Problemsolving Skills Training

Problem-solving skills training (D'Zurilla, 1986) has a heavy psycho-educational emphasis:

executed according to a fixed number of steps and applicable across a wide array of problems.

The steps are:

1. Problem orientation, during which patients explore their personal attitude towards problems. The most important aspects are that the patients learn to recognize their negative feelings as signals of problems and learn to distinguish between problems over which one can exert personal control (such as arguments) versus those where one can not (such as cancer).

2. Problem definition, during which the patient and therapist clarify ambiguous references to the problem and define a goal.

3. Brainstorming, during which the patient and therapist generate as many different solutions as possible, without critical appraisal or censure.

4. Choice. A systematic appraisal of advantages and disadvantages is discussed for each solution. The patient selects the most effective option.

5. Execution, during which the patient executes the selected solution and evaluates its effect.

This training is a highly useful component in a number of behaviour therapeutic methods across a variety of problem areas. To illustrate, many depressed patients are characterized by deficient problem-solving skills (Nezu, 1987) and there is evidence that problem-solving training contributes to mood improvement among depressives. Problem-solving training is also an important part of communication training among couples with relationship distress (Emmelkamp et al., 1988). Favourable results were also reported when problem-solving training was added to exposure in vivo in the treatment of agoraphobic patients (Kleiner et al., 1987). Likewise, among schizophrenic patients, problem-solving training was shown to be an important supplement to social skills training (Hansen, 1985).

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