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Module 9. Problem solving

This module will help you to explore:

  • The benefits of problem solving and how it can be applied to a range of different types of problems
  • Ways to avoid acting on impulse


Problem solving

This is the process of working through the details of a problem to reach a solution. It is a skill which promotes good decision making and encourages confidence and emotional wellbeing.

Problem solving skills are necessary to resolve conflicts that arise in our everyday lives whether big or small. Having the ability to deal with problems promotes self-esteem and self-confidence.

There are three ways that individuals tend to deal with problems:

  • The avoidant approach - This is similar to the 'Head in the Sand' way of experiencing anger and involves a failure to acknowledge the problem. It is characterised by procrastination (putting things off), passivity, inactivity (doing nothing, hoping the problem will go away) and making excuses for not acting (I can’t do anything about it). Individuals who adopt this approach may blame other people or situations for the problem and the problem tends to remain unresolved.
  • The emotional approach - Individuals who adopt this approach tend to act impulsively or carelessly and may become angry or upset. They are unlikely to consider different solutions and the consequences and make hasty decisions which may compound the problem.
  • The problem solving approach - This involves a more systematic approach to problems, which includes defining the problem, selecting a possible solution, implementing it and evaluating whether the solution is the right one. Below is a list of things to consider when using this approach to problems.


Exercise 1 - What steps can I take to solve a problem?


Exercise 2 - What approach do I use?

Complete a problem diary (such as in the format below) over the next 7 days. Reflect on your initial responses to the problem and how you dealt with it. Now ask yourself?

  • Which approach did you use most – avoidant, emotional or problem solving?
  • Which was most effective?
  • Why do you think it was the most effective?

Sometimes things can get in the way of solving problems. We can think of these as obstacles that we need to overcome.

Describe the problem- what happened? My thoughts about the problem? My feelings about the problem? What did I do? Which approach is this?
Avoidant, Emotional, or Problem Solving?
What was the outcome?
How did I feel afterwards?



Continue to Overcoming obstacles