Problem-solving therapy, as developed by psychologists Thomas D'Zurilla and Marvin Goldfried, is also considered one of the cognitive behavioral approaches. In essence, problem-solving therapy is the application of problem-solving theory and research to the domain of personal and emotional problems. Indeed, the ability to solve problems is seen as the necessary and sufficient condition for emotional and behavioral stability. Problem solving is, in one way or another, a part of all psychotherapies.
Cognitive behavior therapists have taught general problem- solving skills to patients with two specific aims: to alleviate the particular personal problems for which patients have sought therapy and to provide patients with a general coping strategy for personal problems.
The actual steps of problem solving that patients are taught to carry out systematically are as follows. First, it is necessary to define the dilemma as a problem to be solved. Next, a goal must be selected which reflects the ultimate outcome a patient desires. The patient then generates a list of many different possible solutions, without evaluating their potential merit (a kind of brainstorming). Now the patient evaluates the pros and cons of each op tion in terms of the probability that it will meet the goal selected and its practicality, which involves considering the potential consequences to oneself and to others of each solution. The possible solutions are ranked in terms of desirability and practicality, and the highest one is selected. Next, the patient tries to implement the solution chosen. Finally, the patient evaluates the therapy, assessing whether the solution alleviated the problem and met the goal, and, if not, what went wrong—in other words, which of the steps in problem solving needs to be redone.
Problem-solving therapies have been used to treat a variety of target behaviors with a wide range of patients. Examples include peer relationship difficulties among children and adolescents, examination and interpersonal anxiety among college students, relapse following a program to reduce smoking, disharmony among family members, and the inability of chronic psychiatric patients to cope with interpersonal problems.
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