Developing Skilled Problem-Solving
Problem-solving skills begin developing at the very earliest stages of life. We adopt both maladaptive (unhelpful) and adaptive (helpful) problem-solving methods; drinking alcohol habitually is an example of a maladaptive problem-solving skill. Drinking provides a quick remedy for issues like anxiety, but has negative short- and long-term consequences. Living alcohol-free is an opportunity to dial into our problem-solving skills and beef them up, so that we’re ready to handle whatever challenges arise. We can look to a type of Cognitive Behavior Therapy called Problem-Solving Therapy, which focuses on building skills to help you take a more active role in your life and face challenges skillfully.
According to Cognitive Therapy Behavioral Los Angeles, Problem-Solving Therapy focuses on four steps:
Addressing problem orientation: identifying how you have historically solved problems and what sort of approach you usually take. Do you avoid conflict, act compulsively, take a submissive approach? Pinpointing tools that haven’t served you in the past helps as we adopt adaptive problem-solving skills.
Clearly defining problems: putting a name to the roadblocks and barriers that you may experience in the present and future. When we are unable to identify and anticipate problems, we are less likely to be able to apply healthy problem-solving skills in the moment. This is also a time to examine if the problem you see initially is actually the real problem.
Brainstorming and evaluating solutions: once we know what problems we are likely to face, and we have a clear understanding of how we’ve handled problems in the past, we can begin developing solutions to use in the future. This is a powerful step, because when we’re able to list these skills at a time when we’re not “in the moment,” we may feel more empowered to utilize them under pressure.
Taking action: creating goals that are bite-sized and actionable. By chipping away at a problem, you move towards resolution. You also build problem-solving resilience as you see success.