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  • Lee Clark, LMFT, MS

An Easy Process to Solve ANY Problem

"We’ve all had a time in our lives where we’ve felt overwhelmed, stuck, or defeated when trying to solve a problem. "

When this has happened to you, you may have been left wondering what you could have done differently to get through a problem quicker and easier the next time around. Here are some tips and tricks to learn more effective problem solving.

It’s important to recognize that the problem solving process needs to be broken down into small, manageable steps. Failing to do so is often the first place where people get too overwhelmed to continue through the rest of the process. If you break it down, you will be able to pace yourself through the parts of the process where changes in behavior, routines, or skill building need to be applied to a solution.

The first step in the problem solving process is awareness of the problem. This is another place people can get stuck. Once you have awareness of the problem, thinking about the problem and the impact of it in your life can sometimes be all you can focus on. It can take some practice, but once you recognize that you’re experiencing a problem, learn how to switch gears as quickly as possible into a solution-focused mindset and walk through the steps to address your problem.

First, define the problem as clearly as possible. Is the problem, “I feel angry at my coworker”? Or is it, “I feel angry at my coworker because they got that promotion that I felt I was more qualified for”? The first definition of this problem might have you try to discuss your concerns with your coworker, while the second definition of this problem might be discussing your qualifications with your supervisor. Being specific and clear can change which solution(s) seem appropriate.

Next, brainstorm solutions to the problem, as you’ve defined it. Be as creative and open as possible at this point in the process. You may find a surprising, yet effective, solution if you allow yourself to be open to as many conceivable possibilities.

After you’ve brainstormed solutions, pick the one you’d like to try first, and break down the steps you believe need to be taken to implement the solution. Be a scientist through this process: you have your hypothesis that this may be the solution to your problem, now you have to run the trial and collect the data.

You may have to try a few different solutions before you find one that effectively solves your problem. That’s why it’s helpful to keep planning for the different solutions you may try, if the first one(s) don’t work. People can feel defeated when they have to try more than one solution, but most problems need a few passes through the problem solving process before they are truly resolved.

"Take your time through this process and be kind to yourself as you solve your problem. If you feel overwhelmed, break it down into smaller steps. It’s okay to take breaks from the process as you pace your time and energy."

A final word of advice: if you find yourself without an effective solution after trying out several, go back and look at your definition of the problem and ask yourself: “Is there another way to look at this?”

Sometimes we have to adjust our perspective a little or a lot in order to make truly lasting changes to address our problems.

You got this!


P.S. Follow this handout to solve your problem step-by-step.

Information taken from: Raising Resilient Children by Goldstein & Brooks Copyright © 2002 by Brookes Publishing Co., Balmore.


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[This article does not create a client-counselor relationship. This article is general counseling information and is not to be considered legal or medical advice. Please consult with your mental health professional before you rely on this information.]

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