Once a lifetime, we’ve all been depressed, frustrated, and lost emotionally. Most of the time we find ourselves depressed because we can’t seem to find a way out of a difficult situation, and especially, a sequence of events that lead us to experience bad phases of our lives.
One of the causes of depression is a lack of problem-solving skills which are closely related to situational awareness and decision-making. Depression makes us blind, so we tend to make poor choices not because we don’t have them, but because we don’t see them.
By regularly working out problem-solving skills, you can train yourself to be more depression resistant and resilient. Resilience is just another way to call resourcefulness. And resourcefulness is something that we all have and use on a day-to-day basis.
For example, you come to an exam totally unprepared. Your situational awareness starts working pretty quickly. You can instantly spot the nerdy guy in your class and ask for help. If he doesn’t help you, it won’t frustrate you because there is a cute girl that likes you, and she will do anything to get your attention. Because you’re a resourceful person, you quickly find a way out of a familiar situation and get through an event like a university exam.
Can you now explain to me what problem-solving therapy (PST) does? Not yet? Let’s see what PST means
Problem-solving therapy (PST) is one of the branches of CBT – cognitive-behavioral therapy. According to the book of Jay Haley called “Problem-Solving Psychotherapy”, problem-solving therapy aims to improve an individual’s ability to cope with stressful life experiences.
Basically, it’s about staying ordered when everything else is in chaos. There are a variety of emotional responses and behavioral strategies that PST can teach you:
According to the USC R.Roybal Institute on Aging PST manual, problem-solving therapy teaches you to orient in your current environment and optimize your behavioral and thinking processes. For example, you are taught to see the problem as a challenge, not as a threat.
Seeing your problem as a challenge allows you to avoid the defensive state which people often tend to jump into when they face a stressful life event or any potential threat. For example, when my mom uses a computer and some unknown banner or warning appears on the screen she stops using the computer. Instantly, she calls me and asks for a step-by-step guide on how to solve that. Usually, it’s by simply clicking the X button. But at that moment, she is terrified, stunned and lost.
How many simple yet threatening situations out there we don’t know how to react to? Usually, it’s the expected situation in the unexpected moment that make us depressed, worried and anxious. PST tackles these challenges to improve your orientation and decision-making to fight such threats effectively.
Oftentimes, when we face a problem, we immediately react to it with a highly emotional impulse. PST helps you manage your emotions and behavioral patterns which occur when you’re stressed, depressed or anxious. The basic principles of problem-solving therapy are:
When it comes to solving problems, we tend to exaggerate the issue so much that our adrenaline releases making us angry while serotonin decreases making us feel upset about the problem. Finally, the problem scares us so much that we ignore it or run away from it. Ignoring existing problems leads to having only more unsolved problems which in sum give us a whole bouquet of depression reasons.
Problem-solving therapy aims to prepare you for a challenge. It teaches you to be resilient and responsible.
For example, Mark is a 23-year old young man. One year ago, he graduated and now he’s been looking for a job for almost a year. During that year he didn’t find a job and has only got so many rejections.
After numerous failures of getting a job, he eventually breaks. Mark feels horrible. His self-esteem is going down and he desperately googles “How can you handle so many job rejections in 1 year?” What he finds is how to stay positive, focus on the good, and be just fine.
It doesn’t really help Mark overcome his problem. He needs to provide for himself and his family. You can’t really stay positive when you can’t eat.
What problem-solving therapy focuses on is how to analyze the problem. Certainly, it’s not because of employers Mark can’t find a job.
After so many failures, Mark is desperate to get a job. He is also very angry and acts as if an HR or a company owes him something. He’s got very rude, anxious and he has never really known how to handle a job interview. At the interview, he speaks about his failures and miseries, how bad previous interviewers were, and how he is rejected everywhere.
Sometimes he changes the strategy and says: “I’m a creative, ambitious young man who has just graduated. I’m very motivated to get a job and work for your company.” And then he goes: “I’m stress-resistant, detail-oriented, and a workaholic to the backbone.”
These strong statements HRs hear all the time. However, they are only actionable if there are certain use cases to support these statements. That’s what Mark doesn’t do, he is not being specific. He has nothing to show and nothing to support his expertise, at least, that’s what he is thinking.
Problem-solving therapy helps you identify your skills and communicate them to the outside world. It focuses on identifying your feelings, emotions and helps you control them. Problem-solving therapy increases your self-awareness and provides you with a clear agenda about who you are, what your beliefs are and how you apply them. Finally, it helps you leverage your knowledge effectively. It doesn’t give you the solution, it teaches you how to find a solution.
Of course, you can learn all these things yourself, and if you’re reading this article you probably don’t need a problem-solving therapy course. Finally, it highly depends on who you’re talking to because not all therapists are saint and skilled. Choose wisely.
At Life to Make, I’m trying to share my knowledge and perspective on various challenges and problems. I also research every topic to support my statements and broaden the informational resources that may help you become more self-aware, confident, and decisive.
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