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2. 7 steps of Problem Solving Therapy

    Step 1: Clarify and define the problem
    Step 2: Then establish the objectives and achievement goals.
    Step 3: For each problem, work out solution alternatives
    Step 4: Discuss Pros and Cons of solutions and create decision guidelines.
    Step 5: Choose the preferred solutions
    Step 6: Work on ways to actually implement the solutions
    Step 7: Evaluate the outcome

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3. The role of the therapist

The interaction and relationship between the patients and the therapist are important in Problem Solving Therapy. They will meet regularly for about an hour each time. In the beginning of the therapy, the patients will talk about their problems. It is very common that they will describe a lot about their emotions involved and mention about things in the past which are not directly related to the problem being discussed. The therapist will need to let them aware that the main focus of this therapy is not about the release of emotions, instead there is a more important goal of finding the solution to the problem. The therapist will also remind the patients that emotion is important, but sometimes it will affect their problem solving ability if they are too emotionally charged. The therapist will help them put aside their emotion and concentrate on analyzing the problem step by step. He/she will be active throughout the therapy in order to motivate and encourage the patients in solving the problem themselves. There will be role plays and rehearsals during the therapy so that the patients can come up with a practical and effective solution. The main goal of the therapy is not about letting the therapist find the solution for the patients but for the patients to learn the problem solving skills themselves.

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4. Special points to note about problem solving therapy

It is important to decide whether the problem on hand can really be solved. We need to understand that not everything is under our control. For example, a patient is unhappy because her daughter married a man she does not like. However, this is a fact and cannot be changed easily. The only thing she can do is to accept this son–in–law.

Sometimes, the problem we have is actually an uncomfortable feeling instead of an actual problem. For example, a patient feels sorry for his wife which makes him sad. After clarification by the therapist, it is found that he is dissatisfied that his wife does not take good care of herself and he feels guilty for his dissatisfaction towards his wife. On further questioning, his wife always asks him to pick her from work but she is always late. This has disrupted his schedule. When undergoing Problem Solving Therapy, we have to turn our emotions into a concrete problem which can actually be solved. The solution to the problem in the example would be to arrange more time to pick up his wife or ask his wife to notify him earlier if she has to get off work late so that he can make better arrangement.

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